Serious 80s Kitsch

I’ve got a real post full of ponderment, but this bit of viral goodness came across my radar, and I had to share.

Take a few moments and watch this video, which will surpass just about any fit of excess you can imagine. And this remark comes from the Guns N’ Roses fan, so, dammit, I know excess when I see it. Sadly, no dolphins were sighted in this particular video, so it doesn’t *quite* live up to the bizarre world of “Estranged.”**

After watching the video, I was curious enough to wonder a) who in the hell this guy was and 2) how the holy hell he affords a fleet of Gretsch guitars. Yes, yes, I am petty and jealous. I admit it. When I googled him, I discovered that there is no Wikipedia entry as of today (itself a bit of wonderment); that I am not alone in this quest–others are just as baffled as I; and, my favorite, a page that asks who Chris Dane Owens is, and answers with Great Dane worship: “My Dane is 3 years old. A total baby at home. The friendliest dog ever.” Now that, my friends, is good comedy.

Here is some information about the dude–may or may not be specious. Is definitely self-congratulatory.

So, why did this warrant a post, other than the goodness of sharing? It struck me as I watched the video (in mild horror), that it’s a pretty good example of the kind of 80’s kitsch that I adore. The song even reminds me of 80s radio–there is a specific song rolling about my head, but I can’t put my finger on it at the moment (go malaprop chick! Sheesh); reminds me of a Chris Issak song a bit–and the worshippy 80’s videos of the Robert Palmer variety. Beautiful but largely expressionless women cavorting with the ostensible hero…you know the drill.

Why do adore such vapid peaons to excess and the silenced female? I’m a self-described feminist who struggles with the limits of sexuality and power in her studies of and participation in “raunch culture”; my favorite band, as I have noted before, is hardly a place to find positive female images–the lyrics are replete with degredation, derision, and dismissiveness. Yet, they are appealing (the tunes, not necessarily the images). Perhaps the possibility of being adored–for how ever silenced the women are and how ever objectified, the camera practically worships them, often viewing from a low-angle shot, rather than at eye-level or from above. Such angles, of course, generate the sense of looking up onto a pedestal.

Now, pedestals are not all they are cracked up to be. The angel typology for women is limiting; it denies women (or anyone put on a pedestal) their humanity. If I may use my favorite pedestal-perched whipping boy for a moment–>Duff openly struggles against this tendency in his fan-base and the media. His long-running” don’t call me a rockstar” bit (seriously, he’s been saying this since 1988) speaks very much to the denial of his humanity (aka “normal dudeness”) by celebrating the image he projected (or was projected for him) at any given moment. He often uses grocery stores, as I have noted before, as his touchstone–“See, here I am. Normal.”

But, I think many of us, myself included, yearn for the pedestal–to be idolized, worshipped, or somehow marked as different/better/more worthy/whatever. For instance, when a teacher finds a student who “gets it”–who isn’t just sucking up, but is really engaging the material and us, we tend to get much more energetic. The notion that someone out there is genuinely interested in what we have to say affirms why were were called to the classroom in the first place. The excitement generated by such a student has carried me through several semesters, though he was last in one of my classes in late Spring.

We (not just teachers) want for someone to point out our worth, particularly when we are unable to see it clearly. And, I would argue that there is nothing necessarily wrong with wanting recognition from time to time or from desiring acknowledgement (or even the pedestal). And these videos, I think, are a kind of logical end for pedestal-desire: they are acts of fantasy, acts of excess where we can imagine ourselves as the witch or hero to be worshipped. They are also, ultimately, safe and controlled spaces, where the pedestal does not show its negative face particularly readily. If, though, the only images we see are the silenced/the perfect–if the image has only one face, that is where we get into a more pointed sociological problem. If the images refuse to accept the possibility of imperfection…that both reflects and shapes the global conversation and the incomplete image can then be damaging.

Escapist fantasies, when treated and viewed as such? Not such a bad way to spend 5 minutes. Especially if it involves laughter.

The best part of all of this is that I keep misreading the guy’s name, because it is so similar to CD’s. I half expected to find CD in the video, reveling in some glam-glory. Alas, no such luck.

**ETA: Realized in talking to K. earlier that this video is “November Rain” taken to it’s logical conclusion. Seriously. I grant that no one jumps through a wedding cake, but it’s the whole fantasy writ large.


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