Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

David Brooks is Still A Nerd, No Matter How Many "Bobos in Paradise" He Chills With...

And a discourse about women in Rock....

(On the left we have a badass, on the right, a loser)

My secret theory about the Times Op-Ed page is that in the post-Safire era, Gail Collins and co. only hire conservative columnists who are intellectual lightweights with big egos (Ahem! Brooks! Tierney!) so they can laugh only with their eyes at these fellows' foibles. But maybe that's just wishful thinking and Brooks is the best the Douchey Right Winger club has got. Anyway, my friend and high school newspaper colleague Ben, who blogs about the NYC subway, kindly pointed me to this David Brooks column as fodder for my EBC musings long before it was being batted tirelessly around the liberal blogosphere, but I was busy being too lazy/preoccupied/engrossed in re-reading Harry Potter number 6 to get myself up to the task in a timely matter.

So be it. But here I am at last, to add my proud two cents. And here it is. In case you didn't know, Brooksies' fuckwitty column was all based his massive misreading of pop culture; namely, he banded togetether a bunch of disparate angry chicks in music (Pink, Avril, Carrie Underwoord) and was like "Whoa! Why are these chicks so angry? Let me come up with a unifying theme about their anger to make them less scary to me. Hey, I know! I'll call them the New Lone Rangers."

All I can begin with is, HUH? When are you going to learn, middle aged pundits/columnists, that you shouldn't analyze pop culture that you're too old and/or unhip to understand?

Ok, sorry that was mean. But it was real, people. Let's get down to the deconstructing.

First of all, as one of the bloggaz above mentioned, these three ladies are all in totally different categories. Carrie Underwood comes straight from the melodrama of female-crooned county music--the soapy anger, love, revenge sagas that make that genre so hilariously and sometimes poignantly campy. So her new ditty may be a little more edgy than Dolly, but her last song was "Jesus, Take the Wheel," for Chrissake.

Avril Lavigne is a whiny brat whose original two singles, "Complicated" and "Sk8r Boi" tapped into that hip angry-femme zeitgeist, but whose songs since then, while catchy, have strayed further and further into self-righteous posturing that, as "Girlfriend" indicates, undercuts whatever wisps of feminism might have once empowered her. Being "punk," to Avril, is just a way to get fans, the way being perky is for Jessica Simpson. It's not her true identity, as anyone who's read an interview with her would know.

And now for Pink--Pink is kind of a heroine of mine. I actually think her songs are less well-written than Lavigne's, but then again, she's not a tiny pre-packaged corporate product either. Pink's music shows the kind of evolution that's totally unusual for a pop star. From psuedo hip-hop club music to angsty self-hating rock music, to a more socially conscious album that includes the awesomely funny "Stupid Girls" and awesomely angry "Dear Mr. President" (one of the best anti-Bush songs out there), Pink is the very model of a more empowered, forward-thinking female artist that these other ladies are not.

(Also, have you ever noticed how Pink is willing to play around with her image/body in videos--like make it interesting, ugly, experiment with it in different, not necessarily "attractive" ways? Does any other female artist do that?)

(Also part deux, where were Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce in this little piece? Their send-offs to their ex's, which women fucking went nuts for, are super-relevant to this topic.)

Which brings me to the biggest problem with Brooksies. He says:
This character is obviously a product of the cold-eyed age of divorce and hookups.
Umm, no. "This character" is a product of this thing called mainstream rock, where you're allowed to sing about 1)how much you love someone 2)how much you miss someone when you break up 3) how pissed you are that someone dumped you and 4) occasionally, some other shit.

This "I hate my ex-boyfriend character" is also a product of the patriarchy. Remember how in the 90s there were all these female singer-songwriters who wrote their own music, packaged their own images, occasionally didn't shave their pits and dashed off rather poetic and lofty lyrics? Now they've all either sold out (Jewel) or vanished into relative obscurity (Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole, etc, etc). A lot of people made fun of them and called them "angry" or "whiny" and complained that they were vegan and PC. So Lilith Fair types have been replaced by these tarty, sassy chicks who wail on and on about how mad they are at their boyfriends while wearing cute outfits and tons of makeup, or in Beyonce's case, their undies.

It's a perfect formula: while women see these songs as a coded "fuck you!" to the male-dominated system and howl along with glee, they don't in any way damage the "Woman needs a man" construction because heck, if a woman didn't need a man, she wouldn't be so pissed "Since he's been gone!" Men (except Brooksie) don't find these songs nearly as threatening either, often because as another blogger pointed out, men wrote them, and they fit in to a certain "bitch be crazy when it comes to the men" stereotype that's acceptable.

There's a reason the Indigo Girls, Ani DiFrancos, and Dar Williamses of the world (not to mention their harder-rocking counterparts) have massive followings but don't hit the mainstream. There's a reason these conscious lady-crooners, who often write about love and relationships without anger, are classified as "angry" while anger-peddlers Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne are just cute. And that reason is that shit be fucked up for the womenfolk. And while Kelly Clarkson may be the Jane magazine to the Pussycat Dolls' Cosmo...that's not so goddamn radical.


So in conclusion:
  • Bring back Sarah McLachlan.
  • "Irreplaceable" is still a daaaaaamn good song even if it reinforces patriarchal motifs while pretending to undermine them.
  • Pink rocks.
  • And David Brooks's cultural analysis has not jumped the shark, because it never was on the shark to begin with. Booyah.


  1. this is perfect--you are so right on! i heartily agree with you about the way studio packaging affects the veracity of a female singer's image and message. i also like pink for her truth-telling. but it's interesting how she can get away with that and remain mainstream-popular. somehow her studio is okay with it, but that's probably because she still objectifies and shows off her great body. in a way, it's like, 'as long as you're hot, we'll tolerate you saying some things we don't agree with'. you know?

    i rarely comment on your blog, but i enjoy reading what you have to say, so keep it up!

    oh, and check out my blog--we're having a gathering on Friday. come join us and hang out!