Look, I like throwbacks, and I like nods to folk heroes of generations past, but something about Austin Dillon’s subtle tributes have always rubbed me wrong. First there was the Lane Frost wave, then the big hats a’la Richard Petty, then the Earnhardt slide after winning the big race. I can appreciate those nods in themselves but then comes the real Austin Dillon, the dab- two years after elementary school kids stopped dabbing (trickle down fads, y’all),the slide-what’s that, a baseball or soccer thing? Then the years past its prime f*ckboi haircut (that’s more synonymous with Alt-Right than 2010 tumblr hipsters these days). It’s just all too cringy. Austin Dillon is about as self aware as Joe Dirt.
I can’t help but think that Dillon’s persona (or are we talking personae, here?) is a prime example of what French philosopher Guy Debord called “The Society of the Spectacle.” From wikipedia (a decent rundown, but I urge you to read the book, which can be found cheaply online or freely via pdf):
“Debord traces the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation: “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation." Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as "the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing." This condition, according to Debord, is the "historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life.”
The spectacle is the inverted image of society in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which “passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity”. “The spectacle is not a collection of images,” Debord writes, “rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.”
In his analysis of the spectacular society, Debord notes that the quality of life is impoverished, with such a lack of authenticity that human perceptions are affected, and there’s also a degradation of knowledge, with a hindering of critical thought. Debord analyzes the use of knowledge to assuage reality: the spectacle obfuscates the past, imploding it with the future into an undifferentiated mass, a type of never-ending present; in this way the spectacle prevents individuals from realizing that the society of spectacle is only a moment in history, one that can be overturned through revolution.”