The Lost Thing is an abandoned short, looking for a home in Oscar-land.
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My apologies for the lack of embeddedness: The Last Mountain is so Rebellion that Teh Goog refused! [sic] to allow them to post their trailer on You Tube. You’ll have to follow the link and then click again to watch the trailer. The sign at the state line to West (By God) Virginia says, “West Virginia: Open for Business.” I saw it, I’m not messing. The Democratic party in West Virginia is where Massachusetts Republicans go to retire.
Recently one of my more sage-like friends was commenting on yet another iteration of one of our culture’s most enduring (if not annoying) comedy tropes: a white doofus trying to act like an urban black. It’s a gag that is probably about five seconds older rap music. From SNL’s 1985 “White Guy Rap” and onward, the wayside of our cultural is littered with new & uninspired versions each year. And yet, you can know that a joke is formulaic and still laugh first.
Enter last year’s finest example of bourgeoise Big Primpin’, and one of 2010’s most viral ads: Toyota Sienna’s SE ad “Swagger Wagon.”
The most common version of dweeb-hop is a straight-up parody of outsider aspiration, uncomplicated by any actual ability in the style being mimicked. In White Guy Rap, even by 1985 standards the “rap” is a joke. (One the other hand, one could say that Chamillion’s song Ridin’ Dirty was a joke before Weird Al got ahold of it.) With self-conscious suburbanites as the target market, the Sienna campaign had to thread the needle: you can’t really poke fun too pointedly at the intended buyer. Swagger Wagon braids gentle acknowledgment of the concessions of parenthood with passably authentic commercial hip-hop production. The gag is upheld by maintaining a wide gap between content and delivery: rapping about culdesacs with a stone-cold face. It’s an amusing novelty, but it also satisfies a deep need for cultural relevance on the part of those with no capital of any sort to invest in hipness. I’m told that one has to sacrifice enormous tracts of their former persona when they embark down the path of child rearing. And let’s face it: there is almost nothing less sexy than diapers.
I make a mean gel mold, I perfected my trick
back when – I used to party as a college chick
now I’m cruisin’ to their play dates lookin’ all slick
in my Swagger Wagon
Bridging the gap between dorm party Jell-O shots and kid’s birthday parties speaks powerfully to lost youth. The message is clear: the wife is paunchy (or outright prego, depending on which spot in the campaign you see) but not without a certain milfaliciousness. She doesn’t just apply Band-Aids: she’s a Sexy Nurse fetish. The husband ranges from contemptibly meek co-parent to comically hard-ass gangsta stoicism. The entire song is a stubborn reaffirmation of virility long-since sucked into the vortex of parenthood, like a Bob Seger ballad turned inside-out. I still laughed first. (Then I cried!)
This video is a beautiful disaster. It looks like Terry Gilliam was kidnapped by steampunk robots and force-fed a tub of Plasticine and ipecac in the MOMA. It’s just lathered in anxious digital filigrees, and I think the whole thing would be a busy failure if it all weren’t less interesting than the heavy-lidded charisma of Eugene Hütz. In the past, the lead singer’s girlfriend would shake a tambourine or hold a triangle. We’ve finally disposed of that lie: just sit there and look hot. Slap your thighs to the beat if you feel like it.
–but I will slog on, pointlessly:
When I first encountered the Insane Clown Posse video for “Miracles,” I couldn’t help but think of it in terms of the concessions that subcultures must often make in favor of art that caters specifically to the subculture in question. I’m talking about Stryper. Smaller niche = smaller talent, usually. But “Miracles” is a song that many people insist is a parody on the first listen. Almost everything about it is what you might call ‘deliciously bad’—that perfect overlap of earnest and horrible that somehow manages to create a kind of pleasure for the aging & rapidly curdling sensibilities of Generations X and later. “Camp” is a sort of cultural Stockholm Syndrome that manifests itself in generations that are exposed to crappy, witless entertainment during their formative years.
I was curious: “Exactly how much quality must one sacrifice to satisfy a desire for content that is exclusively geared for insanity/circus training/outlaw status?” –But I totally missed it. The laughably stupid rhymes in Miracles are not an example of the best that crazy outlaw clowndome has to offer. It’s really more like when Michael Jordan tried out for the 1996 US Olympics Women’s Figure Skating Team. Or when GWAR made an entire album of ballads. Or when Sting rapped. Miracles exists in that garish space that is created when someone takes confident, blundering steps outside of their artistic wheelhouse. Another example is, “any song by Meatloaf.”
Insane Clown Posse’s forehand is syncopated descriptions of violence. They could give you 100 rhymes for “eviscerate” in under a minute, but the seemingly naive way that Violent J and Shaggy get mystical about perplexing natural phenomena—that they stubbornly insist are “miracles”—is genuine naivite to the forces at work in the world around us. Their sense of lobotomized-Thoreauean wonder at even the elemental aspects of nature is pure animism.
We live in a cyclone of information. It’s damn near impossible to get to your late 30’s with this kind of “innocence”— if you will—to the kinds of knowledge that most people accidentally build up like ear wax. Shaggy 2 Dope is a living, breathing, Cargo Cult walking around under Brooklyn’s LaGuardia flightpath. He’s a miracle.
Left of the Dial, 1993, First Avenue, Minneapolis:
The Replacements, Talent Show, “Rock Awards”: