Stranded in the Jungle--20

Goddess Kring

GODDESS. Shannon Kringen's TV show, Goddess Kring, has played weekly on Seattle public access since 1995. The show is all about Shannon herself. She's a young woman, white and under thirty. She appears on the show naked, or wearing just a bra and panties. She talks about whatever is on her mind. For a half hour, the camera never moves. Instead, Shannon adjusts her position before it. This allows her to do the show by herself. She works without a crew, and without a script. She wants to be spontaneous, she says. She changes the show's details from week to week. Sometimes, she covers the lens with a red or blue filter. Other times, she turns the camera on its side. Still other times, she uses candles for light. Each show is slightly different from the rest. But the basic format remains the same. Shannon's face fills the screen. She stares directly at the camera. She makes faces that she imagines to be soulful. She talks to us. We hear of her dreams and fears. We catch up on the latest news in her life. She shows us a new pair of shoes, that she has painted herself. She repeats nonsense syllables, or quotes from The Wizard of Oz. She uses a lot of New Age words, like "synchronicity." And she talks about her need to to express herself. When she's not speaking, she dances to some of her favorite music. Usually it's a song by Tori Amos or Tom Petty. Dancing allows Shannon to display her body. She moves away from the camera, so that we can see her from head to toe. Or she gives us a close-up of her feet, or her ample breasts. She likes to show the scars left by her breast-reduction surgery. Shannon isn't reed-thin like a fashion model. Rather, she is "curvy" and "voluptuous." She's not obese, but she has a large frame, and plenty of meat on her bones. The fat lies more in her belly than on her hips. It wiggles around when she dances. Shannon fusses a lot about her figure. Often she holds her hairy armpit up close to the camera. This shows how much she loves her body. "I don't shave," she says. It's her proudest boast. She extols the virtues of being natural. At times like these, she comes across as a hippie earth mother. But she's not above playing the sex kitten, as well. When she's in the right mood, she wears wigs, or fools around with hair styles. She puts on makeup, and paints her nails in wild colors. And she flirts with the camera, like in an MTV video. Still other times, she adorns herself with body paint. The brightly colored patterns swirl across her skin. This is in order to show how spiritual she is. Her body markings are supposed to resemble those of indigenous peoples. She often mentions her love for Australian Aboriginal culture. And she worships the Great Spirit, as Native Americans are said to do. Actually, Shannon professes to "believe in all religions." She is copious enough to contain such contradictions. It's the privilege that comes with being a goddess. You can do just about anything, she tells us, if only you feel good about yourself. Increase your self-esteem, and follow your dream. Shannon is as sincere as she is self-absorbed. She is at the center of her own little world. It doesn't matter what strange things she encounters. She is always able to refer them back to herself. And then they are sure to turn up, sooner or later, on her show. The program combines the most diverse ingredients. One moment, Shannon is talking about creativity and self-expression. The next, she is sharing her most painful memories. The one after that, she's regaling us with cheery New Age slogans. It's hard to say where any one of these ends, and the next begins. They all run together in the unending monologue. But Shannon's most frequent topic is the show itself. She worries over its progress from week to week. She wonders if she will be strong enough to continue. Throughout, she talks about what it is like to be on the air. And she points out what she is doing with the camera, even as she does it. In all these ways, the show is really about itself. It doesn't exist to document Shannon's life. It's more that her life exists to provide material for the show. Goddess Kring is its own justification, and its own reward. As Shannon so often says, the show's main purpose is to make her famous. Fame is her lifelong ambition, her dream, her deepest desire. It isn't important to be famous for any particular reason. Fame itself is the only thing that matters. And now Shannon Kringen indeed is famous, because she is on TV.

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