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Harman, Metaphor and the Charm of Rob Lowe

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Welcome the wild.

Harman, Metaphor and the Charm of Rob Lowe

Mark Douglas

“The charm of objects is their innocent absorption in being just what they are, which in each case is something that we ourselves can never be.” Charm is “that which exposes sincerity to our fascinated attention” (Harman, 2005, p. 137). Sincerity arises “in the sense that I really am doing right now whatever it is that I am doing—delivered over to that activity rather than to any of the possible others that might be imagined” (p. 135). Sincere things “are thoroughly absorbed at each moment in being precisely those characters that they are” (p. 135). Metaphor “manages to put the very sincerity of a thing at issue, by somehow interfering with the usual relation between a thing and its qualities--and this is precisely what charm means” (p. 141). “When metaphor works, it is always charming: we cannot help noting the sheer sincerity of existence of the cypress-flame and wolf-human” (pp. 137-138). 

A current example of this shows up in the satellite television commercials featuring actor, Rob Lowe. In six spots, Rob Lowe appears as himself and as a hybridized version of himself. We cannot help but notice the sincerity of the crazy hairy, far less attractive, meathead, painfully awkward, scrawny arms, and super creepy Rob Lowes. These Rob Lowe hybrids are charming to the degree that “our fascinated attention” (Harman, 2005, p. 137) is drawn to the way the hybrids “are thoroughly absorbed at each moment in being precisely those characters that they are” (p. 135). Remember, the point of this section and these subsections is to lay theoretical groundwork for metaphor so that a strong methodology can be constructed and performed. Next I’ll share how allure is related to metaphor.