Remember how, about a year and a half ago, a new trend began, which involved the use of the word “really”? People started utilizing it as a single-word response, pronounced with a tone that indicates shock and disbelief, and a sense of being confronted with extreme absurdity or folly. “REALLY?!?” That’s how they spelled it when they used it in the Saturday Night Live skit. Was this phrase floating around for a while, and I had just never heard it? Or did some astute SNL writer invent the phrase, so that we could all pounce on it, hungry as we were for a satisfying expletive to convey the weirdness of the current realities?

I guess I can only speak for myself. I am hungry. For a way to convey the surreality of the realities. I mean, my girlfriend is right now in the other room watching the Donald Trump reality show, called, The Apprentice, which this season features as contestants both Cindy Lauper and Rod Blagojevich. Cindy Lauper?!? Is it weird that I felt more shocked to see my childhood music idol on the show than I was to see the crooked, ousted ex-governor of Illinois? Most shocking of all is seeing them both there together, unashamed to be seen battling each other for the approval of Donald Trump. Honestly!

The lucky British have long had their trusty “honestly”, which they’ve been able to throw around in tidy little gestures of injured propriety. It seems to be pronounced as a brisk judgement; one spits it out and keeps on walking. Our new fangled “really” is distinct, I think, in that it seems to suggest that we claim no control over whatever situation elicited the response, but that we are nonetheless riveted. We will pay close attention as the idiot drives his car into the 7-11. Maybe it’s hopeful that the phrase indicates that we are indeed paying attention, instead of turning away and tuning out. (Is it a substitution for the 60’s dropout “whatever, maaaan”?) I am happy for us, that we have managed to get a grip on one modestly-sized word, which we can spit back disbelievingly in the face of the unbelievable. I do believe that absurdity is coming at us faster and stronger at the moment that it used to. Although there were certainly moments before my time that could have warranted a good “really”. Nixon wiretapping the Democratic party headquarters? I am sure that news must have left my parents speechless. Lucky us, now we have something to say!

**The title of this post is a quote, which I heard spoken on The Apprentice. It was said by Brett Michaels, the aged lead singer of Poison. In the reality-scene, Brett and his other male teammates are watching a live video stream of a discussion between the members of the ladies’ team. When a debate starts between two of the women, Brett takes the opportunity to yell the above quote at the video screen, in what appears to be a suggestion that the women having the conversation, Sharon Osbourne and Cindy Lauper, should take off their clothing and wrestle. In addition to being a contestant on The Apprentice, Brett Michaels also stars in his very own reality show, Rock Of Love. The VH1 website offers the following description of the show: “Twenty lucky ladies will get their chance for an All-Access pass to Bret Michaels’ heart and to share in all his superstar lifestyle. They must win over his mind and his body by proving their love for Bret, their passion for rock and their potential to be the perfect “Rock Star Girlfriend.”

March 31, 2010

  1. Dean

    Hey — so excited to see that you broke your word and are performing old stuff again! Come back to the Bay Area some time, so many of us love you over here! I saw you perform @ Chi Theta Chi at Stanford way back in Jan of 2008 and your performance made me so happy/I laughed many times at your witty jokes.

    I definitely enjoyed reading this particular entry. I’m with you, I don’t get/ I find some of the current reality absurd — but I have also found that when you’re critical of it, people don’t want to hear it or think you’re missing the point. I guess from now I should just look at the tv screen when someone is watching something like ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ and exclaim ‘REALLY?!?’ Thanks for filling me in on socially acceptable reactions to the surreal 🙂

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