News Editor Victoria Borlando is evil now, and she has taken up the challenge of imagining the worst possible combination of celebrities to engage in a Contemporary Civilization seminar.
Author’s Note: I’m not actually evil; I just write stupid jokes sometimes.
Last semester, as I stared into my laptop’s camera and virtually celebrated my one-month anniversary of taking Contemporary Civilization, I asked myself, “How can I make this class perfect?” I enjoyed the people in my class, my professor was cool, but like most things in life, the CC experience I had long anticipated was not a platonic “Form” per se. So, I constructed a CC seminar section with fourteen celebrities that I believed would provide me the most entertaining pseudo-philosophy class discussion I will ever be a part of. There was even a seating chart!
Now it’s my second semester of CC, and while a lot more of the arguments in readings make more sense (thank you, modernity), the texts are a lot more, dare I say, evil. In short, some of the assigned reading (minus a few ones, of course, but that’s a different conversation) are the texts I really wish just stayed in their authors’ heads and died with them. Some of these really screamed, “Western society didn’t need this thought, thank you very much!”
So, in order to fit the vibe of the evil of some of these texts, I want an evil CC section. I want the unholiest combination of celebrities to deliver absolutely disgusting, rotten, stupid, vile takes I will definitely not agree with. I want this class to make me regret ever applying to Columbia College instead of SEAS (which will be hard, given that SEAS requires one semester of chemistry).
So, now that there’s a new semester with new faces, it’s time to introduce fourteen new classmates! This is what the Contemporary Civilizations section that screams, “ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE” would look like:
- Lana Del Rey: Don’t get me wrong; Lana Del Rey is a talented artist. After all, Norman Fucking Rockwell! will always be the Album of the Year in my heart, even if the Grammys refuses to recognize it. In other words, you cannot deny that Lana Del Rey releases bops! HOWEVER, I’d be perfectly happy if she just… stayed quiet. I get it, “Everything’s political!” and, “If you don’t speak, you’re complicit!” I see those arguments; I hear those arguments. But, counterpoint: some people don’t have to speak. If Lana did what she does best—write concept albums that make everyone feel sexy and super depressed—then we would finally know peace. We wouldn’t get “Questions for the Culture.” We wouldn’t get opinions we didn’t even ask for in the first place. We wouldn’t get captions (now deleted) for Instagram posts that went on a bizarre tangent about diversity in the music industry when all the people wanted to know was the release date for Chemtrails Over the Country Club. If Lana were in my CC class, she would be the person who delivers her thoughts first, sometimes unprompted, most of the time not even in the same universe as the subject, and most definitely uninformed. And yes, sometimes she would make some points that would require unpacking; but they’d be so overshadowed by dumb arguments that I simply don’t want to! I don’t want to hear her takes on the Civil Rights Movement; I don’t want to hear her takes on Adam Smith. If I must listen to ANYTHING by Lana relating to politics, I will be streaming “National Anthem” on Spotify.
- Matty Healy of the 1975: Again, do not get confused: I love the 1975. In fact, according to my data, the 1975 is my most-streamed artist of all time on Spotify, putting me in the top 0.5% of all listeners. I think the lyrics are intelligent (or incredibly dumb, if Healy intentionally wrote it that way), and all his albums have a beautiful sense of aesthetics, both in the imagery and production. HOWEVER, like Lana Del Rey, Matty Healy desperately needs to stop talking sometimes. From the “Where are my rights as an atheist?!” stunt, to posting a link to his song, “Love It If We Make It,” the day of the murder of George Floyd (that tweet, as well as the @TrumanBlack account, has since been deleted), he’s nothing but irritating. I would pay my tuition in full simply not to hear any of his opinions on the first-semester reading list, as well as equally pretentious intellectuals in this semester (see: Foucault). If he were in my CC class, he’d easily fulfill the role of being the guy you think could be interesting, but as soon as he opens his mouth, you know you’d never be able to last an entire coffee date with his incessant preaching. The only thing I want to hear from Matty is his entire discography (except “People.” He can keep that one).
- Anthony Fantano: I refuse to listen to anyone who prides himself on saying “it’s not that good!” to objectively great albums (see: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). Yes, our acquaintanceship officially ended when this bald guy gave Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters a 7 out of 10 when I think it deserved Pitchfork’s perfect 10. When I saw that critique, I could tell he was overjoyed in criticizing a highly-praised album. Like, a little too happy trying to pull apart Fiona Apple’s music and give her his “notes.” And yeah, independence of thought and impartiality is a cool thing about his music reviews, I will admit; however, if you’re going to critique the lyrics of Fetch the Bolt Cutters, don’t make comments that end up sounding like you refuse to listen to women, especially when you yourself are “gimmicky” (I see the color coordination of the flannels, Anthony). Yes, one of the reasons why he thought women were “overreacting” with Fiona’s album was because he “wasn’t equipped” to relate to her personal struggles. And yes, I know many people who weren’t as big of a fan of this album as I was, and I’ve had great conversations with all of them! However, none of them presented these red flags of an argument. That being said, I don’t want to hear Fantano’s thoughts on Mary Wollstonecraft at all; I’m going to call in sick and just go to office hours to discuss that text. He’s going to say stupid things about Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, and he’s going to like Foucault too much for anyone’s liking. He talks too much, and for what, exactly? Has anyone even bothered to ask that question? I certainly know that if I were a man and didn’t talk to women, I wouldn’t dare to have an opinion on their means of self-expression.
- Jameela Jamil: Like Fantano, this actress just loves to critique, especially when it comes to society. However, she adds a fun, new twist to criticism: scrutinizing someone else’s comment that didn’t have a single thing worth getting mad over. Case and point: remember when she posted a picture of a photoshoot on Instagram, and after a fan commented that she looked pretty, Jamil responded with a paragraph longer than the collection of the Federalist Papers saying how, “the industry did this!” and “no one naturally looks like this!” Girl. We know you’re a celebrity. Just take the compliment like a normal person. Anyway, this is all just one, long example of the multiple reasons why being in a philosophical discussion with her would make me suffer. She’d probably be the person who finds flaws and “problematic claims” in every text we read, even when said text is defending human rights. Furthermore, no one would learn anything because these outlandish “your fave is problematic” attitudes I dealt with back in 2014 would overshadow most of the conversation, derailing constantly from the task at hand. I don’t care if her takes are good or bad; I just know that I won’t enjoy listening to any of them!
- Any older millennial who worked for the New York Times at some point: This one goes out to the Culture section specifically. Simply put, every time I read an article about today’s culture and “youth” from an older millennial at the New York Times, I go into a deep, existential spiral. When I become 30, will I forget that children exist? Will I no longer remember what it’s like to be a teenager? Will young people appear as aliens before my eyes? How can you be considered an expert in a specific field yet fail to capture exactly what it is about today’s culture that is so fascinating? I literally do not want to hear a single thing from this person, simply because they’d talk down to me and then completely miss all the fun nuance of each philosophical text, giving me a migraine from rolling my eyes too hard at such stale takes.
- Cole Sprouse: Hi, if you’re wondering why I have a certain vendetta against this guy, don’t think it’s because of Riverdale (or his attending N*U). I don’t think this explanation needs to be long; I think I will let this personal alphabet soup of letters and words on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics prove my point. Yes, that is actually Cole Sprouse’s Tumblr from 2012, which is now only available as an archive since he deleted his original account. And, it’s a lot. Anyway, the 2012 Tumblr “social experiment” aptly titled “Question for the Cole-ture” (can celebrities stop having questions; I’m begging at this point) solidified Cole’s place as the “CC Student from Hell.” So, since he evidently did all the reading, I put him in this class. My philosophy about Cole Sprouse is the following: if I have to hear this man prove the existence of wrong opinions, then you do too!
- Elon Musk: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! First off, he’s less funny than Arthur from Joker when he’s failing at a stand-up routine at the comedy club. Second off, why would I subject myself to interacting with the world’s worst cartoon villain? I don’t care how much money that man bleeds from his engineers and developers; his opinions on any text about economic theory and politics would be objectively terrible. I especially don’t want to hear his opinion on Foucault; I’d like to see official, certifiable evidence that his Reddit account was confiscated first (but I still wouldn’t listen). Furthermore, sorry to crush some SEAS students’ dreams, but that man didn’t invent anything accredited to his name (no, he’s most certainly not cool). Every product under SpaceX and Tesla was designed by and created by a team of scientists, researchers, and engineers; that’s just how developments in science worked for centuries. Elon Musk is just the guy that says stuff out of pure arrogance sometimes; however, he did reinvent indentured servitude for his precious, future Mars colony. That man is destined to become the world’s worst Devil’s Advocate—eventually becoming the catalyst to my own villain origin story. Why couldn’t I have been placed in the other CC class I invented? At least Grimes was free there!
- Joe Rogan: If Elon Musk alone was objectively terrible, imagine if he was in your class along with his friend, famous podcaster, and bald man, Joe Rogan. A little fact about my knowledge of Joe Rogan: I purposefully choose to ignore the fact that his cousin is the super cool, legendary, talented Gerard Way. Why, may you ask? Because I actually like Gerard Way, and Joe Rogan is the exact opposite! He’s the voice for a demographic of people who arguably didn’t need a voice in the first place, and if he thinks wearing a mask during a pandemic makes you “unmanly,” then I’ve heard enough! This man clearly doesn’t exemplify Smith’s tendency toward sympathy, so I don’t want to even imagine what his commentary on any of the texts we had to read would be like. He’d speak over women, never wait his turn, attempt to correct the professor at least three times in 30 minutes, and walk out when someone else calls him out for being terrible.
- Ben Shapiro: This is self-explanatory. However, I have the time to crack a few jokes. Simply put, any place that gives Ben Shapiro a platform is one I want to stay far away from. I feel like he’d be the man who treats Atlas Shrugged like the Bible, making every single text “bad” logically because it’s not something Ayn Rand wrote. Furthermore, his only means of sounding “smart” are talking so fast that no one has the time to even notice that his argument is completely left-field and absurd, as well as interrupting any and all women in the room. To be honest though, I think that I could shut him up simply by staring at him—mostly because he’s afraid of women. However, for sake of my own sanity, I will not be taking one for the team and attempt to shut him up. Maybe he’ll run out of energy eventually…
- Trisha Paytas: I think the part that would frustrate me the most about being in a CC class with Trisha Paytas is that I genuinely would never know if she’s being awful on purpose. Like, her entire persona is constructed around being a combination of the worst people you will ever encounter, so it’s all obviously fake… right? Like, she’s just in the Ninth Circle of Irony… right?!? Or is it all real, and I have to accept that some people in this world truly believe the most horrid things and are publicly proud about being heinous? And yes, in any other circumstance, I’d be fascinated to sit down with her and let her speak. However, because there are other people in this class that unironically have objectively terrible opinions, I know for a fact Trisha would catch onto them and argue in their favor until I pass out from heatstroke. CC would be giving her a platform, and that itself has doomed me for the rest of eternity. So, in that case, maybe she could keep her thoughts on Karl Marx to herself. It’s for the best, really.
- Jimmy Fallon: Fallon would make CC bad simply because this man never has anything to offer to any conversation except poorly-timed laughter. Seriously, after watching his interviews sometimes, I noticed he can’t maintain a single conversation, and that complete lack of discussion skills is extremely frowned upon in a CC class. He’d be the person to joke about “awkward silence” but refuse to actually make a comment, and if the professor asked if he had anything to say, he’d just respond with a laugh and, “Can you repeat the question?” He is the ultimate passive student, and I would be writhing in pain by week four.
- Matthew Morrison: This man just seems like a piggyback-er. Matthew Morrison would wait until someone is done presenting a long take—barely listening to most of it (I get it, man, it’d be unbearable)—but THEN, he would say, “I would have to agree, and taking that point further, I think…” No, you don’t “think!” If your point is mostly a segue, then you’re not making a point! He’s the passive student that really wants to be active, and he’ll never get the response he desires. He’s destined to be ignored, and his vice is that he ignores that and tries to speak anyway.
- Lin-Manuel Miranda: Stereotypical older millennial, die-hard theater kid insistent that he’s good at rapping, fan of some white guy that didn’t even get to be president… yeah, his awful vibe checks out. I put him here because he’d act as an amplifier to Matthew Morrison’s energy (did you know that they’re friends?), and he’d be the one to constantly make everything about the founding of the US and/or Disney. For the few times we’d let him speak, he would try to make his points “woke,” not realizing that everything he said could have been condensed on an Instagram infographic slide show. Stop stealing Canva’s revenue, Lin!
- Gabbie Hanna: You read her poems; you heard her songs. They had nothing to offer. I don’t want to hear anything else from her. Enough said.
And there we have it! Here is what I believe would be the worst, most god-awful combination of personalities that would make me want to combust in a violent explosion. I literally don’t want to hear a single opinion about any topic discussed in CC from any of these people! I guess this class is valuable for one thing: proving “Hell is other people” exactly correct.
However, I’m not done! Where would I be without a seating chart to channel everyone’s energy into one, giant mess of terrible-ness? Where would I place myself to further add to the terrible experience of being trapped in a room with these people?
Plato’s Lyceum, But On Fire And In Hell via Victoria Borlando
Seating Chart Of My Nightmares via Victoria Borlando