More like Roland barfs.
One thing all humans share is that we’re a ghost trapped in a skeleton covered by a sack of meat and tens of thousands of miles of weird tubes. Each of us is three monsters tending to a gradually decaying chemical plant. The perpetual indignity of physical embodiment connects us all—old and young, rich and poor. So it’s no surprise that ogling other human bodies is so popular it’s made The Daily Mail one of the biggest newspapers in the world, despite being written at the level of a slow third grader.
Of course I’m talking about the Elon Musk vacation pictures. And sure, I could just write that he looks like a plate of Thanksgiving dinner that got up and put on a bathing suit and call it a day, but that would be beneath us both. I try not to dunk on people’s appearances here, and as another middle aged white guy who looks like he’s made of marshmallow, who am I to talk?
Nevertheless, I was fascinated by Elon’s swimsuit spread and then meta-fascinated by why I was so fascinated by it. The prurient curiosity of one Fleischgeist ogling another? The Liefeldian physiological implausibility of this angle? Ok, maybe a little. But I think this tweet gets closer to it:
If you’ve forgotten, that weird homunculus is Graham, who was designed in 2017
…as part of a new Australian road safety campaign by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC). He was designed by sculptor Patricia Piccinini, a leading trauma surgeon, and a road safety engineer, who modified him based on their knowledge of car accidents.
Graham’s body was molded by the forces of a car crash, and Elon looks molded by the forces of being the richest person who ever existed. This is no swole Jeff Bezos, no Mark Zuckerberg doing baby-strapped decline pushups. Elon has the body of someone who spends zero time thinking about what his body looks like. But isn’t that kind of weird? He has the resources to look literally any way he wants. He cultivates the image of a techno playboy, jetting here and there, fathering secret babies and more secret babies, smoking blunts with Joe Rogan and making incessant 69 jokes.But he looks like every other shlubby middle aged workaholic dad on his one day a year at the beach.
Last week Delia Cai wrote about how many of us spend our time thinking about Musk, however little we might want to (feat. Yours Truly, along with actual experts like Matt Levine and authorized Musk biographer Walter Isaacson). Just today, a Delaware chancery court decided that “Twitter’s lawsuit against Elon Musk for attempting to back out of his acquisition of the company will be heard in October,” in a hearing which Liz Lopatto also live tweeted. Casey Newton spent most of yesterday’s newsletter trying to divine what Musk’s whole deal is (as well as providing a delightful definition of the word “jurist”), and poor Matt may never get a vacation again.
In that Vanity Fair piece, Nilay Patel said “Elon plays dumber than he is,” and Ryan Broderick added that “he is probably very aware that if he does something like dress up as Wario on SNL, people won’t talk about him firing, like, a Tesla employee who complains about racial discrimination.” And in last week’s This Week in Elon, Liz Lopatto wrote “I think we can all agree that Elon Musk is deeply interested in power.” So my point here is that I think Musk’s dadbod might be a clue that Nilay, Ryan and Liz are correct. Musk is playing a certain character online, but [Drowning Pool voice] the body keeps the score, and this is the body of someone laser-focused on his bag.
In “Mythologies,” Roland Barthes wrote of Einstein’s brain:
The mythology of Einstein shows him as a genius so lacking in magic that one speaks about his thought as of a functional labour analogous to the mechanical making of sausages, the grinding of corn or the crushing of ore: he used to produce thought, continuously, as a mill makes flour…
Musk currently leads Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company, Neuralink, and he may soon be forced to add Twitter. The mythology of Elon Musk’s body shows him as a business genius who produces shareholder value, continuously, as a mill makes flour, by his mere presence at the top of the org chart.
Or maybe he just hates the gym.
Also Today in Me: I talked to Karen Maniraho from CJR about covering the internet long enough ago that I forgot it hadn’t actually come out yet, along with Rebecca Jennings, my commentator twin Ryan Broderick again (we have to start taking turns on these things), Jason Parham, and Taylor Lorenz. “Somehow you came off as the least interesting person in that interview,” raved my wife.
More Bad News: “Desus and Mero are over.” And Our Regrettable Platform’s local newsletter initiative didn’t go that well, reports Andrew Fedorov in The Fine Print.
Today’s Song: Hole, “Jennifer’s Body”
~ John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave, but his tab goes marching on ~
My body is trapped on Twitter @fka_tabs. Every body’s free (to wear sunscreen). Today in Tabs is mostly free, but please subscribe if you want to make sure I can keep writing it.
That’s the sex number! This guy definitely fucks.
Most of this essay appears on page 69. Nice.