Grunge Blog Post

After reviewing the work of Sue Williams and Cindy Sherman, I have identified some similarities with the work of Kurt Cobain and other artists from the search terms list. The similarity I found most compelling was their use of male figures to convey feminist ideas. In the past, many feminine statements seem to have been made by applying masculine characteristics to a female body, whereas these artists use a male body with female characteristics to convey a similar message. For instance, Sherman’s untitled #250 has a male head accompanied by female reproductive features in a distinctly unappealing fashion. I think this represents what grunge really is: taboo, gross, and intentionally unappealing. Williams takes a more traditional approach, using female bodies, but still uses the grotesque imagery in her art. For instance, irresistible uses a beaten female body with smeared make-up and short hair as a medium for displaying phrases that typically accompany abuse by males. Cobain, being male himself, takes an approach similar to Sherman by displaying himself in feminine adornments while still possessing distinctly male traits such as facial hair. This has, in many cases, an even stronger effect than a male-like female figure in dispelling the myth of the “perfect” cookie-cutter female figure. Other artists I explored employed similar imagery in their music videos, such as Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun. This video employs overdone, campy imagery especially surrounding gender and societal norms in the setting of American suburbs. This music video was probably very popular because of the sensational imagery and just because the music is plain good, not to mention that the subject matter was and is very popular with young people. I think it is a tricky and often harmful thing to categorize art, but I guess this can be through of as “post-industrial” artwork. This clearly follows the industrial music we just studied, but has departed in the fact that it is no longer “anti-music” and has fewer synthetic elements. The music is much easier to listen to and even possesses some blues elements with call and response techniques and imperfect vocal tones.

 

Images:

http://www2.oberlin.edu/images/267/20. JPG

https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/gallery/6/#/0/untitled-250-1992/

https://turbliminal.wordpress.com/2015/05/24/why-soundgardens-video-for-black-hole-sun-is-even-weirder-than-you-thought-part-3-salamanders-and-the-czech-connection/

https://twitter.com/strepitouscat/status/600385268559040513

Videos:

https://vimeo.com/229218420/714067646b

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mbBbFH9fAg

 

 

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Throbbing Gristle Blog Post

Throbbing Gristle

Throbbing Gristle was trying to break free from the social order surrounding industrialization including large business and government. From their interviews, it seemed that they were dissatisfied with the fact that the large industrial corporations had abandoned common people as the factories were closing and the government was not stepping in to help. This left them with the factory they practiced in, which was abandoned and now housed various small industrial workers. The sounds that arose from the work, such as saws, trains, and hammering, informed the sound of their new form of music. I think this setting inspired them a great deal as they sought to inform the public, or sympathize with the public, about the bad position many working class people were in after being abandoned by industrialized businesses. I found it interesting that the style of Throbbing Gristle found its way to the United States when a similar phenomenon happened here in regards to industrial businesses shutting down. Particularly, it is interesting to note that most of the industrial bands and their audiences were white and working class and their music dealing with outrage towards society was very different than the music of African Americans dealing with outrage against society at the same time. It appears to me that this music is much more visceral and violent than the gangster rap we studied earlier on, and it makes me wonder what it is about the racial difference that made the music with similar subject matter so different in sound.

 

Source:

“Nine Inch Nails and The Industrial Uprising.” Chrome Dreams Media, 2009.

 

Image Source:

https://www.soundonsound.com/people/throbbing-gristle-hamburger-lady

Heteronormative Structures in The Ball

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Based on Tim Lawrence’s paper, Queering of the Dance Floor, mandatory heterosexuality was subverted by some of the Disco venues and later “The Ball” by allowing people coming from a range of backgrounds to interact on the dance floor. While early disco was strictly gendered and heteronormative (i.e. only male/female pairs were allowed), these two later venues allowed for people to ‘mix it up’ for a variety of reasons. For example, not only were gay men and lesbian women allowed to dance with people of their same gender, but straight women could also dance with whomever they wanted without being harassed by straight men. This enabled eclectic groups to come together in ways that suited each persons needs and desires on the dance floor and in life. While this idea of having a heterogeneous dance floor originated in the late Disco scene, the idea was developed much further in The Ball. The numerous categories, which were developed by members of The Ball, serve to reflect The Ball’s ideal that each person was capable of some level of success and stardom simply by taking their unique identity and fully “owning it” in front of the world. This multiplicity of categories, however, did not only highlight individuals who were strikingly different from mainstream norms, but also celebrated Queer people who were able to seamlessly fit into straight society. Categories related to “realness” all exemplified that latter type of category where people try to dress up like someone possessing a certain role in mainstream society. For instance, Executive Realness was a category where a member of The Ball would dress up like a CEO or other executive, trying to display to the world that just because Queer people are not given opportunities to be executives does not mean that they are not capable of being executives. In this way, it is clear that this type of category is far from regressive or heteronormative and is, in fact, quite revolutionary.

Sources:

Lawrence, Tim. “Disco And The Queering Of The Dance Floor.” Cultural Studies, vol. 25, no. 2, Mar. 2011, pp. 230–243., doi:10.1080/09502386.2011.535989.

Livingston, Jennie., et al. Paris Is Burning. Academy Entertainment : Academy Maverick, 1992.

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Black-on-Black Violence and Sexism in “Straight Outta Compton”

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After watching “Straight Outta Compton,” I can see how NWA addressed black-on-black violence and female discrimination. The movie spends a lot of time on the Rodney King trial and how closely the members of the group are following it. When the trial is over and the officers are not convicted, many members of the group are very upset and we begin to see further commentary on the issue in the coming scenes. For instance, when the Death Row Records manager beats the man who accidently parked his car in the wrong spot, I think the film producers were trying to show a parallel between the manager’s behavior and the behavior of the violent officers. It was a similar situation in that the victim did nothing wrong, yet he was brutally attacked by an aggressor who was both on a power trip and acting generally hateful. Similar behavior was displayed by the same character when he brutalized a supposedly “east coast gangster” for nothing more than where he was from and the way he talked, similar to the way police officers in the movie brutalized people because of the where they lived and the color of their skin. It was clear that Dr. Dre recognized and opposed the parallel between the manager and the police as he chose to cut ties with Death Row Records shortly after the incident.

Clearly displayed throughout the film is also the group members’ treatment of women and how it changed over time. In the first nights on tour and at the pool party, the members of NWA can be seen speaking disrespectfully to women, harassing them, and objectifying them. This can be seen especially in the hotel scene when a man comes by looking for a girl and the members are running around, grabbing at girls, and after the confrontation with the man, shove the woman out of the room without a shirt on. Not much commentary is made directly on this, but I noticed that the characters began treating women very differently towards the end of the film, many of them staying with a single woman and saying positive things such as “I love you.” While they still use objectifying language towards and about women, their actions have markedly changed by the end of the film.

Image Credit:

Gray, et al. Straight Outta Compton. 2016.

Hack #5: I Ain’t Mad At Cha

 

I_Ain't_Mad_at_Cha

In his song entitled “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” Tupac Shakur makes an argument for altering the Black Nationalist view surrounding the ‘ghetto.’ In Karin Stanford’s 2010 paper, “Keepin’ It Real in Hip-Hop Politics: A Political Perspective of Tupac Shakur” she states that, “… There is ample evidence to contend that Tupac’s activism was framed by his support for Black Nationalism.” (Stanford 2010) She bases this assertion on Maria Karenga’s definition of Black Nationalism as, “”the political belief and practice of African Americans as a distinct people with a distinct historical personality who politically should develop structures to define, defend, and develop the interests of Blacks as a people.” (Karenga 1980) Tupac makes a statement about the state of Black Nationalists recognizing the ghetto and its associated lifestyle as a way to define and develop the interests of Black people. In the first verse, he makes mention of a childhood friend abandoning many ‘ghetto traditions’ such as drinking and smoking when he converted to Islam and how that made Tupac feel his friend was turning his back on him. He says, “Oh you a Muslim now? No more dope game/ Heard you might be comin’ home, just got bail/ Wanna go to the mosque, don’t wanna chase tail/ It seems I lost my little homie, he’s a changed man now.” Here, Tupac is expressing the resentment he felt towards his friend for taking on more mainstream and conservative ideals. This is in stark contrast to lyrics in the third verse, which demonstrate how Tupac was ostracized by people in the ghetto after he became famous, much in the same way he ostracized his friend after converting to Islam. Tupac writes, “So many questions and they ask me if I’m still down/ I moved up out of the ghetto, so I ain’t real now?/ They got so much to say, but I’m just laughin’ at cha/ You niggas just don’t know, but I ain’t mad at cha.” In these verses, Tupac is expressing his understanding of what life could be like for Black people if they abandoned the ways of the ghetto. He doesn’t blame them for not knowing why it is better on the outside, as he likely understands the systems that keep them cemented in the ghetto, but at the same time advocates for a change. Tupac seems to be arguing that the ghetto is detrimental to the Black Nationalists because it keeps Black people from reaching their maximum potential. Shakur represents life in the ghetto as a cycle of behaviors that land people in and out of jail and prevent them from leaving the ghetto, whereas life on the outside leads to progress, such as artistic expression and fruitful family life.

Lyrics: https://genius.com/2pac-i-aint-mad-at-cha-lyrics

Photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ain%27t_Mad_at_Cha#/media/File:I_Ain%27t_Mad_at_Cha .jpg

Works Cited:

Karenga, M. (1980). Kawaida theory: An introductory outline. Inglewood, CA: Kawaida

Stanford, Karin L. “Keepin’ It Real in Hip Hop Politics: A Political Perspective of Tupac Shakur.” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 42, no. 1, 2010, pp. 3–22., doi:10.1177/0021934709355122.

Changes to “The Real World”

real world fight

In the final episode of season 28 of “The Real World,” a marked difference can be seen from “The Real World” that Mark P. Orbe described in his 1998 article entitled, “Constructions of reality on MTV’s “the real world”: An analysis of the restrictive coding of black masculinity.” He describes the show as attempting to maintain “the “typification” (Lanigan, 1988; Schutz, 1967) of Black men as inherently angry, potentially violent, and sexually aggressive.” (Orbe 1998 32) The episode that I chose to watch involved a fight between two female cast members, in which the most rational person in the entire situation was the only African American male. I do not know the names of the people, but a white male instigated a fight with an African American female, who proceeded to escalate the situation into a physical fight. The white man, unwilling to fight back, had his girlfriend fighting for him and initially encouraged the altercation. The only person that attempted to de-escalate the situation and break up the fight was the black male cast member. In the end, he was unsuccessful and so decided to leave the apartment so as not to be a part of it. In my opinion, this was the most civilized, mature, and intelligent thing to do. While I have never watched “The Real World” before and so do not really have a background to compare this situation to, it seems that much has changed in the production of this show since Orbe wrote his article. While it is interesting that the African American female was being shown as overly aggressive and unwilling to calm down, it is clear that the African American male in this situation was shown as the most rational, peaceful character by the producers. This makes me wonder if MTV has been willing to compromise on issues of race in the case of “The Real World” much in the same way as they did in showing more African American musicians on their original programming after being pushed by certain agencies. Regardless, I hope the fact that Orbe noted that, “None of the major players associated with the show (creators, producers, casting directors, assistants, and so on) are African American” has changed in the years following the publication of his article and that it assisted in the change that we see by the last episode of season 28. (Orbe 1998 32)

Sources:

Mark P. Orbe (1998) Constructions of reality on MTV’s “the real world”: An analysis of the restrictive coding of black masculinity, Southern Communication Journal, 64:1, 32-47, DOI: 10.1080/10417949809373116

 Nia VS Avery youtube video

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Misogyny in The Punk Scene

The most striking thing to me when hearing punk music is how over-the-top masculine it sounds. For much of the film Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in D.C., the only people being interviewed or shown on stage were men, which reaffirmed this observation for me. This honestly lead me to believe that the female empowerment aspect of the music must be over-played or at least strangely defined. After seeing the portion of the film with female performers and the interviewees talking about how the women were often mistreated at shows, I actually changed my mind. Not because the women were mistreated, but because the pictures and their very presence at these gigs were subverting American gender norms in a big way. The women tended to look very different than the standard ‘feminine body’ of that time, while still maintaining their difference from the men in the scene. For instance, the woman in the picture above has very short hair, smeared make-up, and a baggy shirt, but is also still wearing lip stick and ear-rings. It appears, as evidenced by pictures like these, that the punk scene provided an environment for all people who did not fit into mainstream society’s standards to express themselves. This can obviously create a contradictory environment where you have hyper-masculine, privileged males thrown in with ‘skinheads’ and non-conforming females as well as many other outcasts of society. However, this does not mean in any way that the misogyny found in the punk scene takes away or negates the progress that women in the punk scene made towards their own empowerment. In fact, the presence of those groups opposed to the progress of female punks only serves to highlight their accomplishment in light of the great push-back they encountered, as it was sort of a metaphor for their journey towards equality in larger society.

Image Source:

Crawford, Scott , director. Salad Days: A Decade Of Punk In Washington, DC (1980-90)Kanopy, MVD Entertainment Group, 2015, sdsu.kanopy.com/video/salad-days-decade-punk-washington-dc-1980-90.