The Daily Mail‘s website is simultaneously the most glorious and the most profoundly haunting place on the Internet. It is the entire spectrum of human morality writ small. Articles (“articles”) about redneck yacht clubs sidle up next to feverishly graphic retellings of rape-centric true-crime stories; diatribes on the dangers of fat-shaming sit next to pieces examining how fat someone has gotten; an entire column was once devoted to Madonna’s “droopy ears.” Seeing as we are all melting trash heaps living atop a melting trash heap, it’s not surprising that the Daily Mail‘s website exists and continues to thrive. What is surprising is that its readers do.
As a tenuously alive member of this readership — for my JOB!! Just kidding, am trash heap — I am proud to share my favorite brand of Daily Mail lunacy: In any given piece about any given celebrity (the definition gets looser by the fractional second), at least three paragraphs will be devoted to breathless, wildly redundant descriptions of what he or she is wearing and, occasionally, doing. It’s all boring and blow-jobby, except for when it isn’t, which is to say, when it is written with equal reverence about a celebrity wearing some iteration of “dirty pajama” and doing some iteration of “nothing” — when the writer, existentially dessicated and devoid of real content, must turn a Tuesday afternoon hospital visit into a 1,000-word, search-engine-optimized masterpiece.
It is here, at the intersection of gas-station attire and desperation, that the Daily Mail becomes surreal, dadaist art. Each sentence is its own one-way trip into the Uncanny Valley. Each recklessly wrought phrase is a peek at humanity’s darkest, deepest fear: What will happen when we run out of things to say? Given names and pronouns are tossed aside in favor of lengthy, nonsensical qualifiers (“The E! black sheep,” “the strip club visitor”). Colors — including black — are discussed only in relation to each other (“darker blue,” “powder blue,” “sky blue”). Pieces of paper and coffee cups become “accessories.” Normal human behaviors — using a cell phone, walking — are rendered in riveting and increasingly manic anthropological terms, always with a distinct undertone of suspicion (“The star also had on a black and grey jacket and, oddly, was holding the blue sports bra and white tank she had on earlier, suggesting she had taken the items off when at the shop”).