Dig if you will a Gif (Graphics Interchange Format) in which a young man with a torso lean but lacking muscular definition, is zapped with a six-pack and pecs and has a tattoo slapped across his chest and down his arm. His none-too-shabby jaw is lazered with some blue steel stubble, his brow straightened to more hunkish proportions, his hair slicked and lastly, but surely not least, a dog collar bracelet cuffed around his wrist.
The transformation by slick editing software from selfie of good looking half-naked guy to mean hunk-of-note is achieved within seconds, at the touch of a touchscreen icon, provided you download Samsung’s new Z camera on your soon to be upgraded smartphone.
Yes, this latest gimcrack offering its halleluja to the blooming narcissism of our age is a real thing. It is advertised on Instagram, which is a clever ploy by its nefarious creators given users’ wont to bend the digital tools’ ability to distribute useful and possibly witty visual information to the ends of self promotion.
How much time and energy was expended in the creation of this tool which ostensibly improves your phone camera’s ability to shoot in low light and improve the clarity of backlit scenes but in reality appeals with its one-touch editing functions to our base desire to be beautiful? A desire shared by almost all us self-aware creatures, no doubt, but one which is of low aspirational value; a shallow and seemingly easy shortcut to an improved self image.
How much anxiety weighed upon the coders and technicians, tightened their shoulders and screwed down their spines as higher level managers reminded them with threats increasingly dire of deadlines looming ever closer? How many overtime hours spent in the making of this paean to pretension have been forever lost to the children and wives of those sweating Samsung employees?
How much money wasted by this behemoth of Korean electronics that could have been spent designing a widget to improve children’s mathematical skills, or assist adults in learning a foreign language or manage a budget? How much time, energy, money and anxiety wasted when it could have been used to develop nanotech that heals lungs damaged by the smoke required to deal with the daily necessity of other people?
No, instead we are offered this gewgaw, this gimmick, this piece of shit tech that promises to lead us further into the dank, seemingly endlessly deep pool of self adulation.
Not only does it not improve intelligence, creativity, empathy, health, or assist in accomplishing any important task that can be thought of, it doesn’t actually improve the way you look in real life either. Not a jot. Not an iota. Notatfuckingall.
Just the briefest encounter with the advert for this app as I scrolled distractedly from sunset to supposedly happy family to the Women’s March, was the equivalent of dumping a planet sized bucket of excrescence on expectations of the human race. Much like watching Donald Trump being sworn in.
It was a feeling re-encountered on exiting the play Oh Baby, I’m a Wild One, which, if it were an app, would likewise take your more or less intact sense of human possibility – battered, patched and repatched as it may be – and twist it into something resembling a sagging sack of putrid tumescence.
However, unlike that abominable editing thing, it achieves this by unzipping the character it presents, stripping away any and all attractive qualities until she stands unmasked, all pretense removed so that we stare at the pulsing horror of which we are capable. Reading the Daily Voice has a similar effect, as well.
The whiplash metre of Emma Kotze’s delivery, the raw evisceration of character peculiar to playwright Louis Viljoen’s pen, the welcome dive into dark motives, meandering metaphors and sexual psychosis pushes this play beneath the waters of horror. The realisation that our protagonist, with whom we initially sympathise if for no other reasons than she is presentable, has obviously been crying, and is the only person on stage, is actually a psychotic and destructively self-absorbed bitch, does not redeem her. Our loss of connection, as her tale, told with spitting abandon that could do with a little more inflection on occassion, reveals the depravity of her choices, denies any taste of personal tragedy. Tragedy, if it exists, lies in the larger realm: as a society, this is where we’re at. All responsibility to each other is abandoned in favour of satisfying the self. That drag of the cigarette is not a small fatal selfishness amid meeting the pressing demands of others, it is a deadly drag to assuage conscience.
The character Viljoen pushes onto stage is one who would happily download the Z camera to prettify her projected image in a digital world while fucking her 15-year-old pupil and abandoning him to his own death in real life.
Need I warn you, Oh Baby, I’m a Wild One is probably not the kind of play you want to take your aunt, mother, daughter, or any family member along to see. If, however, you are a couple, it might put a bit of zing into your sexual antics if talking dirty turns you on.
Written and directed by Louis Viljoen, starring Emma Kotze, Oh Baby, I’m a Wild One is at the Alexander Theatre in Cape Town until Saturday 4 February.