Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto is a collection of essays written by novelist, essayist, and journalist Chuck Klosterman. The book was released in its entirety in 2003 by Scribner, with certain essays being released under different names through different publications such as GQ and The New York Times Magazine. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is an amalgamation of seemingly random topics and pseudo-philosophies tied together by a singular theme questioning how we as media consumers create our reality.
Overview and Structure
The book is structured as if each chapter or essay were a track on a mixtape or CD album. The table of contents features a ‘running time’ next to each chapter along with the page numbers and there are short ‘interludes’ or page long excerpts which serve as transitions between chapters or ‘songs’. Klosterman’s writing is quite blunt and oftentimes crass, and he is no stranger to using profanities or utilizing lewd analogies to illustrate a point. This writing style could be considered odd for a book which borders on academic, yet Klosterman’s style is deliberate; he writes (and has written about in other books) through a culturally aware and commentary lens which incorporates lay-jargon, lingo, and formality.
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs covers a wide range of topics ranging from the band Coldplay, the Lakers and Celtics basketball rivalry, cover bands, to Pamela Anderson. These topics are unified by a singular theme: Klosterman believes that our hunger and reliance on media forms has rendered us incapable of understanding or creating reality without the frame of a shared or mass media. As such, Klosterman also talks about deliverance technologies which work through cyberspace and how those have inhibited our ability to create one’s own identity.
A chapter entitled ‘What Happens When People Stop Being Polite’ focuses on Klosterman’s obsession with MTV’s reality show The Real World as well as what he believes it means for our personal identities. Klosterman claims that shows such as The Real World and films such as The Breakfast Club have defined and indeed originated strict social groups for young people to identify with. Klosterman argues that before media artifacts such as these people, such stereotypes may have existed but they were not something that people strived to be in nor did individuals alter themselves to fit these groups. Klosterman believes that since media has presented us with these strict guidelines it is now impossible for people to create an original identity. Our media has taken over the role of self-creation and evolution; people now turn to media and cyberspace for who they are supposed to be and even who they can be.
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs wrestles with this concept of media creating or laying out a roadmap for individuals to navigate reality by taking the agency out of personal identity. This theme is coupled with an emphasis on relativism. Klosterman is, however, incredibly subtle and subversive with this message; the overarching theme of the book is never stated or referred to directly. Klosterman uses this ambiguous style of writing is nearly all of his works, and Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs is perhaps best understood once one is acclimated to the eclectic nature of Klosterman’s writing.
Klosterman, C. Sex,Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. 1. 1. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.