Monopoly is a strange game. You’ve played it, right guys? The game with the fake money and the real avarice? The four-hour hole in your life of leisure time voluntarily spent on math, legal wrangling, and property negotiation? I’m sure you’re familiar. The game has been around forever, and apparently it won’t go away. It taps into some ineluctable land-grab psychosis that is as American as successfully downplayed genocide. You’ve played it. At least once.
Well, they (MONOPOLY THEY) entered into our news cycle recently by replacing one of their game pieces (the iron) with a different one (a cat). News cycle is the goal, of course. People are talking about Monopoly. Gosh, it’s been ages since I played Monopoly. I should play Monopoly. I wonder if I still have my old board. Oh that’s right, I forgot, I lost the dice. Guess I’ll buy a new one. With a cat piece instead of an iron piece. And then: I will play Monopoly. Once, twice, doesn’t matter. I will buy it first is the point. That’s what MONOPOLY THEY want. They are clever, these MONOPOLY THEY people.
You might have heard of this too. It’s the kind of nonstory that has easy change-troll handles for Twitter commentary: There’s the “WTF PEOPLE DONT EVAN NO WHAT A IRON IS LOL” angle; the more sophisticated “As long as they don’t replace the Bumblebee piece in my Transformers: Dark of the Moon version, I’m cool”; and the synergistic “What’s next, are they gonna rename the SEARS TOWER?” and variations on same. You know how it goes. Social media is a locust swarm hellbent on devouring any fertile crop of joke-writing angels. I’m not sure the Monopoly-piece switch has made it to the critical mass point in grasshopper population, but if it does, watch out. All of which, including this article, are sure to make MONOPOLY THEY jazz their jeans with social-media marketing delight. Exactly as planned. I’m sure it’ll work. Monopoly is very popular.
I will say another thing about Monopoly that you may or may not agree with: It is a hateful rubric of illusory achievement braggadocio and luck-based claims of intelligence, undercut with a layer of native contempt so terrifyingly ingrained that I couldn’t be more revulsed by the whole thing. Just my personal opinion. I find Monopoly to be a disgusting time rape, a pathetic excuse for forced togetherness with negative entertainment value and guaranteed bad vibes. But people I know and love disagree with this assessment.
My brothers love almost nothing more than to get drunk with buddies and play Monopoly. I love my brothers, but they are different from me. They are in that altogether prevalent class of people for whom life in the suburbs was never a fate worse than death, and they are living it out there now, happily. This difference between me and my family members shows me what I think I’m not getting about Monopoly.
It’s a game for people who are comfortable enough in their time and place to want to stake out territory within it and deepen their relationship to it. It is a burrow, represented by a fictional Atlantic City, into entrenchment. Monopoly. The goal is to be totally at one with one’s holdings and to brag and humiliate and marvel at one’s own guile and good fortune. It’s the American game, and some of us hate to play it and some of us fucking love it, and to those who love it, the rest of us are just plain no fun. Come on. It’s fake money and fake land and fake everything functioning the same way as regular commerce, but this version is a game while the real one out there on the street has longer odds. Come on. It’ll be fun. I’m in the mood for falsifying a reward for tenacity. Come on. Beers.
If you’re detecting a note of jealousy, you’d be right. My brothers have friends. They play Monopoly. They live in houses. They are playing the game, and they seem to be having fun. When I think about them I get the same feeling of misplaced longing I get whenever I have occasion to hang out with businessmen or electrical-engineering students. You’re fine with this? Just this and no more? My God, I could never do anything that easy (just figure out how to do this, then do it, then raise a family and then die: really nothing to it) and just be OK with it. And yet there they are, these people, this huge mass of majority, out there singing gleefully along with Bon Jovi and shopping for hammocks at Home Depot. They seem so at ease.
And as much as I’d like to crow to the world about how I have it all figured out and know what’s really going on, I know I don’t and they do, because I’m the one over here getting all twisted into knots because somebody mentioned Monopoly, and they’re not. I don’t know what THEY this is. MONOPOLY THEY. I can hear the commenters now telling me to chill bro, and I can’t help but agree with them.
Anyhow, there’s a new piece on the Monopoly board, and it’s a kitty cat. Goodbye, Iron, hello Kitty Cat. Tell your friends. Tweet to the world. Go nuts. You might as well. If you need me for anything, I’ll be hiding out in a one bedroom full of detective books on Baltic Avenue, working on my manifesto.