The Trophy Generation Revisited

Consider that the rise of the Trophy Generation mentality has coincided perfectly with the repression of conflict between children as evidenced by anti-bullying and the expansion of gender and racial equality campaigns.

Maybe you have to use trophies the way the Romans used bread and circuses.  The purpose of trophy giving is not to make everyone a winner. It’s to keep anyone from feeling like a loser.  This is important because resentment is the root of violence.

The healthy loser becomes motivated by admiration for excellence and is at best a booster for the establishment.  This move, however, requires a transcendental perspective which elevates interpersonal relationships beyond the present moment, such as religion.  Most less successful individuals historically resent other people, segregating into separate groups and classes and rejecting the values and cultural practices of others by developing preferences of their own – work with your hands instead of your mind (or vice-versa depending on your historical epoch), or become scholastic if sports aren’t your thing, mutatis-mutandis.

Affect research and theorists such as Jones (Affect as Process) and Lichtenberg (Motivational Systems Theory) have pointed out that the human motivation for hierarchy and competition occurs most powerfully in latency children (~5 years to puberty), at exactly that time period during which the trophy phenomenon is most pronounced.  Could it be that the discomfort adults feel with competition is causing them to disrupt a developmental milestone?

The best criticism of this factor, adult narcissism projected onto children, is of course made by the now dormant thelastpsychiatrist.com.  His critiques, however, often result in blaming baby-boomers for the problems  they themselves blame “kids-today” for.

I think a deeper perspective can be gleaned by considering that the other-hatred and powerful identifications of the latency period go underground if not allowed to develop naturally, turning into the narcissism of adults who either deny (and project) or symptomatically over-express (and deny) those most natural of human emotions – interpersonal present-moment hatred, jealousy and resentment.

The only rejoinders to this position of accepting “crass” emotions I see are the religious one, for which gods get the credit, or the neo-liberal one – for which you get a trophy.

 

Revlon Wants You to Choose Love: Criticism and Appreciation

 

Revlon recently sponsored a study to demonstrate the positive impact a daily ritual involving fragrance, makeup and self-care activities can have on ones mood and relationships. I found the video so unobjectionable that I almost think the response to it as an object of projection is more interesting than the content. So I have the following thoughts, both for and against the video:

  • Rebranding sex, not makeup:  Makeup is still about sex, but sex is about love (as opposed to power, transgression, liberation, pleasure or passion).  And being “open to love” is of course a function of how you feel about yourself, not how you feel about your partner.  Notice most of the partner objections in the first half of the commercial are about how their partner feels about themselves.  It’s easy to call this inversion narcissism, which it is, but the problem is you think that means its bad.
  • Affective triggers:  The affects displayed and idealized are affection, vulnerability, joy.  If these trigger aversive contempt, disgust or cynicism you now know why you’re depressed.  Your postmodern justifications for this immediate experience are retroactive (to justify the feeling) not primary (initiating it).  In other words you don’t hate women who like makeup because you’re a feminist.  You’re a feminist in order to hate women who like makeup.  Again – don’t forget that I am not saying you shouldn’t hate women who like makeup.  If you think I’m implying judgement, you’re doing it to yourself, so that you can hate me for saying it.
  • Most likely aversion reactions (devaluation) are a defense against envy (Kernberg, 1979).  The positive affects above can easily strike envy if they make you feel ashamed of not being happy (only in America) or taking better care of yourself.  The lifestyle posture of slovenliness and poor self care is correlated with most mental health issues.
  • I would assert this is extremely “cool” media in the terms of Marsall McLuhan.  This would mean it is banal and vanilla partially in order to be a canvas of participation.  Nothing in the video is as important as the fact that it is released in a social online format.  Indeed, the video itself is a fictionalized enactment of a participatory experience – of a study which itself is a participatory experience, designed to simulate results (self care makes you feel better) which everyone already knew they would find.  Finally, self care in this sense is modeling yourself after others.  This would be Baudrillard’s procession of simulacra, or Rene Girard’s mimetic desire (modeling desires, not only actions, on esteemed others). Perhaps this all conceals the anxiety producing possibility that there is no enduring self to take care of, rather it is constituted by the ritual itself, like the urge to comment upon it as a demonstration or act of self creation – an extension of the self to return to McLuhan.

It’s hard for your comments to be less about you than they are about the-thing-itself.