On 16 December of last year, Macaulay Culkin posted to YouTube a video of himself eating a slice of pizza:
I watched it and showed it to some friends because, on the one hand, how random! Macaulay Culkin! Eating pizza! Lol! One million other people and counting apparently felt similarly.
The video fascinates because it depicts a star (or a former child star) doing something utterly mundane. The presentation is simple, stripped down. The shot is static and there are no cuts. Culkin looks embarrassed to even be there, to be watched eating. There’s no glitz, no glamor. The guy eats pizza just like you and me, even tearing off the crust (though I would’ve finished the rest of the slice).
At the same time, the video fascinates because it’s awful—it’s “so bad it’s good.” That reaction is breathlessly conveyed in the Time Magazine blog post, “Questions We Asked Ourselves While Watching Macaulay Culkin Eat a Slice of Pizza,” which presents no fewer than forty-six questions about the video, in pseudo-live-blogging fashion:
Why does he look like he really doesn’t want to be wherever he is, or eating the slice?
Has he ever eaten a slice of pizza before?
Why does he look so sad?
Does he know he’s being filmed?
Do the pizza oils get trapped in his beard?
Why does he keep looking up?
Forty-six questions is a lot of questions, prompting a forty-seventh: “How many times did author Eric Dodds watch the damn thing?” And one million views is a lot of views. Thus, despite being banal, despite being awful, the video is somehow also something else. Would it be fair to call it transcendent? Even sublime? And if so, why? Because it purportedly offers us unmediated access to a former star, now desperately embarrassing himself?
But far from being random, or mundane, or excruciatingly candid, Culkin’s pizza video is a put-on, its every second pure artifice. For starters, it’s a loving recreation of another work—a short film of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger:
[matchup #60 in Tournament of Bookshit]
“Funny how new facts pop up and make you doubt that there’s any goodness in life.”1 An ewer of wisdom. “The first baby of the new year, her arrival had been announced in all the papers as if she were heir to a throne or a fortune instead of the daughter of a sometime fisherman and fulltime gambler, and the best waitress at the Garden Cove Pancake House on U.S. 1.”2 There are times when your connection to humanity is self-evident, joyously overwhelming. “She had to take a shower, like, immediately.”3 Who doesn’t know the bright snap of day, and welcome it? “Most people think about age and experience in terms of years, but it’s really only moments that define us.”4 Could it be any sweeter? “The club will not run out of tequila until I get my hair right. So shut the fuck up.”5 Forms like dew, inevitable as the sun. “One of the things I hate most about this book is that it is all about me.”6 Alas, we are all selecting principles. “Surely this babe would be impressed by his résumé.”7 Alas.
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