Pop Culture

Fun With Camille Paglia

Earlier this month, when some highly educated matron or other had to reach for her smelling salts upon hearing “Under My Thumb” whilst shopping for groceries (the Trader Joe’s manager who refrained from saying “Lady, I’ve heard that fucking song so many times in the last month I don’t even notice it anymore. All possibility of enjoyment of it has been systematically driven from me. I couldn’t come up with a fuck to give if you held a gun to my head. Now, are you gonna put that second package of gluten-free wheat germ back, or are you going to vacate the ’12 Items or Less’ aisle?” deserves a raise), I got a fillip of the familiar. Lester Bangs used to write about what the “woman’s libbers” were going to do to Jagger every time he toured, but I recalled something from Camille Paglia in particular, dealing with how “Under My Thumb” began her conflict with respectable feminism.

To wit:

This was where I realized — this was 1969 — boy, I was bounced fast, right out of the movement. And I had this huge argument. Because I said you cannot apply a political agenda to art. When it comes to art, we have to make other distinctions. We had this huge fight about the song “Under My Thumb.” I said it was a great song, not only a great song but I said it was a work of art. And these feminists of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band went into a rage, surrounded me, practically spat in my face, literally my back to the wall. They’re screaming in my face: “Art? Art? Nothing that demeans women can be art!” There it is. There it is! Right from the start. The fascism of the contemporary women’s movement.

This is from a transcript of a lecture she gave at M.I.T. in september of 1991. I read it as part of her first anthology Sex, Art and American Culture, which is a good companion piece to Sexual Personae. It contains what I believe to be Paglia’s initial cir-de-coeur “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf.” This was published in Arion in 1991 and although it reviews two contemporary books before unleashing hell at post-structuralism, I believe it entirely relevant today, based on what I recall of college in the mid-to-late 90’s and grad school four years ago. She pulls no punches with Derrida, Lacan (“The French fog machine”), or especially Foucault, whom she finds guilty of being a boring-as-fuck snide poseur, full of facile wordplay and bereft of learning. An appropriate passage:

Foucault is the high-concept pusher and deal-maker of the cocaine decades. His big squishy pink-marshmallow word is “power”, which neither he nor his followers fully understand. It caroms around picking up lint and dog hair but is no substitute for political analysis. Foucault’s ignorance of prehistory and ancient history, based in the development and articulation of cultures and legal codes, makes his discussions of power otiose. He never asks how power is gained or lost, justly administered or abused. He does not show how efficient procedures get overformalized, entrenched, calcified, then shattered and reformed. He has no familiarity with theories of social or biological hierarchies, such as the “pecking order” universally observed in farmyards and schoolyards. Because, in the faddish French way, he ridiculously denies personality exists, he cannot assess the impact of strong personalities on events nor can he, like Weber, catalog types of authority or prestige.

She goes on like this, sticking shaft after shaft in the old dead fart until it starts to look like the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. But that line about picking up lint and dog hair is giggling genius. Post-modernism and post-structuralism are nothing more than the Sophists laughing at us from beyond the grave of their cultures. The whole goddamn thing is so brainless, a bot can do it.

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!

Zombeavers: The End of “So Bad It’s Good?”

I hope so. At least, the end of SBIG as an intent.

B-Movies are crap (to be perfectly blunt, so are most A-Movies. Now get off my lawn). But if they’re done right, B-Movies can transcend the idiocy of their storylines and become at least entertaining. And then there’s Zombeavers:

Zombeavers tried to embrace its stupid premise with allusions to Jaws and predictable plays on the double-meaning of “beaver.” Yet it never quite gets at what makes creature features so fun. It’s not just that they are stupid, and occasionally so poorly made that it’s laughable. It’s that the monsters might seem silly out of context, but the stakes are life and death! The stakes here are never grounded, in part because of the lack of energy from the cast, and in part because the script is dedicatedly sloppy with no apparent awareness to the sub genre’s finer points. It’s characters aren’t even recognizable stereotypes, and their actions make little to no sense other than filling the running time with dirty words, sex and violence. 

If you’re making a B-Movie, you’re still making a movie. There still needs to be a plot, and a conflict, and something resembling a protagonist. For further evidence, watch as Kurt Loder compares Zombeavers to a competently-made B-movie, Blood Glacier:

The new Austrian movie Blood Glacier isn’t actual crap, actually–it looks pretty good, and its cast isn’t entirely unacquainted with the craft of acting. But the movie’s tolerance for cheap genre rips is high, and its aspirations cheerfully low. It’s an old-school creature feature that seeks only to peel your nerves back and gross you out. It draws heavily on John Carpenter’s The Thing, with a few Alienflourishes bolted on, and it does its job.

Zombeavers is actual crap, as I think first-time feature director Jordan Rubin would happily agree. Rubin is a comedy writer who has churned out gags for Carson Daly, Craig Kilborn and Comedy Central. Now he has churned out Zombeavers, a riff on the old cabin-in-the-woods horror theme, and I’d guess he had a lot of fun doing it.

The problem with one-joke movies like this is that the joke is all in the title.

Yup.

you-think-youre-funny-but-youre-not

 

Game of Thrones Turns Us All Into Monsters

Reaction video to the lastest out-of-the-blue death in Westeros. Spoilers, obviously.

Basically, if you find yourself at a wedding there, RUN.

Who did it? The books explain it, but honestly, I’ve forgotten. In the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter. Nothing good will come of it. Well, some good, maybe, but really a whole lot of horrible. It will just be horrible that we will tolerate because it’s being visited on (mostly) the right people.

We are steeped so far in blood that sin will pluck on sin.

lannister

Rolling Stone Trolls Us All With Naked Julia-Louise Dreyfus, U.S. History Fail

They’ve pretty much become the Slate of music magazines (NSFW-ish at link): throwing up outlandish nonsense to boost sales.

Ace thinks this editorial ignorance, or even a prophylactic error, a case of “If we don’t put John Hancock’s signature on her butt, people will give us crap for getting it wrong, even though it’s not wrong.”

I disagree. I think everyone saying “Hey, you dipsticks! John Hancock didn’t sign the Constitution!” was the entire point. It blew up on Facebook yesterday, and as with the Boston Bomber, now everyone is again talking about Rolling Stone. With hate, sure. But advertising dollars don’t recognize hate. And Rolling Stone needs the money. As Ace puts it:

Rolling Stone

The magazine for smart, educated, socially-aware young Americans who are over 60 years old and who are also as dumb as a box of chicken farts

Exactly. Rolling Stone is a feckless pile of hippie nostalgia and glossy ads. They are the magazine that makes Spin look cool. They have no marketing strategy left other than to relentlessly piss people off to maintain “edginess”.

In fact, the interest this cover offers lies solely in wondering how much of it is Photoshopped. One assumes that JLD got a little digital tuck-and-lift (if not, then I am impressed); it’s simply the business now. And if that’s the case, did they actually bother tattooing the Declaration of Constitution on her back? Or did they just add that digitally later?

This presents an interesting nexus in American popular art: a piece in which everything, from the model, to the “provocative” tattoo on the model, to the actual intent of the image, is faker than a freshman’s drivers license. Welcome to the new nadir.

mclovin id

McLovin: Prophet of Our Times

 

Let the #HIMYM Fans Rage, Crack, Blow Thy Bellyful.

Sitcom finale’s always disappoint. Always. They either go full maudlin and forget to be funny, or they work too hard to provide finality and so screw up the chemistry, or they don’t do anything at all (hi, Seinfeld!). This happens because sitcoms are built on the idea “these people, in this scene, are funny.” Ending that arbitrarily is delicate work.

But HIMYM had a point! A purpose! A climax, built into the title. This was an easy lay-up. Instead, they spiked the ball in our face and ran off.

But don’t take my word for it. Savor the sweet, sweet, fan rage from around WordPress: (Obviously, SPOILERS!)

FESTINOVERINI: How I Made Your Mother a Back-Up Plan Until I Have The Chance To Pursue The (What I Delusionally Think) Love Of My Life: “Maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way the creators thought that they want to create one of the most unforgettable unexpected season finales in the history of TV series. So they decided to ruin it, big time.

daniellepc: How I Was Disappointed By a Finale: “Look, maybe we could have handled old widow Ted having another crack at love with Robin, if it wasn’t for a few things.

muchsports: How I Met Your Mother – Why I am Actually Mad: “The idea would have worked if the show had been 4 to 5 seasons, but it wasn’t. It was 9.
acoupleofyears: Why HIMYM’s Finale Let Us Down: “it felt like they were telling a story that started with ‘ Oh I had this friend, who was so funny, and….legen….wait for it…dary….Playbook…..HAHAHA!’

And when we ask: ‘ Oh, what happened to him in the end?’

Their answer was ‘ Oh…you know, he got a girl pregnant and became a father.’”

themedia10.com: Is The How I Met Your Mother Ending Inexcusable?: “The entire ending was believeable, it was just executed in a way that didn’t allow the audience to breathe.”

Obligatory Apologetics - Jon Negroni: Why You Hated the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Finale: “You hated the way the show ended because you thought it was “How I Met Your Mother,” not “How I Got Permission From My Kids To Marry Aunt Robin.””

This last one makes some decent points. Yes, there’s an internal logic to this story being told this way. Yes, this was really the plan all along, with has the benefit of making the last two seasons of BarneyRobinBarneyRobin at least a clever Rube Goldberg device.

But Blackmailers Don’t Shoot nailed it. How I Met Your Mother Dies a Screaming Death, Covered In It’s Own Blood: “At the end of the day, those of us who stayed with this show to the end are Girl 31. We knew that we were being used. It wasn’t going to end well and they wouldn’t respect us in the morning. It was fun, but not worth it.

 

Game of Roses, or How George R.R. Martin Gave New Names to Historical Persons

I see my friends getting all excited for the new season of Game of Thrones. It almost makes me wish for HBO. But as I’ve said before, I’ve read the books, and as I’ve said before, Martin has drawn heavily on the actual history of 15th-century England in creating his saga. Sure, most people with a basic knowledge of the Wars of the Roses will see York and Lancaster in Stark and Lannister, but it goes deeper than that. Some of the key characters are practically reincarnated versions of real people who played the game of thrones in an England drenched in war.

To wit: (Spoiler-Free for anyone who has seen up to the end of Season 3 of the series, but hasn’t read the books) (more…)

March Comic Book Post: Please Don’t Humanize the Comedian

I finally got the last two issues of Three today, and I am absorbing the boulder-to-the-face that is their finale. At the fifth issue, finality. That’s several pleasant layers of verisimilitude mixed with  economy of storytelling. I’m saving it for next month’s post.

IMG_0868

Plus any thoughts she might have about Darth Bader (sic).

Besides, I thought I might chime in on something that DC’s been doing that’s annoying me. No, not killing Batman. That was merely lame. No, not the whole New 52 reboot. That’s merely desperation. No, I’m talking about the whole “Before Watchmen” franchise, and specifically what it did to the Comedian.

On paper, the characters from Watchmen should be ripe for some prequel exploitation. They’re masked heroes who had a decades-long history in an alternate universe. Plenty of story to tell, and plenty of freedom to tell it in – provided you don’t abuse the chronologically-later storyline of the original graphic novel.

But this right here, this is garbage: (more…)

How I Met Your Mother: a Consideration of Character Decline

I’ve really blogged enough about this show, but as long as it keeps sending me hits, I’ll continue registering my notice of comic FAIL.

dead-horse

Blackmailer’s Don’t Shoot finally threw in the towel this season.

It’s a world of smug 20 and 30-somethings whose self-regard vastly outweighs their accomplishments. Watch it to see what a glimpse into the collective imagination of Slate’s editorial board would look like, only with a sense of humor.

I admit I started the season full of hope that the funny would be recovered as the purpose of the show was. There were even signs of self-awareness:

But somewhere around the anti-climactic final slap-bet episode, I lost the will to continue. I don’t care. I don’t care about whether Marshall and Lilly are going to go to Rome or not (Wife watched the “Unpause” episode, I didn’t. She was “meh” about it). I don’t even really need to see Ted Meet the Mother. I’ve seen her, and she’s intereacted enough with the other characters to preclude the nerdiest theory that she’s imaginary. Ted’s going to meet her, and everything will be fine.

Rather, I’d like to look at how TV characters tend to morph into simplified versions of themselves, causing other characters to morph in other ways to restore the balance. This visual analysis of Family Guy has been around for a while:

family.guy.comparison.1255583100

 

It’s been done to The Simpsons, too, perhaps less effectively:

HIMYM is practically begging for the same treatment. A few minute’s image-googling yielded a picture I could Cheezburger to my satisfaction. Enjoy: