I choose not to believe that it’s a coincidence both of these headlines crossed my desk in the same morning.
Like a lot of Americans who are constantly peppered with catastrophic, 24-hour news, I have grown strangely comfortable with perpetually feeling like I’m just a sneeze away from the total obliteration of my own consciousness. We’re constantly told that our democracy is on the brink, our health is on the brink, and our planet is on the brink. Vote or die. Wash your hands or die. Bring your own grocery bags or be rage-drowned by a starving polar bear.
So this Newsweek article about an approaching sixth extinction comes as no great shock to me. However, talk about burying the fucking lede (gotta love marketing tricks in reporting!). You have to get damn near to the end of this thing to be reminded that scientifically speaking, a mass extinction is not the same thing as total extinction, but who’s really interested in splitting those hairs when retweets are stake?
(I also can’t read anything from Newsweek without fondly remembering this fantastic piece by Jenny Odell in the Times. I know IBT doesn’t own Newsweek any longer, but that whole debacle in 2018 made me think a lot about how the journalistic sausage gets made and all the mythology we treat like truth when it comes to our Hallowed Publications and Trusted Amazon Vendors.)
OK, but back to all the coral dying.
I like the fact that I read this article about harsh times in the Anthropocene at the same time that this Marie Claire piece on the Hollywood Con Queen showed up. I remembered reading about a similar scammer a few years back in the Hollywood Reporter, and so initially, I thought this couldn’t be the same person. “Surely they’ve caught her by now,” I thought. “This must be some other con.”
I was wrong! She/he/zher are still at large! All this time, a pair of devious minds and a few guns for hire have continued to successfully lure hungry freelancers to Indonesia, ruining their credit with expensive plane flights, bombarding them with aggressively sexy phone calls, and walking away with comparatively small amounts of cash for the amount of props, disguises, and impersonations of Hollywood heavies involved in the overall grift. It’s clearly not about the profit (or maybe it is, as a six figure salary in Indonesia buys a lot more third-party Amazon drop shipped goods than it does in the US). It seems that to some extent, it is the fuckery itself that drives the game, which might be why the FBI hasn’t cracked it—and why the victims still keep piling up, despite urgent warnings to beware the Hollywood Con Queen issued in chic glossies like Vanity Fair.
Could this be the first wave of the mass Hollywood extinction? Has the dream itself now become such a cliche that some twisted fiend in Jakarta with a sprawling long distance plan and no shortage of untreated psychological issues can spend years effectively derailing up and comers and ruining the reputations of established players? To wit: it’s rumored and highly likely Brad Pitt used a speechwriter for all those magical moments he gave us at the podium this awards season. It can all be manufactured: the hustle and the spoils. So who needs the celebrities? Based on the sheer volume of reboots and Star Wars spinoffs over the last decade, this is an industry already balls deep in the process of being handed over to those little AI bots that want to know which of these nine photos has traffic lights in it before you can sign into your hotmail account.
From the depths of the seven seas to the cavernous reaches of limousines, whatever is coming, no one will make it out unscathed. I think fondly of Varda, who made sure to stop and film the beautiful temples of Iran and the murals of Venice Beach before they disappeared forever to god only knows where, like a mystery caller pretending to be the head of Sony Pictures.