The alleged abuses reveal a man who had to be looked at
We all know that one awful guy who likes wine and is knowledgeable about it but really enjoys the being-knowledgeable part more than the wine. His oenophilia is oriented toward performance rather than consumption: surveying the wine list, making a few well-informed observations about the offerings, enjoying the deference offered him by the other, less confident drinkers at the table, the little ritual of the probationary pour and the cork. What he is imbibing is not the 1982 Lynch-Bages so much as the ceremony — and, most important, what it says about him. The grape juice is mostly beside the point.
There’s a lot of that in the social-media age, though if you were paying attention you’d have noticed that there was a good deal of it before then, too. New York City is full of people who do not like plays but who are very fond of having gone to the theater. They may not actually get very much out of sitting through two hours of Geoffrey Rush at the Brooklyn Academy of Music doing artistic penance for his role in those dopey pirate movies with Johnny Depp, but they very much enjoy being the sort of person who goes to see famous Hollywood actors in Gogol plays, and talking about it, advertising their status. They may or may not know which wine to order, but they know that Wicked is for (sniff!) tourists. One of the by-products of this is the bizarre modern need to photograph evidence of prestige moments and share them over social media. Go to any museum from New York to Amsterdam and you’ll see people taking pictures of . . . pictures. Art, sports, travel, food — all have been reduced to objects of consumption that are almost entirely semiotic, treasures in a quest for the signs and symbols of a desirable life.