Entry from March 29, 2012

Saw last night and didn’t much enjoy The Hunger Games, but the worst thing about it was the thought of how many little girls ten years from now — and how many grown women twenty years from now — we are going to have to address as “Katniss,” the made-up name of the heroine, played by Jennifer Lawrence. It reminds me of that episode of “The Simpsons” in which Lisa’s teacher calls out the roll and every other girl’s name is “Ashley” or “Dakota.” And then there are the 26 children of Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel, and his charming wife Brandeen — one for each letter of the alphabet. They are Tiffany, Heather, Cody, Dylan, Dermott, Jordan, Taylor, Brittany, Wesley, Rumer, Scout, Cassidy, Zoe [pronounced Zoh], Chloe [pronounced Kloh], Max, Hunter, Kendall, Caitlin, Noah, Sasha, Morgan, Kyra [pronounced Keerah], Ian, Lauren, Hubert, and Phil. . .

How quickly the merely fashionable becomes ridiculous — which, as I understand it, was part of what The Hunger Games had to say. Why else put Elizabeth Banks in that outlandish outfit as Effie Trinket? Why else call her Effie Trinket, come to that? What does she have to do in the movie but look and sound absurd and irrelevant? And why but for the same reason does it give Stanley Tucci as TV talk-show host Caesar Flickerman the most elaborately coiled raven tresses piled high on his famously balding pate? Fashion is the aspiration of the oppressors in the world of Panem while their victims, chosen by lot to become human sacrifices in the eponymous games, come from the downtrodden Districts plain-spun and are forced by their “mentors” and tormentors into “some stupid costume” like Katniss’s sequined black jump-suit with flames coming out of the back. . .

Maybe it is fashion’s association with power which makes it court absurdity on purpose. The fashionable overlords of Panem must at some level enjoy their own ridiculousness — like their own outrageousness in their choice of entertainment. Reality TV, which is what the man-hunting game is intended as, invites that kind of outrageousness as it invites the elaborately scripted treatment we see behind the scenes. There is surely cultivated outrage, too, in “Mob Wives,” the VHI show featured in an article in the ThursdayStyles section of today’s New York Times which begins with the plaint: “Whatever happened to omerta?”

The show takes the core elements that made the “Real Housewives” series on Bravo a cultural phenomenon (warring cliques, alcohol-fueled lunches and camera- ready catfights) and combines them with actual Mafia set pieces of men getting caught up in sweeps, men spending much of their married lives in prison, men with girlfriends on the side. “The fact that these women agreed to appear in any form at all shows it is a new era,” said Howard Abadinsky, the author of Organized Crime and a professor at St. John’s University. “To have wives or daughters of organized crime figures appear at all is rather extraordinary, a breakdown in the idea of a secret society.”

Whatever would we do without experts? The article also mentions that one of the participants in the show, Karen Gravano, daughter of Sammy “the Bull” Gravano of the Gambino family — the man who started the fashion for breaking the oath of omerta by ratting out John Gotti — “not coincidentally . . . has recently published an autobiography, Mob Daughter, which is given a number of plugs in the series, and she is introducing a skin-care line.”

As the skin-care line suggests, Miss Gravano has become like others on the show a minor celebrity because of it, and she is now being threatened with legal action from some of her father’s victims seeking compensation from the profits of her book. Sammy the Bull himself meanwhile, according to his daughter, is not happy about the whole thing, “apparently because he is still loyal to a Mafia caste system of who is a made member or who is not. ‘He was like, “Why are you fighting with a girl who is not in your league?”’ Ms. Gravano said, referring to another cast member. ‘”This is about mob wives,” he complained. “Her husband isn’t even in the mob.”’ Fashion has its own version of omerta that remains powerful, apparently, even after the traditional kind has passed from the scene.

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