I spend a lot of time with Asian youth. Call it an occupational benefit with content hazards. I'm not complaining mind you, because they do help distract me from the sad reality of just how fast I'm aging. Really, I do sometimes forget. Young Asians are an interesting bunch, but they do give me pause from time to time. A fascinating aspect of their trend driven and image conscious youth culture (stereotype warning here) is the thick vein of narcissism which runs through it. Case in point? I'm glad you asked.
I encountered a rich deposit of it this morning as I dug through generous layers of sedimentary advertising, looking for the shelf price on the new SHORTBUS DVD. Those who have trolled through the archives of this Blog will know that it was launched on December, 28 2006 with a story on Sook Yin Lee, the Toronto radio personality who was nurtured on the streets of Vancouver. Ms. Lee is herself a narcissist of the first water. I sought news on how many $$ my local DVD outlets want for her sex film. [The answer $19.99]
In the process of researching the disc I stumbled upon some clumsy photos of a restaurant party held last week in New York ,which launched the SHORTBUS DVD. The snaps were web posted by a 24 year old Chinese who has attended Harvard and MIT, but is now a roving correspondent, covering the youth beat for a startup podcasting company in the Boston area. If those are genuine academic credentials, her interests are woefully disappointing. I think she is dumbing down her writing, using ICQ type grammar and spelling to make herself accessible to a generation addicted to online chatter. I surmise from the Blog that her career model is Canada’s own Sook Yin Lee. One hint is that the trend watching U.S. Blogster decided it might be useful to stake out Director John Cameron Mitchell's SHORTBUS party. To see and be seen, as it were. Why not? Good for her.
I read several of her Blog entries. The narcissism was breathtaking. At one point she obsesses over whether it is essential to have a MySpace account in order to validate her very existence. She seems to have found no better alternative. That's very sad coming from the heart of a young lady who already has a quality of life which most people in this world can only dream of or fantasize.
I was most interested in determining what she does take seriously, and it turns out to be career development. To that end I note that she has just returned from a conference on mobile media, held in Texas, where she listened to several panel discussions germane to her startup career. A sample dip includes “From Blog to Book” and “Under 18: Blogs, Wikis and Online Social Networks for Youth”. Another was called “Do you Blog on the First Date?”, which apparently, she does. Her Blog mentions having slept at the loft-apartment of a New York rock video producer who is “spectacularly hooked up”. Weyda go girl! Her Blog profile offers a list of her favorite books, as does mine. Such lists are rather silly but I play along. I admit I smirked when I read hers. Top of the chart is Nabokov’s novel “LOLITA”. (You can’t make this stuff up!) I predict she’s going get a lot of offers to “crash” at apartments owned by movie producers! No doubt we’ll be reading about it.
What I found most jarring though was her comment, “haven’t taken photos of myself lately. In a funny way, sometimes I even forget what I look like.”
(Hardly. Her multiple websites feature HER!) I’m fairly certain that her comment is one which I never heard from the mouth of a student of my generation. Even we weirdos in the highschool camera club didn't photograph ourselves. Were we less narcissistic in our time? Should we blame this mania for enjoying the self-image on the ubiquitous digital cameras that are now in every pocket? Or the YouTube phenomenon? I don’t know, but I’m trying to find out. It has me beginning to worry that writing this Blog is a form of narcissism. When I start posting my photograph we'll know. Calling Dr. Fraser Crane! or better yet, Dr. Jennifer Melfi.
An image from her Harvard thesis. Narcissism grad school?