Where is the font of resistance? To what?

VDH writes, in Miley Cyrus and ugly sex, wonders how to rebel in a post-decadent age:

In the first part of the 20th century modernist contrarians  established a counter-music, an antithesis to classical genres. Populist dancers announced, “Who needs ballroom formality?” But again, how do you oppose that opposition, without a reactionary, full-circle return to formalism?

The advisers of Miley Cyrus should have a problem in that the 20-year-old ignoramus is not a Paris showgirl in the Folies Trévise of the 1870s, not an Impressionist artist in 1890, not a Ziegfeld Girl circa 1910, not a poet of the Great War, not a Depression-era novelist, and most surely not a blues singer in 1940 — all defiant in arguing that in turbulent times genres, rules, protocols in the arts, literature, and popular expression were confining, hypocritical, and fossilized (as if it is more difficult and challenging to write a poem without iambic pentameter, rhyme, or poetic diction)…

So what is a poor multimillionaire celebrity to do in the age of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, when slumming has become passé and the audience has become post-decadent? Just say, “And you idiots are paying for this”?

There are no large cultural stimuli to force Cyrus the Younger to question society’s classical norms. No struggle to win the vote for women and then blacks. No Verdun, with a million dead in the muck. No Great Depression, with rampant starvation.

Instead we live in a psychodramatic age of virtual oppression and feigned want, in which “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is updated with Oprah’s melodramatic account of being denied a closer look at a $38,000 Swiss handbag. Our version of D-Day is the question whether or not to lob a few cruise missiles at Bashar Assad to make Obama’s redlines red. Soup kitchens and five-cent apples have transmogrified into electronic EBT cards and Obamaphones. Where is the elemental inspiration, the existential need to tap popular anguish and turn it into revolutionary artistic expression?

If multimillionaire rapper Jay-Z performs at the White House, where is to be found the font of resistance? In short — resistance to what?

Ostensibly, she brilliantly pawned her former Disney image as sweet, wholesome Hannah Montana for a grotesque postmodern Grendel’s mother — yet still replete with a whiff of teenage tennies and stuffed teddy bears. …  Imagine Shirley Temple doing a pre–Deep Throat or Hayley Mills stripped down to vinyl underwear.

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3 Responses to Where is the font of resistance? To what?

  1. You seem to be contradicting yourself. On the one hand, you post that it is “boring & predictable” — that it induces yawning and is a “cliched attempt to shock the bourgeoisie.” In the next breath you post about it again. That appears to be a tacit admission that you are bourgeois.

    • John says:

      Some would certainly call me bourgeois, though I prefer classic or timeless. I’m not the least bit shocked. Just trying to get people (inc. artists) to raise their sights a little. Much of what passes for art is merely an aspiration to annoy. I post because I care, not because I’m shocked or bored; a high profile exhibition, though boring and predictable, may seem new to some, and so, worth the effort to critique.

      To the degree I’m annoyed it’s not over the transgression of my bourgeois values but over my sense of asthetics. Thanks.

  2. Paul Marks says:

    It was not even “sexy” – it was just pathetic. Like so much of what passes for modern “culture”. Singing and dancing (like other aspects of culture) are difficult (that is why we traditionally praise people who are good at them). Anyone could do what this person did – it required no skill, no training. Just a lack of self respect.

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