The Eclipse Is Peak Monoculture and I Hope You Savor It

Monday’s solar eclipse doesn’t require a Netflix password or backstory. There’s no barrier to entry, there's lots of eclipse-themed snacks, and we can all agree it’s happening and it’s real.

The Eclipse Is Peak Monoculture and I Hope You Savor It

On Monday, April 8, a total solar eclipse will be visible across a wide swath of North America. If you don’t remember 8th-grade science class (and who does), a total solar eclipse is when the moon passes in front of the sun, completely blocking the sun’s light. It’s the greatest display of jealous upstaging on the grandest stage and everyone wants front-row seats. Cities and towns inside the path of totality (like Austin, Cleveland, Burlington, and Syracuse) are gearing up for a massive influx of visitors. Transportation bureaus are coordinating with weather services to manage an event that one expert claims will be “like 20 or 30 Super Bowls happening all at once.” It’s hard to imagine an event with more mass appeal than football + Taylor Swift + Usher—and yet it seems clear that the eclipse is, quite possibly, the last and best piece of monoculture in existence.

The Game of Thrones finale felt like monoculture, but dragons aren’t for everyone. The Super Bowl also comes close, but I personally cannot get it up for football, even with Usher and T. Swift in attendance. But a solar eclipse? That is for absolutely everyone. You don’t need a Netflix password or a single piece of backstory. There’s no barrier to entry; it’s really and truly free. 

Even better than free and accessible? We can all agree it’s happening and it’s real. That’s not something to be taken for granted. I don’t have to lecture you on misinformation and the disintegration of a commonly agreed-upon reality; there is an earnest debate raging right now about whether the future Queen of England is even alive. But we generally agree that we do live on a planet. Whether that planet is round or flat? Who’s to say! Don’t believe in the moon landing? That’s OK; you go ahead and believe that the virgin moon will pass in front of the sun. Even wingnuts get to enjoy the eclipse.

This eclipse is predicted to be particularly impressive, even more remarkable than the one in 2017. And that’s no shade (lol) to 2017. But about every 11 years the sun’s magnetic field flips, creating periods of intense solar activity called solar maximum. The last eclipse was closer to solar minimum, meaning a less wild corona when the sun was blocked. This eclipse is occurring near solar maximum; the sun is feeling spicy right now. And there won’t be another solar eclipse over the continental U.S. until 2044 and 2045—and, if you live in New York, they’re won’t be another total solar eclipse until 2079. Totality for this eclipse will also last longer and has a wider path over more populated areas. In short, every total solar eclipse is awesome; this one will be extremely awesome.

And humans need awe. It’s good for the mind, it’s good for the heart. It’s no wonder we are obsessed with witchcraft and astrology. The increased interest in and commodification of the natural and celestial is a result of longing for a link to something vast and spiritual. Whatever you believe about the veracity of your horoscope, you can’t deny that, as a largely city-dwelling population, we miss the stars. 

But it’s not just urban-dwelling humans who will have a good time. Even animals appreciate an eclipse. Yes, the sun is so monoculture even the BIRDS get in on it. Birds! Those guys don’t know a Targaryen from a Taylor Swift and even they are like, “Um, guysssss? Are we all seeing this?” Dolphins have been observed silently surfacing to take a look, bewildered owls hoot thinking it’s nighttime, and flamingos in captivity surround their young, knowing something is funky. During the last North American eclipse in 2017, Galapagos tortoises reportedly started mating because that’s what they do when they get stressed. 

I wouldn’t call an eclipse stressful to the point of panic sex. (I’m also not a Galapagos tortoise!) But, as someone who watched the totality of the 2017 eclipse, I can attest that a total solar eclipse is stunning. I wept. It was the kind of weeping where your face is somehow damp and you’re laughing because what is this cocktail of feelings making me feel absolutely punchdrunk at 2 p.m.!? In a culture that is often explicitly geared toward keeping consumers unchallenged, an eclipse stands in direct opposition, stirring up primal, profoundly human feelings.

Besides feeding our souls, it’s also inspiring extremely fun marketing stunts. Hotels in the path of totality have been sold out for months, offering parties and packages. Local restaurants across the country are offering specials with names like Total Eclipse of the Tart. A chip manufacturer in Ohio has created Eclipse Chipse, and it’s really spelled like that. Full disclosure: I ordered a case.

Delta is also offering a flight through the path of totality; Burger King is giving away Whoppers (I guess because a hamburger looks like the moon?); and Krispy Kreme is releasing an eclipse doughnut, which is just an Oreo on top of a doughnut. Can you imagine anything better or frankly more American than putting an Oreo on a doughnut in the name of science? When it comes to combining trans fats and whimsy, no one does it like the U.S. The French are not stacking processed desserts. Red, blue, or whatever color RFK Jr. is, all Americans can agree that we do goofy snacks really well.

Unfortunately, this beautiful, monocultural event only lasts for about three minutes, four minutes tops. After that, there will be epic traffic jams as folks head back to wherever they came from. Doughnuts will be Oreo-less and “Chipse” will go back to just being “chips.” But maybe a moment of shared wonder will remind us that we are just infinitesimally small specks on a blue dot in one of many universes. And, maybe in one of those other universes, the eclipse ushers in a new era of peace, love, and understanding. It’s nice to imagine.

We, however, live in the universe where horny turtles will panic fuck for three minutes while we stare into the sun and weep over our free Whoppers. I can’t wait. 

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