January 23rd, 2006
|05:16 pm - oh what fresh hell is this|
In other news, we're having a funeral for irony because it appears to be well and truly murdered.
EDIT: But maybe that's the point. If Mothersbaugh & Co. have indeed pulled a good one over Disney, then more power to 'em.
I think I just got that brain freeze you get when you eat ice cream too fast...except in my colon.
i feel kinda sick to my stomach.
|Date:||January 23rd, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)|| |
But ... But ...
Please shoot me. I am unclean and cannot ever be cleansed.
What part of "Jerry Casale needs to make his Lexus payments" don't you understand?
There are no words. I hope Mark & co. were anesthetized with unsafe doses of money for this to happen.
Oooooh. Point well taken.
I hope they accomplish what they want to achieve!
neat. I'm glad you elucidated us on this, because on the surface, it doesn't look so good.
Oh my GOD thank god somebody already said this because I was having a heart attack in my brainstem.
How can people be upset about a perceived blow to Devo's integrity without having the first idea what Devo was about to begin with?
Read an interview with a Mothersbaugh, people!
|Date:||January 23rd, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC)|| |
MM: In our purest sense, we were always attempting for subversion. We learned something from the hippies that, unfortunately, the punks at the same time didn't learn, and that is that rebellion is obsolete. In a healthy capitalistic world, rebellion is just something else to market. Even quicker than the hippies became hip capitalists, the punks became just T-shirts and bumper stickers. We took our cues from the Viet Cong and the subversives during World War I and World War II in Europe, as opposed to from the hippies and the punks. In a certain context, when I say that Mutato has the ability to be more subversive than Devo, I think that, in the mid-'80s, people fixed a concept of what we were and who they thought we were based on misinformation that was generated by and disseminated by people who should have been working with us. I'm talking about record companies and magazines. You have to understand, during our career, that we were resisted vehemently by magazines like Rolling Stone and all the powers-that-be. Even MTV, soon after they got their payola structure established, cast us aside, even though originally we were the only band you would see on the hour every hour with a different video when it first came out. That was because nobody else was doing it besides us. "
Brilliant. Where it even gets better and more Warholian is when the "subversion" is subsumed in the "commercial" message so much that the two become indistinguishable.
Meanwhile, Che Guevara t-shirts continue to make millions of dollars for Hanes and Co and Iggy Pop songs about heroin are used to sell credit cards.
|Date:||January 24th, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)|| |
Mothersbaugh got half his idea from my favorite post-structuralist, but what he didn't learn (or only half learned) is that the natural conclusion to draw is that any form of cultural subversion is impossible because of the sanitizing effect of the very market forces he talks about.
(Or the whole thing is a crass, smart guy attempt to pretend subversion as part of his marketing strategy. In which case, the whole thing is too meta for me to want to think about.)
First point: Cultural subversion happens *all* *the* *time*. Cultural subversion happens *constantly*. The reason the freaks never really win is because the freaks are by nature people on the extreme fringes. By the time the freaks win, they aren't freaks anymore.
Addendum/expansion on first point: It is quite possible to subvert the dominant paradigm. What you cannot do is eliminate the concept of "dominant paradigm". The majority of the population will gravitate toward a center. Humanity is a pack/herd animal - it's in our nature to clump. All we can do is alter where the center is
Point 2: Once you accept that the center cannot be broken, only moved, you can start to look at ways to move that center. With respect to ways to move the center, looking at "messages" specifically, there are a number of important factors. Strength is one, but so are distribution, camoflage (in order to get the message past natural defenses to where it can do good) and persuasiveness (Does it convince, or merely shock? How much effect will this have on belief and action a week from now?)
Point 3: Having accepted that, the market is really best described as a complex diluting force. It takes a strong, focused, small-area-of-effect message, (often) reduces it in strength, and increases it in area. Prior to this, the Devo quiver in particular was well and truly shot. Now, the message gets recycled. It's got less bite to it, but it's got an awful lot of excellent camoflage, and heck - it's jumping back into existance when it was absolutely gone before. As far as the message goes, this is no-load.
On the other hand, you do have to spend a bit of time picking your causes. What are you trying to push? A lot of the things they were trying to sell are pretty mainstream now already. I know that I've seen product from Brittney Spears that was at least as explicit as "whip it", and if she isn't mainstream, I don't know who is.
The fact that subversion *is* a viable marketing strategy should tell you something too.
(Note: the following is more general, and not about you specifically. I really have no idea where you fall on this scale, especially now.)
Now, if your goal in life is just to shock people, then candy-coating your message won't do any good, but what's the point in that? What do you achieve with shock that could not better be achieved with other tools? Would you rather wake people up to the fact that they are fat and happy and Doing Something Wrong, knowing full well that they'll go back to sleep soon enough, or just shift them gently so that they aren't doing anything wrong any more, and leave them sleeping? Which do you care about more? The cause, or the attention?
|Date:||January 27th, 2006 01:40 pm (UTC)|| |
First off, I gotta thank you for taking seriously a half-formed thought that I kind of tossed off between cases at work. To address some of what you wrote:
I don't believe that cultural subversion happens all the time. I believe that it hardly ever happens, at least not in terms of pop culture. Most of what "the freaks" do is already well accounted for, categorized, and easily placed in box for most people. I think one of the worst delusions of the "freaks" is that we're really challenging much of anything. The extent to which there's anything new happening at all, it's such incremental change that its impact is minimal. I don't believe you move the center by milimeters. The center is plastic enough to absorb that. That's not to say that new culture isn't being created, but its rarely all that subversive. It's just appropriate for its time, a sort of new zeitgeist.
Beyond that, though, to whatever extent there is a mainstream culture, it isn't one thing and can't have a real center. It's countless threads of culture that often contradict each other. I think it's hard to argue against the case that over the last 25 years, we've become a much more conservative culture. The rise of fundamentalist christianity, overtly anti-liberation movements, etc is not quite unrivaled in our history (the teens and twenties of the 20th century saw similar developments), but it is far more strongly pronounced now than is usual. Yet at the same time, the acceptance of homosexuality, gender non-comformity, etc has risen dramatically. Maybe this is the latent marxist in me, but I see these cultural tensions as a kind of dialectic from which the new zeitgeist will be born. To me that birth of a new zeitgeist isn't a subversion of the dominant culture, because the majority of what's in that zeitgeist will be the same as before and there's no guarantee that the new elements will be drawn from the attempted subversion of the previous dominant paradigm.
As to point number three, I'm not sure that I know enough about whether the Devo message maintained its integrity over time to say that even the weaker, recycled message is even attempting to be subversive. It may well just be clever marketing, by someone who knows how to use his alternative/subversive cred to sell a product.
I believe that by the time that the forms of and styles of so-called subversion have achieved a critical mass that allows them to be used as a successful marketing tool, that's the surest possible sign that they've been subsumed and transformed by the enforcement mechanisms of the dominant paradigm into something regressive and safe.
I will start with the end, and work towards the beginning, with random skips throughout.
- What, exactly, is wrong with "safe"?
- There's no guarantee that your attempts at being subversive will produce the elements that form the new dominant paradigm. It's true. At the same time, there's no guarantee of sucess in life at all, particularly when you're working in a system as huge and fuzzy and complex and strange as social dynamics, and particularly when your goals are directly opposed by someone else who also has goals.
- Of course, treating "mainstream" like one thing is a massive oversimplification. On the other side, simplifying is sorta neccessary when you're dealing with systems that are literally too complex to comprehend, and many of the basic ideas hold true, except that you're pushing one or more subsections rather than the whole, and you can target your message to a degree, and thus push harder with less effort.
- Over time, that which is "unacceptable freak" becomes "tolerable freak". That which is "tolerable freak" becomes "edgy, maybe cool". That which is edgy and possibly cool eventually hits the slide into accepted normal. If you look back along US history, this happens with some regularity, particularly recently. Often, you force the society to accept you legally, and a generation later they accept you (for the most part) morally. Lather, rinse, repeat until, a few generations down the road, you and your pet subculture are as normal as you want to be.
Actually, I imagine, to a great degree, we choose to be freaks. Obviously, this isn't the case across the board. Gender preferences, for example, are pretty hardwired, one way or the other. In many cases, though, we choose to be fringy because the fringe is where all the intelligent, dynamic, rebellious people are, and we want to be like that, and be with them, and not resemble the rest of the world. We create a fringe to be in, and then push it far enough to be actively disturbing, and then try to cram it down the uberculture's throat, and force them to accept us when we've deliberately made ourselves something they don't accept.
- Incremental change is not minimal - it just takes time. It won't have but so much of an effect in your lifetime, but your children will feel it, and their children will definately feel it, and it sticks. Look at the speed the mainstream changes. Look at the changes we've made. Look at the places where people have focused their power. The "anti-liberation" movements are there because people in power, and people with money, and people in mass are pushing them,and they're not being effectively opposed by mass or money or power.
- What do you mean by "maintained its integrity"? They use nearly the same words, nearly the same beats. If it is no longer subversive, that is because the mainstream has moved to consume it - which is what being successful at subversion is all about.
Think of the mainstream as an enormous blob of the acceptable and the encouraged. If your message and your life are unacceptable, and you apply your will against the manstream, and, due in part to your actions, you fit neatly into the "acceptable" area ten to twenty years later, with the appropriate props for being "old school" from those who followed after you, then that's a success. If you think it's not, then I would dearly like to understand your reasoning, because it makes no sense to me.
If you're not in it to make life better for yourself and people like you, then why are you here, and can you justify that reason morally?
I dunno - it seems like we're functioning under fundamentally different ideas. I see the mainstream as something to be accepted for what it is, changed to allow you to better live your life, and improved overall whenever possible. You seem to think that that whole idea of "dominant paradigm" as an unpleasant one.
Among the other songs available on that site is ... "Whip It". Really.
not to mention a song called "Jerkin' Back and Forth", and another called "Uncontrollable Urge". The lyrics are provided, too!
and if you read those lyrics, you'll note that they're wholly lacking in inappropriate content or even suggestiveness!
|Date:||January 23rd, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC)|| |
Actually, with my pure love for crass commercial pop consumerism, I think this is one of the most wonderful things I've seen in my entire life.
|Date:||January 24th, 2006 01:09 am (UTC)|| |
I think I like this version better.
they mostly only do the late stuff, it seems.
|Date:||January 25th, 2006 02:54 am (UTC)|| |
thank you for saying that.
Using pop to go where you're otherwise unwanted is a coup. Still an inside joke, but one that hopefully appreciates with time.
|Date:||January 24th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)|| |
Can I steal your link and put it on Brunchma?
|Date:||January 24th, 2006 05:52 pm (UTC)|| |
Come on, people. Mothersbaugh did the music for Rugrats, fer cryin' out loud.
Only one comment can be made.