Tag Archives: aesthetics

The Zack Morris Cell Phone Aesthetic

I was thinking about the aesthetic Marisa and I invented, the Zack Morris Cell Phone aesthetic, and I guess it’s in the same family as the Lisa Frank Sticker, Hello Kitty Lunchbox, Which Baby-Sitters-Club Character Are You aesthetic (which are part, but not all, of the Gurlesque aesthetic), but in lots of ways it’s the opposite. Because it’s fun to put stickers and songs in your poems—there’s a pleasure in the nostalgia and in the flipping-off of those who want to police the pop out of poetry (say it like “police the fuck out of poetry”), but the Zack Morris Cell Phone aesthetic has to be slightly embarrassing. Like that feeling you get when you see a giant cell phone or a boxy computer monitor on an old TV show. Like, you’re trying to pay attention to the story but you can’t, because god that thing is so big, uhhhhhhh…. It is pure spectacle, that thing that freezes narrative. But it wasn’t distracting at the time: that was just how life looked then. For most of human history we don’t have tons and tons of examples of how life looked so now that they’ve started to pile up and life has started to look so different so fast it’s kind of mortifying. Like your mom did something humiliating but “culture” = your mom. “Your mama’s cell phone is so big….” To get this kind of feeling into your poetry you’re going to have to dig out not just the memorable kitsch but the toys you never told anyone you played with. Your secret collections. Maybe that bag of troll dolls with their hair cut off you found in a closet at your mom’s could count, but that might be too cool. To achieve the Zack Morris Cell Phone aesthetic you can’t be a complicit consumer in a winky way, it has to be something you’d prefer to never tell. Is this just Confession all over again, but with more stuff? (And what would it mean to want it more than wanting to stand in line outside the store to get the six, seven, eight, nine, ten…?) What it offers for nostalgists like you and me is the reminder that the past isn’t always cute, but also full of space junk. And we play Kick the Can in the landfill of our own obsolescence.

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