I hate popular culture. Yesterday, when I read about the European Space Agency’s Philae lander successfully touching down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, after traveling though space for over ten years, making it the first spacecraft to ever land on a comet nucleus, all I could think was, “It’s kind of just sitting there on that comet as it’s hurdling though space, like that champaign glass on Kim Kardashian’s ass.”
It’s not a thought that I’m particularly proud of, but it stuck with me all day long. I’d try to work, but my mind kept drifting back to the Philae lander and this champaign glass, wondering about the similarities between the two, both precariously balanced in space, and drawing the attention of everyone on earth.
“How many scientists,” I wondered, “did it take to calculate the approach, and figure out how to set it down just right? …And was the Philae lander team even bigger?”
I should note right up front that I have nothing against Kim Kardashian’s ass, or the place that it holds in American popular culture. I’m sure that it’s a fine ass, and I’m happy that it brings joy to people during these darks times in which we live. What bothers me is the fact that I know that it exists, without ever having sought out information on its existence, without ever having watched an episode of Kardashian’s television show, without ever having visited a website dedicated to the documentation of epic asses. I hate living in a world where, try as you might, there are some things that you can’t avoid. I don’t like knowing the comings and goings of Justin Bieber. I don’t like knowing when Lindsay Lohan drinks. I don’t like knowing that the Kradashian family exits. But there are these things that are just beyond our control, these enormous cultural entities circling us like low orbit satellites.
And, over the past 24 hours, though no fault of my own, I’ve been bombarded by Kim Kardashian’s ass, as everyone in the media struggled to find a new way to justify their interest, and spin it as something other than prurient. Literally every other story in my news feed had to do with the public display of this reality star’s large, oiled ass, as though it were something of historic significance. And, at the same time, buried between these various stories, if you could draw your attention to it, you saw these beautiful, little glimpses of Philae lander miraculously touching down.
The juxtaposition of the two stories, at least for me, was overwhelming. And I couldn’t stop drawing inferences about our country and our place in history. “The Philae lander wasn’t launched from the United States,” I found myself thinking. “It was a product of the European Space Agency. Kardashian, though, is ours, and she’s the one blowing up the internet.” It’s kind of sobering, don’t you think?