Obsessed with identities

Dismiss me if I'm wrong, but one thing startling me about this nation is the mass obsession with "identities."

As a foreigner, I try to take as many sips from as many cups as possible by skimming through as many magazines. So now I'm sitting at Bobst, reading bunch of magazines: OUT (a gay magazine), the Advocate (a gay and lesbian magazine), Ms.(a feminist magazine), in addition to the Vanity Fair (seemingly hetero-sexual), Time Magazine, the New Yorker, Islamica (Muslim magazine), the Economist, and finally the Newsweek, which I just swore to God I'd never buy again or else I’d change my last name. (Changing one’s last name is a big thing for Confucians.)

I enjoyed listening to the various voices from the magazines. OUT ran an analysis on James Bond movies, focusing on the “gayness” of the movie stars who have played Bond under the headline of “F**k me, James.” They actually graded the actors’ “gayness”; Daniel Craig topped the list scoring 11 out of 10; Sean Connery scored 10, Roger Moore 3, and Pierce Brosnan zero. From the Advocate, you can read about why Annie Leibovitz is “still in closet,” even though the photographer surprisingly included in her recent book her own intimate pictures that were taken by her life-time “friend,” Susan Sontag. The Ms. ran a list of names of hundreds of women who have had abortions, with their full consent, to support their cause.

And so on. I had a great feast.

That said, I have to say I noticed many of the stories I skimmed through today used “we” and “I” a lot. I mean, A LOT. People raise their voices, so they publish their own magazines. They do so rightfully, but I guess there’s also something vaguely self-degrading in this, say, obsession with identities. Identities often simplify who we are and reduce us to a demographic figure. Magazines targeting a specific demographic group often sound like cheerleaders. They will probably say that’s what they meant to do. Then, fine. But I have to say I personally don’t value cheerleading stories very highly in a journalistic sense. (That’s why I decided to launch my one-man boycott against the Newsweek.)

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