Grunge

To me grunge had always been a commentary on societal beauty standards and refocusing on what is special. Wearing grunge attire takes focus away from the superficial ways of becoming culturally beautiful and leaves you with only natural forms of beauty. In this way I always saw grunge as a raw and organic form of style. Grunge musical artists in particular strip away the fake parts of popular music like sequin costumes and over processed voices. This makes listeners focus on their music and their voice rather than their labels, bodies, and fluff. Grunge is taking away focus from gendered clothing and bodies to see the person underneath. While it is grotesque and harsh I have always thought it was beautiful because the people who were able to pull it off were always such special artists. For example, I always think of Janis and how she didn’t need makeup and hair to be this incredible singe. She had such a powerful voice that she could strip everything else away, be completely vulnerable, and with just her voice attract millions of fans. Janis defines grunge to me, she embodies how taking away the power of looks lets the unique and best parts of an artist stand at the forefront.

Looking at HOLE, and specifically the music video violet you can see the juxtaposition of conventional sexuality and beauty with disgust. There are delicate ballerinas and beauty pageants next to rats and burlesque. This strips away the femininity of the performance by undermining what is traditionally beautiful. Nirvana also played with the boundaries of feminine ideals and Kurt often took them apart in his own style. I think this style was so popular because these artists chose to resonate with their audience based on their voices and their emotion instead of their looks.

William and Sherman’s styles are both very dirty, shocking, feminist, and grunge. They both use that grunge factor to get their viewers to focus on the message of their work rather the beauty of the art. It all comes from a place of making a message from an image and not creating something beautiful or common. Kurt’s art was also different and about the meaning rather than the appearance. All 3 artists also have a strong focus on the body, usually the female body and how it can be deconstructed. I think this shows the   pedestal that our society has for the female image.

43:00- Analysis of Kurt Cobain’s MTV performance from a different perspective

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Industrial Music and Politics

  1. 0_9cfa8_eb9a1a3f_orig“The members of Throbbing Gristle were dedicated performance artists who vigorously challenged social order through deviant acts not only on stage, but in their imagery as well” (Woods 39). What kind of social order was prevailing at the time of Throbbing Gristle’s beginnings, and what were they hoping to change or bring to the public’s attention with their performances?

During the late 1960’s many countries were seeing the dissolution of the middle class and the stratification of socioeconomic classes. Britains’ government (where the Throbbing Gristle originated) and the United States’ government where shifting towards more conservative leadership. The Vietnam war was going on, Britain was experiencing a financial crisis, and the civil rights movement were causing widespread rejection of the government. Industrial music reflected this frustration with government,  “‘The rebels rejected most institutions, political leaders, and political parties.’ It was in this sense of rebellion that industrial music thrived: Nations were dividing to either extreme of right and left. Rebels, such as they were, created politically charged imagery and satire to communicate their message.” (Wood, 35) I think these groups weren’t trying to push any agenda but they wanted to bring attention to the power and corruptness in politics. This message resonated with a lot of cultures because no matter what each government was doing people were ready to question their decisions. Groups like Throbbing Gristle wanted people to look at their society and think about questioning the norm rather than just accepting it. For example, groups like throbbing gristle used Nazi regalia to get people to question the institution. It wasn’t the long after WW2 and the nazi movement was a really powerful sample of corrupt governing brain washing its citizens.

 

Gender Roles Evolution in Performance and Dancing

2. Examine the gendered and sexualized constructions of the 1960s and 1970s dance floors utilizing Tim Lawrence’s Queering of the Dance Floor. How is mandatory heterosexuality subverted? Consider music, venue, DJs, etc. Within this framework, how do you see the evolution of “The Ball” as portrayed in Paris is Burning (1990)? Does the Ball reinforce heteronormative structures of gender identity (look to Butler in History of Drag Balls)? Or does it perform/accomplish something else?

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Disco in the 1970’s stripped social dancing from all of its sexual norms. The music, the culture, the clothing, and the interaction was all unique. Disco, I think, did not intentionally strip heterosexual control from dancing. It removed heterosexuality as a side effect of giving dancing a different purpose. Disco was more focused on partying and the freedom of a new social scene. Lawrence discusses many testaments that disco was not a movement focused on courting like social dancing in the past. This removal of implied relationships with dance patterns subverted the masculinity.

In a similar fashion balls removed heterosexual norms by giving participants freedom. Their intention was not to be anti-masculine but to be their truth. For example, balls had categories that were very heterosexual like the cooperate professionals and the military uniform competitors.

Balls and disco both reinforce and degrade heteronormative structures of gender. They are both social institutions designed to give participants a space to break norms. In discos and balls it is encouraged to explore different sexualities and gender roles. This exposes people to different structures of gender identities and makes them more accessible. However, they are not normalizing these gender exceptions. They just create an place for observation.  Lawrence says, “What is more, participants in this stratum of New York dance culture regularly perceived their actions to be politically radical, because gay culture was still historically marginal and the practices of disco were understood to be aesthetically progressive.”(Lawrence, 240).  I think that disco and balls are both seen as entertainment which is a separate entity from everyday life. People in balls and disco would participate in extravagant show cases of debunking genders but only for the night. The next day they would go to their day jobs and try to participate in society as an accepted gender role. I think these practices made breaking gender norms like a costume not a reality.  In Paris Is Burning one of the attendees says “in a ball you feel 100% right being gay” but in society it is not the same. So while these institutions gave queerness a space, this space was not in society.

 

 

NWA & The Representation of Black Youth

In this argument I want to assess wether or not the movie Straight Out of Compton (SOC) helped the representation of black youth in America. When discussing gangsta rap’s commentary on racial politics there are two main arguments. The first being that the violence and demeaning of societal morals in the lyrics furthers the monstorization of African American men. On the other hand, it is a very effective and popular way of broadcasting the message of discrimination that is felt. In my opinion the movie was able to support the second argument.

While the album SOC undeniably perpetuates the stereotype of the dangerous black male I believe that the movie was able to humanize the stereotype. As you watch the story of these young men whom you know are violent criminals the viewer becomes connected to them. While they are a perfect representation of what America is supposed to hate you can’t help but love these young men, even Easy E a known drug dealer. You get to experience the discrimination first hand in this movie and it allows the audiences who have never seen this before to understand the issue of police brutality. For viewers  who had little contact with this type of brutality it is eye opening. Viewers sympathize with these violent young men in a way the media has never allowed before and this is how the SOC was able to positively comment on black youths.

The movies highlights the political and racial facets of crime. Law is not necessarily moral clear but it is black and white. Here I want to use McCann’s explanation,

“crime is political. By this, I do not mean simply that politics inform public policies related to crime and punishment… I am arguing that crime is in itself an act of political agency. As historian Peter Linebaugh states plainly in his study of political economy and crime in eighteenth century England, “In short, people became so poor that they stole to live, and their misappropriating led to manifold innovations in civil society.” If political struggle is at its very core about survival (and I believe it to be), then crime is no doubt political. Although the practices of a criminal will not be as politically conscious or beneficial as those of a street protestoror community organizer, they nonetheless partake in the social antagonisms that giveform and shape to political and rhetorical subjectivity. While crime from a punitive standpoint enables myriad discourses of racial, gender, and class scapegoating, it similarly enables alternative discourses of criminal behavior from the perspective of, or on behalf of, the incarcerated and their communities.” (McCann 14-15).

In essence, crime is subjective and determined by the politics of our country. SOC shows that the subject of our nation is to constantly mark black men as criminals.

This movie also released at a critical political moment with the popularity of movement like Black Lives Matter and was able to show the younger generations the parallel issues from previous generations. If kids today weren’t versed in the lyrics of NWA before they are now and NWA is a huge icon in pop culture right now. (Just look at all the “straight out of____” T-shirt’s ). This recycling of political music and pop culture fueled activism today.

Some important scenes from the movie I want to include,

The first scene included is one of the many examples in SOC of police brutality and profiling but I believe this one makes this most powerful statement because of the powerful dialogue of the black police officer. The scene ends with him saying “listen to your master” which is a stunning slave comment coming from a black man. The scene embodies the Fuck the Police lyric “black police showin out for the white cop”. The second scene I have included shows a perfect encapsulation of the two arguments for rap as a representation of black youth I previously spoke about.

On the subject of the music I think that NWA sells authenticity. McCann speaks a lot about this idea that in order for rap musicians to be successful they have to be gangster and this means their music gets progressively more violent as validation. While their music is full of political commentary because crime is political I believe the majority of NWA’s songs center around violence and degradation of society, women, and homosexuals.

The political music from decades ago is much mellower in comparison to NWA. This is due to many reasons. Rap music didn’t have the traction in the 60’s and 70’s,  and by the 80’s the civil rights movement was so long ago I think music became more frustrated. Musical artists grew impatient with the lack of change where as artist in the 60’s had just seen some success and sang with less anger.

The power of this music is due to its popularity. People far and wide listen to these albums with little personal connection to the issues. I think this is due to the clean and unique musical style of Dr. Dre and the taboo subject of the music. By now we know that people in American society love to watch a good societal deviation.

Finally, this may be outside the lenses of race and politics in this weeks discussion but I want to bring up HIV. When Eric is diagnosed with HIV his response is, “but I ain’t no faggot.” I think showing the death and diagnosis of Eric gave viewers another disdained group to sympathize. By this time you’re invested in they character and rather than feel that media perpetuated distaste for and HIV patient, you just feel bad for Eric. I appreciated the tone of this subplot and thought it was a positive contribution to the dialogue on HIV today. This commentary in the 80’s brought attention to a strongly misunderstood issue.

N.W.A- Fuck the Police

 

 

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“A young nigga got it bad ‘cause I’m brown
And not the other color, so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority…

Thinkin’ every nigga is sellin’ narcotics

These quotes from Fuck the Police tell how angry and frustrated the rappers of NWA are about police brutality and racism. These are only partial quotes from a profane verse by Ice Cube where he describes the profiling behaviors of police. He makes it clear that the police force is made of cowards who always just assume that black kids on the street are criminals. That the police don’t kill, fight, or search black kids for any other reason than race.

This isn’t a new idea or frustration in the black community.  It’s a theme we have seen through out American culture. Gwendolyn Pough comments on the way Fuck the Police was founded in the  “The rage and anger are consistent with in the messages and presences of the Black nationalists and rappers. For example, when the Black Panther Party started ‘policing the police’ and shouting ‘off the pigs’ thirty years ago, they set the tone for rappers NWA (Niggas with Attitude) who would later shout, ‘Fuck the Police” over microphones that would be heard by millions.” (Pough, 285). NWA was able to get this message spread far and wide even though it wasn’t formed with the same intention as the Black Panther Party’s message.

Today, Fuck the Police has over 88 million plays on Spotify alone and NWA has had a big revival in pop culture with the recent release of “Straight out of Compton”. This went hand in hand with the Black Lives Matter movement and even though the song was released decades ago it is still a powerful contribution to forwarding our society.

Do you agree or disagree with Mark P. Orbe’s argument about how black men are portrayed in The Real World ?

I had never seen The Real World before and was famillar with the premise until this weeks’ reading. So I decided to watch the most recent episode, Season 30 episode 12: roses and wine. However, the most recent season is The Real World Skeletons which from my understanding has the added premise of bringing in cast members’ exes or past trials for the sake of drama. In just one episode I could easily define the stereotype character; there was the tomboy, the girl next door, the jersey boy, the bisexual girl, the naive southern belle, the trailer trash, and of course the angry black guy.  I thought it was a little surprising how obviously stereotyped the cast was and when I read Orbe’s article I realized this is a constant theme through out the seasons. After reading I also realized how much racial stereotyping I had not initially noticed.

In this particular episode the “skeleton” focused on a minor love triangle between three white cast members and the drama related with that. Despite the episode not being about Jason’s (the black guy) skeletons he becomes an active character. Jason has a daughter during the season and discusses how he resents his father for leaving him as a child. I found this was a really cheap perpetuation of a stereotype but was delighted when they showed that Jason was making a big effort to break this cycle and be there for his kid. I hoped that maybe the modern seasons were going to deviate somewhat from stereotyping him as violent because they showed him as a very nurturing father.

However, at the end of the episode Jason has a violent emotional explosion  when one of the white male costars complains about how nobody understands his hard upbringing. Exactly like Orbe described most outbursts from black males, “Most often, this comes from instances when the African American male cast members strive to educate the others on ‘what its like to be a Black man in America.'” (Orbe, 36). Jason was extremely offended by his white costar’s complaints about a difficult childhood and proceeded to lash out at him. The argument was completely unrelated to the drama of the episode and Jason had no idea how the other costar had actually grown up. He just immediately assumed that this white guy did not understand adversity.

So I think Orbe’s argument is correct, cast members are stereotyped and the black male follows the pattern of being the racially driven menace. It only took one episode for me to see this.

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Punk Rock Misogyny and Gender Roles

The article states that “Punk could, and did, free women from the more restrictively gendered roles available to them in past subcultures” Can this be true even if there was still a lot of misogyny in the Punk subculture?

While punk is not the pinnacle of gender equality in a subculture it is undeniable that it gave women in the scene a lot more opportunity than they had received in the past. For this reason I believe it gave women more freedom. It gave them a chance to explore their passions and actually be accepted or even successful. Women were given a chance to make money on their own as individuals without a man or a female group. This was a liberating move in the right direction and got the ball rolling for big female artists like Janis Joplin and Patti Smith. Once a few solo female artists gained traction it was a chain reaction to stars like Madonna or Joan Jett and today female musical stars are as common as male. Though the punk scene was vastly male, it was pretty gender fluid. Men looked like women and vise versa. This blurred the gender lines and equalized the two genders even if it was only physical. The author really sums up the impact of the punk movement on gender roles.

“Even if the gender dynamic of the New York City punk scene did not deviate dramatically from that of mainstream America or traditional rock and roll, it allowed for more flexible interpretations of traditional portrays of both masculinity and femininity. Misogynistic displays of overt masculinity coexisted alongside transgender individuals in a musical subculture which allowed women unprecedented access and agency” (Kvaran, 71)

In essence, while it wasn’t equal it was an unprecedented amount of freedom that started a revolution.

 

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