FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Has Nihilism Finally Popped Pop Culture?
Épater la Bourgeoisie Doesn’t Work on The Aesthetically Electrocuted.
“Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed,” West said. “I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. “I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life,” he said. (Reuters)
What do Pop Stars do these days to be original? They typically are far more cynical than original, so they do what worked for the last 100 years – Épater la bourgeoisie. Yet today; that totally isn’t working. People are less than fascinated when Miley Cyrus demonstrates her favorite bedroom positions on teddy bears. They could care less what Kanye West believes that George W. Bush thinks about Black People. That Kanye’s new sexual toy, Kim Khardashian is one biblical dragon-ride short of being The Harlot of Babylon is not of much interest to the average American.
So the pop-artist experiments, deconstructs and having hit bottom, longs for a sharper shovel. The music, film and filth cease to have any meaning at all. It becomes all Épater la bourgeoisie, all the time. Somewhere in their deluded, fame addicted brains, these people have to know that Johnnie Rotten and the Sex Pistols did it first and did it better. Nancy French expresses the detached sorrow of an old fan who liked the version of Miley Cyrus that wasn’t constantly fixated on bongs and penile erections.
While some express outrage and others express disgust, I believe the most effective response is a gigantic yawn. There’s nothing original, clever, or entertaining about her slide away from virtue. In fact, she’s so ridiculous that one’s immediate reaction is, “Someone’s got to finally say, ‘The emperor has no clothes!’” Except, of course, Miley is fully aware that she has no clothes. Plus, she’s hardly an emperor. The little power she has over the minds and hearts of her adoring public is slipping away, so she’s forced to do more and more outrageous things to stay in the news. I’ve used her example to talk to the kids about the effects of fame, but that’s about it. There are no more life lessons to pull from watching Miley delve deeper into depravity.
A lyrical refrain from the Guns-N-Roses Song “Mr. Brownstone” serves as an apt metaphor for the fame-addled pop star whose 15 minutes are 35 seconds or so away from expiring. “I used ta do a little but a little wouldn’t do it so the little got more and more.”
Kanye West perhaps exemplifies that quest for the bigger, more shocking next act as the novelty wears off fast. He now claims he owns the Stars and Bars. He says it symbolizes slavery, so he wants to fly it high.* It makes no sense and tells the rational observer nothing, but it made some of you click. I guess calling his most recent CD “Yeezus” and donning the “Crest of The KKK” on his shoulder like a combat patch on a military uniform is his way of making you look. Or maybe it fits in with his recent revelations about Jewish People and connections.
Man, let me tell you something about George Bush and oil money and Obama and no money. People want to say Obama can’t make these moves or he’s not executing. That’s because he ain’t got those connections. Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people
If he goes far enough and becomes unshockingly banal enough, he’ll successfully rebrand himself as Himmler with a suntan. It shows that nothing remains out of bounds and no limits are left when the Avant-Garde become entombed in the amber that is the banality of evil. Eventually all original, daring and risqué pop-culture freaks look alike. They all sound alike. They eventually remind the truly acculturated of the droning, atonal teachers in a Charles Schultz Cartoon. At that point the pop-star’s power is dead.
Pop-Culture was ultimately a form of rebellion against reason and decency. Spengler describes this well in his essay “Admit It, You Really Hate Modern Art.” The entire point of Pop-Culture is to pervert the decent sense of the aesthetic and destroy the innate concepts of truth and beauty. Art, as Vladimir Lenin famously opined, is a weapon.
So what does an artist do once there is no sense of the aesthetic left to thrill, encourage or merely titillate. Épater la Bourgeoisie doesn’t work on the aesthetically electrocuted. Your wise men all know how it feels to be thick as a brick and are bored by the utterly vacuous stupid. The end comes, and the nihilism that once sold albums now pops the pop-culture. Yeezus isn’t going to save them and nobody with a life to live really cares. The pop-artist dies not with a bang but a whimper.
*-He hasn’t clarified whether this means he intends to buy the sweatshop where Puffy Combs used to have his clothing line manufactured.