Saturday: Smash the Patriarchy, Extinct Political Birds, Blurred Feminism, and Mental Illness as Rebellion

extinct_birdsNewsflash: Conservative dodo bird Jonah Goldberg finds Hillary Clinton boring.

(So boring, in fact, that recall Goldberg and/or his wife ghostwrote fed stale old anti-Hillary canards about tea, cookies, and bra-burning for Palin’s America by Heart.)

In other news…

Keep your popcorn bowls handy, newsjunkies, as we continue to watch the heads explode on all the dodos.

Next up… Two patriarchy-smashing parodies of the misogynist-yet-insidiously catchy earworm that is Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” I recommend taking the time to view the videos below at some point this weekend if you haven’t seen them already. (Especially after Thicke went on the Today show this week claiming his original track to be “great art” and a “feminist movement in itself.”)

First up, Mod Carousel’s gender role reversal “Sexy Boys”:

From the video’s description:

Mod Carousel, a Seattle based boylesque troupe, does a sexy parody of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines music video.

It’s our opinion that most attempts to show female objectification in the media by swapping the genders serve more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified and do everyone a disservice. We made this video specifically to show a spectrum of sexuality as well as present both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions.

The other video is Melinda Hughes’ “Lame Lines”:

From the lyrics, as transcribed in Hughes’ youtube description:

You think I want it
I really don’t want it
Please get off it
You’re a douchebag
You’re a little flacid
Your dance is spastic
Should go get tested
I hate your lame lines
You think I want it
I really don’t want it
Please get off it
You’re a douchebag
Hey don’t you grab me
Look at me, I’m classy
I said don’t grab me

There are a lot of other parodies out there, but these two had a distinctly gender bender vibe to them. So, what do you think Sky Dancers? Did these versions succeed?

Switching gears a bit, here’s an interesting piece from AlterNet by Bruce E. Levine, called “Why Life in America Can Literally Drive You Insane” with the byline “it’s not just Big Pharma” underneath:

In “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?” (New York Review of Books, 2011), Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, discusses over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, pathologizing of normal behaviors, Big Pharma corruption of psychiatry, and the adverse effects of psychiatric medications. While diagnostic expansionism and Big Pharma certainly deserve a large share of the blame for this epidemic, there is another reason.

A June 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans hate their jobs or have “checked out” of them. Life may or may not suck any more than it did a generation ago, but our belief in “progress” has increased expectations that life should be more satisfying, resulting in mass disappointment. For many of us, society has become increasingly alienating, isolating and insane, and earning a buck means more degrees, compliance, ass-kissing, shit-eating, and inauthenticity. So, we want to rebel. However, many of us feel hopeless about the possibility of either our own escape from societal oppression or that political activism can create societal change. So, many of us, especially young Americans, rebel by what is commonly called mental illness.

Ah, yes, I believe I called it when I first coined the phrase, “Political Affective Disorder.”

It’s a long read, and not one I can yet say I fully endorse or not, particularly on the issue of diagnosis and the author’s attitude toward the DSM as nothing more than “pseudoscience.”

As a student of the psychological discipline, I am still taking my sweet time to form an opinion on the DSM-5 and the food fight between its proponents and detractors. The DSM in all its versions thusfar has been far from a perfect venture, but having  gotten to hear directly from one of the Work Group chairs that was at the frontlines of changes for her respective category at a mental health conference last month, I have to say it makes a difference to hear from the horse’s mouth the reasoning that went into each change, as opposed to reading about it in an op-ed. That’s a rant for another time, though!

Suffice it to say, Levine’s essay is thought-provoking and raises important points for debate. I have long-thought there was a social rebellion aspect to mental illness. (Cassandra, anyone?)

Excerpt from the piece, with some relevant survey trends and research stats on the current state of the American Dream/Nightmare:

Returning to that June 2013 Gallup survey, “The State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement,” only 30% of workers “were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.” In contrast to this “actively engaged group,” 50% were “not engaged,” simply going through the motions to get a paycheck, while 20% were classified as “actively disengaged,” hating going to work and putting energy into undermining their workplace. Those with higher education levels reported more discontent with their workplace.

How engaged are we with our schooling? Another Gallup poll “The School Cliff: Student Engagement Drops With Each School Year” (released in January 2013), reported that the longer students stay in school, the less engaged they become. The poll surveyed nearly 500,000 students in 37 states in 2012, and found nearly 80% of elementary students reported being engaged with school, but by high school, only 40% reported being engaged. As the pollsters point out, “If we were doing right by our students and our future, these numbers would be the absolute opposite. For each year a student progresses in school, they should be more engaged, not less.”

Life clearly sucks more than it did a generation ago when it comes to student loan debt. According to American Student Assistance’s “Student Debt Loan Statistics,” approximately 37 million Americans have student loan debt. The majority of borrowers still paying back their loans are in their 30s or older. Approximately two-thirds of students graduate college with some education debt. Nearly 30% of college students who take out loans drop out of school, and students who drop out of college before earning a degree struggle most with student loans. As of October 2012, the average amount of student loan debt for the Class of 2011 was $26,600, a 5% increase from 2010. Only about 37% of federal student-loan borrowers between 2004 and 2009 managed to make timely payments without postponing payments or becoming delinquent.

In addition to the pain of jobs, school, and debt, there is increasingly more pain of social isolation. A major study reported in the American Sociological Review in 2006, “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades,” examined Americans’ core network of confidants (those people in our lives we consider close enough to trust with personal information and whom we rely on as a sounding board). Authors reported that in 1985, 10% of Americans said that they had no confidants in their lives; but by 2004, 25% of Americans stated they had no confidants in their lives. This study confirmed the continuation of trends that came to public attention in sociologist Robert Putnam’s 2000 book Bowling Alone.

Oh dear, this makes me want to get into a dialectic with me and myself about Tonnies’ small town Gemeinschaft and big city Gesselschaft and Durkheim’s Anomie.

I’ll spare you and just quote another paragraph from Levine’s piece on Alter Net before I close:

The reality is that with enough helplessness, hopelessness, passivity, boredom, fear, isolation, and dehumanization, we rebel and refuse to comply. Some of us rebel by becoming inattentive. Others become aggressive. In large numbers we eat, drink and gamble too much. Still others become addicted to drugs, illicit and prescription. Millions work slavishly at dissatisfying jobs, become depressed and passive aggressive, while no small number of us can’t cut it and become homeless and appear crazy. Feeling misunderstood and uncared about, millions of us ultimately rebel against societal demands, however, given our wherewithal, our rebellions are often passive and disorganized, and routinely futile and self-destructive.

taintor-idiot-no-longerI can attest to that much personally, having gone through the self-destructive, passive slow suicide of anorexic rebellion in my adolescence and into my twenties and the process of recovery and trying to reclaim my identity now into my thirties (as a patriarchy-smashing-archery-goddess-witchy-woman-feminist of course!)

Give Levine’s article a read in full if you have the time. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts, especially from Dr. Bostonboomer, our resident psychologist.

Alright, well that’s all I’ve got for you this morning.

What’s got your blogger juices going this Saturday, Sky Dancers? Let us have a listen in the comments, and have a great weekend!


62 Comments on “Saturday: Smash the Patriarchy, Extinct Political Birds, Blurred Feminism, and Mental Illness as Rebellion”

  1. Photoessay: A Monday, or Any Day, in Kabul (from my favorite photojournalism blog, the NYT Lens)

    http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/a-monday-or-any-day-in-kabul/

    I especially love this photo and the accompanying caption:

    Kabulgirlboxer
    “My name is Shamella and my biggest passion is my sport, boxing. I’ve even been to Kazakhstan for competitions. A few years ago a teacher at my school encouraged us to practice sports. She said many girls were afraid of boxing. I thought, ‘Oh really?’ In Kabul, there are more than 50 boxing gyms for men. For women, this gym is the only place to train.” Favorite place: boxing school at Ghazi stadium.

  2. Beata says:

    Fascinating post, Wonk. It’s a busy morning for me so I need to come back later and read the links more closely.

    I saw this article in The Atlantic recently. So many people are searching for “happiness” but perhaps they should look for meaning instead. To me, meaning equals purpose. Have a purpose ( a reason to be! ) and it is easier to tune out the insanity around you.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/meaning-is-healthier-than-happiness/278250/

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Jonah Goldberg got a woman to marry him? Now that is breaking news IMO! And Goldberg and Sarah Palin apparently both favor children’s movies–maybe that’s not so surprising.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Back to reading links…

    • Well, children’s movies can be great (children’s media happens to be a psych research focus of mine!) Jonah falls more into a Fred Flintstone or ‘Land Before Time’ target demo, Lol 😉

      • bostonboomer says:

        True. What kind of research have you done with children’s movies. Sounds interesting.

        • Mostly children’s television, gender and race. Last semester my research group and I presented some early data on the show iCarly for instance and viewer perceptions on gender in children and parents.

          I brought up an idea on children’s animated movies and gender recently, though, to my professor that I’ve been RA’ing under for years and she suggested I explore it for thesis/dissertation purposes. Kinda put the kibosh on a post I was actually writing here for Sky Dancing, cause I didn’t want to get ahead of myself 😉

          • bostonboomer says:

            Wow, that sounds fun. I’ve actually seen quite a few children’s movies and TV over the last several years because of having two nephews. Are you in a PhD program now?

          • Trying to decide between a particular master’s clinical program that I really like vs. a clinical phd program. I keep getting conflicting advice and have a hard time not second-guessing myself, since I took a nontrad route toward my bachelor’s. Applying this fall, so we’ll see.

          • (ie first a masters, then phd vs straight to phd)

  4. dakinikat says:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-mcmanus-column-gop-rift-20130804,0,7583769.column

    Is the GOP self-destructing?

    We’ve all grown used to a Congress locked in bitter warfare between two parties, producing gridlock on federal spending and other pressing issues. But the Congress that left Washington last week hit a new high in another category: gridlock among Republicans.

    Take last week’s unremarkable proposal by President Obama for a deal to combine corporate tax cuts (an idea Republicans love) with an increase in spending on roads and other public works (an idea only some Republicans love).

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has emerged as Obama’s chief partner in trying to negotiate bipartisan deals, praised the idea as “a good start.” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate Republican leader, denounced it as a trick to boost government spending. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a leader of the up-and-coming tea party faction, said Republicans should stop talking about any deals and threaten to shut down the federal government instead.

    And that was only in the Senate. In the House, where Republicans run the chamber, the chaos was even worse. When House leaders tried to pass exactly the sort of deep cuts in transportation and housing programs they’ve been calling for, they suddenly discovered that they didn’t have a majority; some GOP members thought the cuts were too deep, and others thought they weren’t deep enough.

    How divided are Republicans in Congress? So divided, one conservative joked, that it shouldn’t be called a civil war: “It’s not organized enough for that.”

  5. bostonboomer says:

    As I suggested yesterday, the global “terrorist threat” the US announced yesterday is related to the recent prison breaks in Iraq and Benghazi, Libya.

    BBC News: Interpol issues global security alert linked to jailbreaks

    • RalphB says:

      Another reason for embassy closings etc.

      NYT: Qaeda Messages Prompt U.S. Terror Warning

      WASHINGTON — The United States intercepted electronic communications this week among senior operatives of Al Qaeda, in which the terrorists discussed attacks against American interests in the Middle East and North Africa, American officials said Friday.

  6. dakinikat says:

    Wisdom Beings help us with all that hot air in town we’ll probably have a huge hurricane within hours

    Jindal be in New Orleans on Friday (Aug. 2) to speak to the RedState gathering, an annual meeting of conservative bloggers, politicians and candidates hosted by Erick Erickson.

    http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/08/bobby_jindal_iowa_branstad_ras.html

  7. RalphB says:

    Make this into a movie and no one would believe it.

    tpm: The Secret Alleged Sex Scandal Behind The Mysterious Arrest Of A Utah Sheriff’s Deputy

    For the last three weeks, news outlets in Utah have been reporting on a mysterious criminal case involving a sheriff’s deputy, his wife, and his father, who is the local fire chief in Moab, UT. However, the exact circumstances of the alleged crime have remained unknown to the general public, even after the Utah attorney general took over the case due to potential conflicts of interest stemming from the family’s extensive ties to the local government in their hometown.

    Now, police records obtained by TPM, reveal for the first time that this case allegedly began with a love triangle involving a father and son that ultimately ended in a booze-fueled night of rage and murderous threats.

  8. dakinikat says:

    The birth control benefit in Obamacare is 1 year old and it’s already helping 27 MILLION women http://thkpr.gs/17lZzR5 #bestoftheweek

  9. dakinikat says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/03/business/economy/us-cuts-take-increasing-toll-on-job-growth.html?ref=politics&_r=0

    Corporate and academic economists say that Washington’s fiscal fights have produced budget policies that amount to a self-inflicted drag on the economy’s recovery.

    Joseph J. Minarik, director of research at the corporate-supported Committee for Economic Development and a former government economist, said he could not remember in postwar times when fiscal policy was so at odds with the needs of the economy.

    “The macroeconomic situation is highly unusual,” he said, adding: “We have to be concerned about our debt getting totally out of hand, so we are concerned about the federal budget. But the concern has got to be tempered by the fact that we have got to get some economic growth going as well.”

    sound familiar?

    • Sound like the American Nightmare is a vicious cycle that’s got no end in sight if we stay on this tack.

      Yes, familiar. I have this economist jazz musician sister-friend in NOLA who keeps saying the same thing 😉

  10. Fannie says:

    Think I been out in the sun to long, there I was gathering up all this food in the garden, and preparing some fresh things: turnip greens, red beans with ham bone, rice, cornbread, sliced toms and cukes, and a damn good peach cobbler. Then I come here and that old girl wonk, put my mind on Hillary and those videos. Dak look out your window, you see any gunboats coming up the river?

    How about you BB, see any smoke blowing in from Russia? Maybe a few puma’s or wolves running in the woods over in Beata’s land…………Something, cause I’m grunting like crazy, trying to figure out how I will contribute, or exactly what I am going to say. One thing I know we don’t need to go back to living in the cave days, can’t go back there. Let me do another read and watch those videos, let me watch those new Americans on the upper left, calling themselves feminist.

    • Well thanks for reading my post at least 🙂 I was beginning to think Beata was the only one. I guess I wrote another doozie/dud, everyone is speechless 😉

      • bostonboomer says:

        I read your post! I started reading the alternet article but haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet. I have lots of issues with the DSM, and the new one seems to be pretty problematic–the NIH won’t even accept it. But I haven’t personally looked at it yet. It’s way too expensive for me to buy a copy. That the workplace is driving us crazy sure makes sense to me.

        • Imho, one of the DSM’s biggest problems is that it’s written by the American Psychiatric Association instead of the American Psychological Association.

          • bostonboomer says:

            I guess it’s useful to have a list of diagnoses, but the DSM V is getting more pushback than ever before. The process has always been political, highly influenced by insurance companies, and pretty unscientific frankly, but now they’ve changed some diagnoses that people have relied on forever–like the personality disorders.

            You probably knew this but the entire idea of the DSM came from the military. I’m not sure how much mental illness represents conscious rebellion; but if you look back through history it’s definitely influenced by culture. Different “illnesses” go through periods of popularity when lots of people seem to “catch” them–like Freud’s “hysteria” in the Victorian era. And then some illnesses like schizophrenia are more clearly biological and have similar symptoms through history. Yet schizophrenia is but so badly defined and described.

            In my opinion every “mental illness” represents normal human behavior taken to extremes–even schizophrenia. Every one of the symptoms of “mental illness” can be experiences by “normal” people without their getting a label–even hallucinations and delusions. And some people are much more likely to be labeled mentally ill–poor people vs. rich people, and so on.

            I know I’m not expressing this very well.

          • Geez, I just wrote a long reply and my iphone ate it up. I’m here on my laptop, trying this again.

            I think you expressed yourself, well–I agree with that last paragraph so much especially.

            Take eating disorders for example. Most people have some issues surrounding food and body image at some point in their lives, but not everybody has food, weight, and the control of both become a central (maladaptive) coping mechanism to manage moods and underlying self-esteem, identity, and/or trauma issues.

            The stats on very young gradeschool aged girls who grapple with the same issues are actually quite harrowing, though. Something like 80% of 10 year old girls are “scared of being fat.” A plurality of third grade girls have been on a diet and want to be thinner. These young girls (and a percentage of boys too) will likely continue to grapple with these issues into adulthood. We live in a media barrage of extremes–thinness equals health and beauty… satisfaction equals food from a tainted food supply marketed as healthy, the only thing accessible, and convenient… yoyo diets and beauty and appearance focused industries that are billed as medical solutions half the time and always pitched as making you do x (lose weight!) and feel great, when really that would kill the industry if you ever actually felt great about yourself in any way and didn’t need to keep buying stupid crap. Society tells us to be this, feel that, eat this, don’t eat that, supersize this, buy that. All ideas far removed from reality, and I do think the corporate greed in this country has exacerbated this societal tendency. Or, maybe I could sum it up by saying the three baddies: racist capitalist patriarchy.

            So no, I don’t think it is necessarily a conscious rebellion, and certainly didn’t mean to imply such, and Levine doesn’t do so in the article either. He actually addresses the fact that it is more a subconscious revolt. When girls and boys and men and women of all ages resort to eating disorders, I think there is a complex interaction of nature and nurture there–part of it is learning adeptly the conflicting societal/patriarchal messages about being this and that at the same time, an alienating experience. Another part is individual predisposition to depression, anxiety, and perfectionism, and coping in maladaptive ways to the alienation and distress many of us experience in society. And, yet another I think is a mix of nature and nurture completely–how a specific personality reacts to a specific trauma or series of traumatic events in their life. It’s not all that easily reduced. And, the research showing the physical effects of starvation and malnutrition itself that perpetuate disordered eating and mental distress lend another nature/biological layer to the mix.

            Agreed completely that there are diagnoses that follow a cultural-psychological zeitgeist of sorts. Hysteria and the wandering uterus, for sure, a prime example. Vs. the more overtly biological underpinnings of schizophrenia, which as you astutely pointed out remains poorly defined and understood despite the fact that it has remained relatively constant despite the cultural winds.

            I’m probably not making much sense myself and blogging out of my heat deranged derriere 😉 It’s Saturday afternoon and I can hear kids at my complex squealing from the pool downstairs…I should get out and about, even if it “feels like 111 degrees” today thanks to Houston’s humidity factor.

          • Oh, I just remembered two other points that got lost in the comment that got eaten up.

            With regards to the DSM-5, one of the most concerning criticisms I’ve heard in all the major critiques of this revision is the pathologizing of grief and mourning of a loved one.

            Without having really combed through the revised section(s) pertaining to this myself, generally speaking I feel rather divided on the issue. Grief is a necessary process. I don’t think it should be medicated away or necessarily reframed psychologically. At the same time, I’ve had relatives who went through multiple tragedies and losses, and therapy and medications were life-savers in their case, even though I think their level of depression was completely understandable given their circumstances.

            Second, that we are talking about normal behaviors on a spectrum/continuum here feeds the vicious circle of it all. The addict thinks, “Well everybody else is dieting, drinking, smoking, gambling, etc, so why shouldn’t I?” (I really love Kat’s posts on pigovian taxes and putting the money toward services to help the individuals and families whose lives get destroyed by the 2% of people who get addicted to these things that are socially acceptable.)

            Ok, I’m really off my soapbox for now. I’ll be back tonight for the exciting post we have scheduled! 😉

          • bostonboomer says:

            Mona,

            You’re making plenty of sense, and just about everything you say about eating disorders could also apply to depression, which is the “fashionable” mental illness of our time. And I knew you didn’t mean conscious rebellion.

            Recent research has made it very clear that so-called mental illnesses are not really “mental” in origin. Even eating disorders and other addictive behaviors like alcoholism are highly genetic. I think there is a growing recognition that there is no mind/body split, but most people still don’t fully understand and accept that.

          • I’m reading an article right now on depression, it’s the cover story of this week’s New Scientist, called Rethinking Depression. I’m reading the actual magazine, but

    • Ps your garden and homemade things sound so nom-nom-nom! All I need to add to that is a vodka and Fever Tree Indian tonic, and I’d be set

  11. bostonboomer says:

    Very early this morning, John Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox made a deal to buy The Boston Globe for $70 million.

    At least it didn’t go to the Koch brothers.

  12. Hey Mona, this is some post…

    I’ve still got to read all the links you have here, but while looking for stories for tomorrow’s reads I came across this one: Specter of Clinton has other Democrats wary of moving toward 2016 runs | theGrio

  13. Mona,

    On ‘societal rebellion’ topic and ‘behavioral activation’, I would say yes, as one aspect of counseling is evaluating if the ‘Identified Patient’ is the one with the issues or are they reacting to the family dysfunction. So, I would agree that in many ways we are in a state of societal rebellion, given all the dysfunction going on in our society and that rebellion is in essence necessary and in many aspects healthy. If we didn’t react/rebel or activate initiating some sort of self preservation outlet (expression) we would really be in trouble.

    Interesting topic, thanks for mentioning it above. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading and the thoughtful response, WV. I appreciate it!

      I want to clarify one thing. Behavioral activation is actually a behavioral therapy method in which you essentially do things to activate/lift ones mood. So instead of waiting for depression to lift on its own, you go outside, you take a walk, read a book, watch a movie, experiment with a recipe, etc.

      Having a purpose and sense of meaning in life even while you are not ‘happy’ can keep you doing things that eventually will lift your spirits.

  14. peej says:

    Mona,

    Brilliant post. I especially adore how you pinpoint the contours of the Right Wing Propaganda Echo-sphere by showing how Goldberg, Gavora, Limbaugh, and Shapiro operate within it. We see here propaganda strategy in play – a common message disseminated in numerous contexts, venues, with slight diversions in spin to simulate validity. Endless diversionary corrosives producing a textural antagonism. Classic. And I’m reminded of the anti-Hillary list in the “dog days” post – a great compendium of clearly identifiable rhetorical tropes that serve only a single purpose – incessant instilling of doubt and distrust – layered divisiveness – ranging from discrediting to demonization. Hideous. These are the very elements in this society that will undermine our stability, our unity, our harmony, our ability to actively engage in common goals for the common good.

    All politicians are subject to legitimate criticism and even political satire – but what you’ve outlined here are neither. These are the seeds of subversion – they function to turn a society in on itself. Ultimately, these efforts are tools for undermining democracy – using democratic means to dismantle democracy. These are discursive contortions that only weaken the foundations of government. Despite being entirely cognizant of these strategies, somehow I am always, always taken aback at the unconscionable lack of decency and empathy Right Wing Extremists display in their attacks against Hillary (and Obama for that matter). I mean for all their dehumanizing attempts, what seeps through in the end is how cold and inhuman one must be to either engage in or passively absorb these illegitimate and dysfunctional criticisms. And how nihilistically craven! All of this for ambitious purpose antithetical to the creation of a positive and functional public space and public sector which benefits all. And the cementing of anti-intellectualism to foster its long-term, generational success. It’s just immoral.

    Okay, have to pick up the running commentary in a moment with sick Thicke. Have to split for a bit.

  15. Joyce L. Arnold says:

    Hey Mona, I’m slow in commenting, due to life stuff. It keeps getting in my way …

    Another great post. I could comment on multiple things, but I’ll limit it to the DSM, mostly because it brings back many memories, for all the years I spent as a therapist. To over simplify and probably just state the obvious, DSM can be helpful, when used as one tool. Unfortunately it’s too often used as the final, definitive word, maybe especially when it comes to filing insurance claims. Yes, I’m cynical about that in particular 🙂

    • Oh yes, agree! Thanks for adding that point here, Joyce.

      Also people identifying with (or being identified by others by) the labels of their dysfunctions is another problem… I rather people identify with the things they do to get into and stay in recovery/sobriety than ‘bipolar’ ‘borderline’ etc.

  16. peej says:

    Mona,

    Sick Thicke, yes. Perhaps I had better qualify my remarks before I utter them. Let it never be said of me that I’m not a snob. Because I am a snob. So, from the off, I have an aesthetic predisposition that resists 21st century pop culture. My opinion, in short, is derived from within a vacuum. I think it’s only fair to disclose that I rejected pop culture decades ago as vapid and purely consumerist. I retain a few favored filmmakers, but that’s about it.

    When Thicke says something like “I think that’s what great art does – it’s supposed to stir conversation…” I say, no. That is consumerist shock-jocking. Great art stirs the soul and great art transcends. Great art telescopes and microscopes at the same time. It reveals something embedded in our time or our society or ourselves not easily gleaned, though that quality may be in plain sight. Or that illuminating element is in plain sight because the artwork peeled back the layers to expose it. Great art has the ability to stir conversation, it has the potential for controversy if the art challenges convention, but that’s not what Thicke’s exploitative “work” does. Thick exploits an already exploitative pop culture. There is nothing intellectual or intentional about Thicke’s “art” because it isn’t art from my view.

    As to his absurd rationalization that his work is “feminist” – we see the same methodology at work as with your earlier examples. Sick Thicke isn’t intentionally creating art, but he is intentionally creating a “legitimate space” for a regressive agenda and masking it as art. How often has the Radical Right bemoaned that they’ve been vilified for their egregious public statements, only to say explicitly: “I was only joking.” Or in effect, “I’m not the problem. The problem is political correctness.” Ann Coulter is a good example. Libertarians who indiginantly pout over “arbiters of taste” who dare to suggest that boundless culture may not serve a functional purpose for society – that maybe limitations and mores have validity. Incidentally, these are usually the same “unlimited everything” advocates who insist upon their right to pornography. Anyway, the effect is the same as it is with “joking” about that which is damagingly offensive. Here, Thick does the same when he “jokingly” said, “What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman.” The way to counter it is to call it out for what it is, and boycott those venues who host pigs like Thicke. The answer is cultural refusal via the pocketbook since we’re talking about cultural consumerism and not art.

    I don’t think the Sexy Boys parody succeeds for me because the simplicity of parody doesn’t explicate the layers of meaning that needs to occur in order to deconstruct Thicke, thereby contextualizing him within the broader exploitative culture. With that said, for someone who isn’t as biased as I am, the parody might be obvious. I do agree with Mod Carousel’s opinion on female objectification, but it seems to me that their video doesn’t match their intent. The video does what they state they reject – it serves “more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified..” Or maybe I misunderstood them. And their intent only seems to reinforce the exploitative frame rather than cutting through it. Showing that women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussion” only legitimizes a wrongful cultural paradigm where sex translates gender which in turn reinforces misogyny. I don’t quite get how showing a spectrum of sexuality and showing gender in a positive light offers a critique of Thicke – nor am I sure they achieved those two goals in this video.

    Lame Lines, by virtue of language rather than visual communication, gets closer to a meaningful critique, but not near enough for the same reason that Sexy Boys didn’t – the simplicity of parody can’t reach the intellectual depths that need to be plumbed to stimulate connections. I may be entirely wrong on that score. Parody may succeed in this instance. It could be that I just don’t find these two examples as successful.