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"Watch my brains a minute, and see them whirl around."
We're still talking about David Bowie. 
27th-Sep-2006 12:37 pm
matociquala: Can I love him for admitting that he's only scared about an album if he thinks it's a good one?

truepenny: Yes. And that if he's not scared about it, he's doing something wrong. Totally. ::loff::

matociquala: Yes.


See, this is the problem. I went and watched too many interviews, and he got all humanized, and now I feel odd staring at his crotch.

Lust is so much easier when you can objectify someone.

truepenny: ... and the collectivity of the practitioners of the Male Gaze, starting all the way back with the first Homo sapiens to draw a dirty picture on the wall of his cave, just got terrible cold shivers AND THEY DON'T KNOW WHY.

But I do.

matociquala: Hee. *g* It's so TRUE!

..not that that's going to stop me from staring at his crotch.

truepenny: Bear, David Bowie WANTS you to stare at his crotch.

matociquala: Well, it's how he makes his money, after all. And keeps your attention long enough to subvert you.

But I still feel dirty.

truepenny: You know, you've probably just made him very happy.

matociquala: Hee. Because I can intellectualize my crotch-staring?

(No, really. I respect you as a person, as an artist, as a man. As a father. ... ... ...do that thing with your tongue again?)

truepenny: Because he's made you feel dirty.

matociquala: I made me feel dirty.

Although I now understand men who say "No, really, I do respect..." *g*

truepenny: He has caused you to make yourself feel dirty. Not merely the genderfuck, but the identityfuck, has worked.

matociquala: Yes. The genderfuck cannot make me feel dirty. But he has exposed my own hypocrisy to me.

truepenny: That's a really complicated piece of subversion he's got going on there.

And you know, it's still got a beautiful, sexy, entertaining surface.

Which is the difference between "popular entertainment" and "art." If his genderfuck was not accompanied by catchy and popular songs, and wasn't saturated in popular culture--if, you know, it was all stark and demanding, with all the theory showing, no one would watch him, but everyone would write about him.

Our society has got fucked in the head somehow.

matociquala: Yes. This, exactly. It's the same thing he's doing with those two songs--"Jump They Say" and "Everyone Says Hi." You think it's a pop song. Bouncy shiny happy people dance tune. Cute little kid writing a letter tune.

But it's nooooooooot.

This is the same Shakespeare-trick I really, really want to learn.

truepenny: Tension--conflict even--between surface and depth.

It's hard.

And half the audience will miss it anyway.

matociquala: More than half. If you do it right, maybe even most.

But it doesn't matter.

Heck, that's part of the magic trick.

truepenny: The surface has to be worth people's while. See above re: the difference between "popular entertainment" and "art."
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28th-Sep-2006 07:21 am (UTC) - Re: I've been keeping this icon ready for AGES! And I get to USE IT!
Especially when one of the things the artist is deconstructing is the social construct of sexuality itself, de-dichotomizing, de-categorizing, creating a continuum where society wants HARD AND FAST RULES. What truepenny said about the Male Gaze is really relevant.

Because when a male performer invites that gaze--from both genders--you get a really interesting exploration. Demonstration....

Oh, here. Look at the two performances on this page and tell me what you see.


And then look at this:


and this:


It's all about creating a narrative tension and exploiting it.

It's hard to deconstruct Bowie, I think, because his schtick is *all* deconstruction. He deconstructs himself. It's this beautiful, elaborate self-mockery that becomes a mockery of social hypocrisies. He'll shrug on a narrative persona--there was a performance of "Cracked Actor" I saw a while back that was awesome; he was just oooozing slime, and every so often would let the audience in on the joke--no, dear, you are not supposed to like this son of a bitch--and it's just fabulous.

Or, frex, he'll do this thing where he's get *totally* butched up, and then pull it down with some infinitely feminine gesture. And it's not drag-queen schtick, because he can do that too, and uses it differently. And there are occasions where he'll be doing two or three things at once, all of them contradictory. (See this icon for an example--the suit, the slicked hair, the squared shoulders... the incredibly delicate chanteuse gesture cupping the microphone like the subject of a Waterhouse painting cupping a rose.)

It's beautiful to watch, from a craft point of view. It's a tension. Like the tension between the song lyrics and the delivery, and--

And tension, in art, is *good.*

What you say about the mike-stand fucking, yeah, on some level. In my trade, we call it "Author points." A reader who knows and trusts you will assign you more author points than one who does not. Author points can be redeemed in various ways; you buy indulgences with them.

First you have to earn them, though. And you also have to avoid becoming a washed-up old has-been to *keep* redeeming them. You don't get to rest on your laurels. (Can I point to Leonard Cohen as another example of a performer who is still doing interesting things after four decades? Or five, for Cohen, really.)

You do in fact get some credit just for shock value, especially if it's artfully delivered shock. I *like* Alice Cooper. But that is artfully delivered shock.

In contrast to what you are saying about the prescribed behavior, I... hmm. Dunno. There is a thing about (I would even say much of) fandom where it's very possessive, dominant, unpersoning, objectifying--scary. There are some thoroughly frightening women out there in fanland.

And people (male and female) who feel like they own the performer. I mean, I'm *nobody*, and I hit that occasionally. The fan develops a sense of entitlement not just over the work, but over the artist. Next thing you know, you've gone from fainting fangirl to crazy stalker chick.

I find that distressing. I can't be around it. It gives me a wiggins.


I'm glad I'm not coming across as creepy/dominating to you. I'm just freaking fascinated. I want to learn to do that narrative tension expectation/denial thing.
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28th-Sep-2006 02:03 pm (UTC) - Re: I've been keeping this icon ready for AGES! And I get to USE IT!
And you and I met apart-from-the-work, so we have a non-fan-founded relationship. Exactly. It gets sticky.

There's only so often somebody can tell me how much they love my stuff before I want to talk about... television. Or rock and roll. Or hiking trails.

(Not that you do that.)

(Weirdly, I can talk about the *craft* forever. But being praised for what I do? I'll be under the couch. *g*)

[Bad username: mrs_actornamehere] would be a great sock puppet.

And yeah. Kids get a pass. They're *supposed* to fixate on somebody. It's what we *do* at sixteen, twenty. At forty? It wooorrries me. (Note: It is possible to be a long-term fan without being a creepy stalker, I hope. Otherwise, I'm going to find out one of these days about the restraining order Eric Stoltz has out on me.)

Oh, as long as we're talking about songs that deconstruct creepy narrators:


28th-Sep-2006 05:04 pm (UTC) - Re: I've been keeping this icon ready for AGES! And I get to USE IT!
We fixate on people who have something we want. Younger folks tend to fixate based on simpler principles, that's the only difference that seems genuine to me.
28th-Sep-2006 05:08 pm (UTC) - Re: I've been keeping this icon ready for AGES! And I get to USE IT!
Oh, I haven't fixated the way I did when I was sixteen since, well, I was twenty-three.

Sorry to disappoint you man.
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28th-Sep-2006 01:37 pm (UTC) - "What the HECK did you think it was made with?!"
That Cracked Actor vid is WONDERFUL. GOD that song is ... *eeks*

Yeah, it's a totally creepy song.

Omniscient narrative?

...yanno, that may be one of the things that I'm responding to so strongly. Because sometimes you do get an omniscient narrative--like him deconstructing the "God is an American!" statement in the Berlin performance clip that Started It All--and sometimes you just get a brilliantly unreliable first-person narrative. (And I love, love, love Roger Zelazny, who does the same thing. Slickest unreliable narrators in the business.)

Which is where some of the deconstruction comes in as well; you're not supposed to like this character. And you're not supposed to trust the narrative, yeah. But you are supposed to trust the performance...



!!! ! !!!

Um. What you said. Exactly. There's something important in there about writing unreliable narrators that I need to ferret out. Or at least restate, because you are exactly right. The POV is unreliable. The narrator is unreliable. The narrative cannot be.

And yeah, with the sharp edges things. I recall--not that I saw them at the time--but in the immediate post-Ziggy era, sometimes you could catch his frustration with interviewers. It's a story. Of course Ziggie died. It's a story. He had to die. It's in the song. It's HOW THE STORY GOES.


Clue phone. It's for you.

And yeah, the
28th-Sep-2006 02:33 pm (UTC) - Re: "What the HECK did you think it was made with?!"
You (generalized audience-you) trust Bowie to keep control of his narrators.

Just like you trust Zelazny to keep control of Corwin.

You trust the narrative not to be pwned by the narrator.

Because, you know, if my books were being WRITTEN by Felix Harrowgate, rather than being NARRATED by Felix Harrowgate ... we would have very different books.
28th-Sep-2006 02:36 pm (UTC) - Re: "What the HECK did you think it was made with?!"
Because, you know, if my books were being WRITTEN by Felix Harrowgate, rather than being NARRATED by Felix Harrowgate ... we would have very different books.

Ah, yes. Yes. That, exactly.

Because you have that little bastard on a curb bit, and you have the spurs.
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28th-Sep-2006 01:50 pm (UTC) - How the heck did I get this far into a discussion--
of genderfuck as stagecraft and not even mention Annie Lennox?

*pauses for to stare at herself in befuddlement*

*pauses for a moment of Annie Lennox appreciation*

*pauses to watch some concert videos*

Right. Back now.

This performance?


Gorgeous, yeah.

The thing you're talking about--WRT "Let's Dance"--reminds me of the Johnny Cash performance of "Hurt."

Which he pwns.

Well, if any asshole is entitled to sing that song, it's Cash. He had the t-shirt.

It can come off as a bit wangsty in other hands.
28th-Sep-2006 01:51 pm (UTC) - Re: I've been keeping this icon ready for AGES! And I get to USE IT!
Rehersal for the same performance.


...I'm *stealing* that joke.
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29th-Sep-2006 01:34 am (UTC) - Luck walked in and you looked in time.
I dunno. Picture quality is bad, but I may have caught a shine off his cheek for a second. Hard to tell.

Yeah. Self-revelation can in fact be self-indulgence.

Or wangst.

The thing I love about Bowie is the narrative layers. (Okay, one of the things.) The songs have a surface, and then there are stories and stories underneath. "Golden Years" might be a simple promise from an older and wiser businessman to protect a young rising star.

Or it might be an incredibly manipulative and exploitative bastard running a young woman's life and isolating her from her friends.

doing all right, but you gotta get smart...

Also, anybody who comes up with line like "all the little beautiful champion boys dripping on the end of a gun" can write words around me any day.
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