The 1970s were known as the “Me Decade,” but if there’s one thing that the rise of social media has made abundantly clear, it’s that vainglorious self-centeredness didn’t end on December 31st, 1979 — it was just getting started. You’ve got people posting and tweeting about everything from their political opinions to what they cooked for dinner, and everything in between, and quite often filming whatever they’re doing just to prove they’re doing it. If you want the dull minutiae of your life out there for all to see, there’s nothing but your own good sense to stop you from putting it out there — and common sense seems to be as short in supply as egocentrism is abundant. And so here we are, in a world where the once-unthinkable reigns supreme — why, even no-count government office employees who can’t draw seem to think, for some reason, that people might just be interested in what they have to say about comic books!
All of which means that Jonny Petersen’s new self-published ‘zine Me Me Me Me is both appropriately titled and thematically very much in tune with the times, presenting as it does a number of statements that range from the harmlessly self-referential to the downright self-important. The trick, though, is that while this societal trend is made to seem every bit as scary and deluded as it unquestionably is on these pages (riso-printed in white ink with brown/gold backgrounds), Petersen never fails to see the funny side of it all, as well.
This wry humor is communicated largely by means of this ‘zine’s hyper-kinetic illustration, a maze of creative intrigue and 100 mph motion that varies from the purely tangential to the intimately intertwined in relation to the subjects giving their sales pitches for, well, themselves on any and every given page. It is, then, very much “of a piece” with Petersen’s other work of most recent vintage, A Short But Rambling Journey Through A Bunch Of Country Style Quotes And Bits Of Worthless Advice (the cover to which is pictured near the bottom of this review), but there’s a bit more of a cutting edge on display here, an acknowledgement on the part of Petersen that his subject this time around richly deserves a good and thorough skewering before it’s too late to change course — which, let’s face it, may very well be the case already.
Still, if we’re all gonna go down in the flames of public social self-immolation, the least we can do is be honest that it’s happening and admit that our delusions in regard to our own self-worth are in no way obligated to extend beyond the shell of our own being. Yup, it’s true — no matter how badly we may want thousands of random strangers to pay attention to us, there’s absolutely nothing obligating them to do so, and most won’t see our missives fired out into the void for the simple reason that they’re far too busy creating their own. All that for nothin’, folks — that’s the order of the day.
Somewhere in Petersen’s sea of faces, limbs, torsos, inanimate objects, and obsessively-applied lines is a nod toward this sad and inexplicable state of affairs, a jostle-and-wink at the notion we’re dooming ourselves to irrelevance by trying so effing hard to be relevant, and it’s that undercurrent that marks this not just as a well-conceived and well-executed work, but as a thoroughly prescient one, as well. It’s busy to look at, sure, but these are busy times with far more noise than signal floating around in the collective zeitgeist. When everyone is dying to be noticed, the odds that anyone will be are reduced to almost nothing, and this book is the ultimate visual representation of that inescapable reality.
What is there to be done, then, when confronted with the fact that our desire for acceptance is being met by a disinterested non-gaze from millions of people seeking the same thing? Read it and weep, I guess — and then hop on twitter and let everybody know that you did just that.
Me Me Me Me is available for $7.00 from Austin English’s Domino Books distro at http://dominobooks.org/mememe.html
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