There’s a nice moment in Holson’s recent article on Ann Coulter.
Coulter sends her drafts out to a small circle of friends, and there is one reaction she particularly prizes.
“Whenever I have hysterical messages on my answering machine telling me not to release my column, I think, ‘This is going to be a good one,’ ”
And this tells us she is, to use the handy anthropological term, a trickster. The first order of business is a reaction. Preferably outrage.
And this puts Coulter in a camp with Sarah Silverman, Tom Green, Sacha Baron Cohen, and even Johnny Knoxville. Perhaps also Nick Denton.
Anthropologists like tricksters because they operate as culture detectors. When Sarah Silverman says something outrageous, it is outrageous because she has broken a cultural rule. These rules are normally embedded in social life and deeply assumed by cultural actors. They become visible more in the breach than the observation.
So it is far to say that tricksters create a substantial social good. They help surface things that would otherwise remain obscure. But we should also note that for many Americans even a few second of a Sarah Silverman routine is vivid proof that American culture is in a tailspin. Between them these tricksters are responsible for creating as much horror as illumination. Which is, I guess, where Coulter comes in. If Cohen beards the Right, Coulter provokes the Left. And thus do the tectonic plates of ideology move ever farther apart.
Tricksters, can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.
Holson, Laura M. 2010. “Ann Coulter: Not Done Yet.” The New York Times, October 8 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/fashion/10coulter.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss (Accessed October 27, 2010).
Kornfeld, Leora (2002) "The Teletrickster’s Way: Transcending the Rational and Reconstituting Media Discourse," Trickster’s Way.Volume 1, Issue 1, Article 3. Available at: http://digitalcommons.trinity.edu/trickstersway/vol1/iss1/3