Who shot Gilligan?

From Plastic Tub

Collection of essays by Steven Vogeler (2004). Many of these works were studied further in the autobiographical film The Failed Cultural Critic.

Cultural Analysis of Modern Object

Today's object is a measuring utensil designed to be a functional scoop packaged with modern boxes of laundry detergent. It is the culmination of science’s alliance with culture to combat disgust. Some posit that it is an irrational impulse to escape the ancestral truth that we are made of dirt and return to the earth--ashes to ashes etcetera. The upheaval of the historically oppressed ushered in an age of shared enlightenment opening the doors to industrialization and thus the ability to further discern the effects of bacteria and better understand infection. It is of these humble origins that the behomoths of industry have come to entrap us and to seek our destruction for their gain. This simple measuring device is an unholy artifact of our future suicide.

This vessel for laundry detergent comes half-buried in the sands of the detergent like an ancient fishing boat ashore by a lake lost to drought. The utensil in question is designed to hold approximately two large loads of laundry detergent (4 2 oz. shots). It has little to offer beyond its ability to scoop or contain 8 oz. of cargo. This particular device is designed to be used with the laundry detergent that comes in the form of a white powder not unlike sand. Physically this device is constructed of a very flimsy plastic, green and translucent. It is fashioned in a box shape with a handle not unlike its celestial counterpart The Big Dipper (Ursa Major). It has embossed horizontal lines to insure proper measurements for two differant laundry loads, simply defined as "1" and "2".


The destiny of this measuring device is the landfill, and it makes no haste in its arrival. Like other powerful cultural objects such as the disposable lighter and the hard-to-find bic pen, this utensil’s lifespan is pre-determined. One may wonder when this object departs upon its final voyage to the landfill, does it ever become separated from its proper habitat, the laundry detergent box of which it owes its existence? Does the noble act of recycling separate them into piles of their own kind? Are they culled to specialization by the culling tides of evolution? Whether they are destined to become tommorow's petrol or to be incinerated together and forever lost to the ozone, it is unfortunate that Society has forged such an atmosphere ripe with so much symbolic waste.

I have described this peculiar gizmo as an artifact of an enlightened yet fatalistic culture. The object is ripe with a powerful inventory of cultural and symbolic constants that shed light on the impulses towards self-destruction. In fact the very matter of this device heralds from the black magic of today's lab, another toxic descendant of the impure athanors of St. Dupont-Farben. With careful observation one can unlock the inherent essence of the object and can examine the hierarchy and historical implications and further understand the murderous potential of this receptacle’s designers. I will now explain how the desire to be clean became entwined with the tyranical.


Evolution has no shortage of parasites and evidence supports the theory that we may have lost our body hair somwhere on the savannahs of the Pleistocene because of the probability that we would otherwise be covered in lice. Culture later bore a ruling class that splintered from the masses and separated itself both in hygiene and in spiritual cleanliness. 'Tis they who began the obsessive drives and neurotic obsession with hygiene that are so readily displayed and exploited in today's culture. The wealthy toiled little and enjoyed hot baths.

Unlike the bath houses of the Greeks, the bathing tub of the Middle Ages was a cold receptacle for the naked man, the guilty sinner forever soiled by original sin. He was also cold, hungry, uneducated and probably enslaved in serfdom. The filthy fellow of the Middle Ages was superstitious and probably a bit modest but was probably unfairly influenced by the religious norms of the times and spent most of his time fretting about an eternity in hell and little time contemplating split ends or colour fadage. I suspect that the biting cold of Europe in the height of winter made the art of the hot bath one familiar with few outside of the Royal Baths of the ruling class. Is it not true that many who were Baptised in the freezing waters of the Middle Ages soon perished of pneumonia? Was this not a good reason to hang onto one's Pagan Beliefs?


Before succumbing to the Renaissance, The religio-sexual oppression of the Dark Ages resulted in uproars of Witchery and mass hysteria. Before the emergence of Scientific study of disease and the knowledge of microbes, the genius of the Greeks was rediscovered and the sexual oppression of the dark ages found expression through a new kind of sexual identity that would soon fuse into a potent emotion. And not long ago that potent emotion was beaten and twisted and so infused with rage that it became unrecognizable. And then when it became monstruous, it was hi-jacked by the hands of the faceless powers of the emerging Gods of Enterprise_-The Corporation.


But what of the little scoop? The clear green plastic measuring device? Surely it is not as nefarious as it seems? Of course we can all agree that disposable consumer products are unhealthy for our environment. The finite resources are continually mined to produce that which will soon takes its place. And we can’t get enough. We are endlessly bombarded with advertisements for cleaning products. We are told that we are swimming in a sea of dirt that needs to be constantly held back, like Communism or the sands of the Sahara. We are told that we are filthy.

Mass-production has gathered so much influence that it is practically inescapable. The ruthless desires of corporations to meet the bottom line has created nefarious entities such as marketing and focus groups. Its ugly children feed on the dying puppies of cool. In addition to poisoning our environment and polluting our airwaves with dirty bomb jingles and announcements, They have rendered most of culture's greatest activities impotent by commitee. The risk of life that lies beyond the dayglo boxes of Mighty Tide or the subdued autumnal aura of Summer's Eve is transformed to into a more modern and usable emotion-fear.

See Also