Monday, May 9, 2016

You do you

The phrase has been seeping into our family conversations courtesy of K1. A search turned up this delightlful Colson Whitehead article.

Wherever you hail from, you’ll recognize “You do you” and “Do you” as contemporary versions of that life-­affirming chestnut “Just be yourself.” It’s the gift of encouragement from one person to another, what we tell children on the first day of kindergarten, how we reassure buddies as they primp for a blind date or rehearse asking for a raise. You do you, as if we could be anyone else. Depending on your essential qualities, this song of oneself is cause for joy or tragedy. 
You’ve also come across that expression’s siblings, like the defensive, arms-­crossed “Haters gonna hate” or the perpetually shrugging “It is what it is.” Like black holes, they are inviolable. All criticism is destroyed when it hits the horizon of their circular logic, and not even light can escape their immense gravity. In a world where the selfie has become our dominant art form, tautological phrases like “You do you” and its tribe provide a philosophical scaffolding for our ever-­evolving, ever more complicated narcissism. 
William Safire, writing in these pages in 2006, coined a word for these self-­justifying constructions: “tautophrases.” This was in the midst of his investigation into the ubiquity of “It is what it is,” as evidenced in its use by cultural specimens as disparate as Britney Spears and Scott McClellan, a press secretary for President George W. Bush. (Pause to reminisce.) Whether the subject is an imperfect situation to be endured (“The new coffee in the break room is the pits”) or an existential conundrum (“My body is a bunch of atoms working in brief harmony before death returns them to the universe”), “It is what it is” effectively ends the discussion so that we can stop, nod in solemn agreement and move on. 
According to Safire, “It is what it is” has many tautophrasal relatives and ancestors. “What’s done is done,” “What will be will be.” The striking thing about his examples is how many of them preserve and burnish the established order. When God informs Moses, “I am that I am,” he is telling the prophet, “Look, get off my back, I’m God.” I’ve never argued with a bush, burning or otherwise, but I imagine they’re quite persuasive. “Boys will be boys” and “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” excuse mischief and usually worse, reinforcing the dominant masculine code. It’s doubtful that “I just discovered penicillin!” or “Publishing Willa Cather’s ‘My Antonia’ was the most satisfying moment of my career” elicited a gruff “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” but perhaps I am cynical. Popeye’s “I yam what I yam,” however, remains what it has always been — the pathetic ravings of a man who claims superstrength, when it is obvious to everyone else in the room that spinach merely ameliorates the symptoms of an undiagnosed vitamin deficiency. A scurvy dog, indeed. 
While the word “tautophrase” didn’t take off, the phenomenon it described blossomed, abetted by hip-­hop. Sure, philosophical resignation has been a part of the music as far back as 1984, when Run-­D.M.C. reeled off a litany of misfortune — “Unemployment at a record high/People coming, people going, people born to die” — and underscored it with a weary, “It’s like that/and that’s the way it is.” But grandiosity, narcissism and artful braggadocio have also been integral to hip-­hop from the start, whether they were the fruit of a supercharged sense of self or a coping mechanism for a deleterious urban environment. As with everything interesting in black culture, hip-­hop’s swaggering tautophrases have been digested and regurgitated by the mainstream. Last year, Taylor Swift somewhat boringly testified that not only are “Haters gonna hate,” they’re gonna “hate hate hate” exponentially, presumably in direct proportion to her lack of culpability. Instead of serving the establishment (monotheism, patriarchal energies), the modern tautophrase empowers the individual. Regardless of how shallow that individual is.

More at the link. The article should also have mentioned that the original source for "What's done is done" is none other than Lady Macbeth.

The broad appeal of Captain America Civil War

Could it be because the age of the actors cuts across a wide spectrum?

Actor Year Of Birth Decade of birth Age Age decade
Chris Evans 1981 80s 35 30s
Robert Downey Jr 1965 60s 51 50s
Scarlett Johansson 1984 80s 32 30s
Sebastian Stan 1982 80s 34 30s
Anthony Mackie 1978 70s 38 30s
Don Cheadle 1964 60s 52 50s
Jeremy Renner 1971 70s 45 40s
Chadwick Boseman  1976 70s 40 40s
Paul Bettany 1971 70s 45 40s
Elizabeth Olsen 1989 80s 27 20s
Paul Rudd 1969 60s 47 40s
Emily VanCamp 1986 80s 30 30s
Tom Holland 1996 90s 20 20s

Nah, it's probably just because it's a good story. (Not great - but better than Age of Ultron).