March 16, 2015

With emphasis on good looks, pop music in cocooning periods has few black women

An earlier post showed that audiences in cocooning times prefer singers to be attractive, while in outgoing times it's whoever can sing well. Quite a few stars of the '80s, like Phil Collins and Bonnie Tyler, could never have made it today, when pop stars are chosen more for looks, as they were during the '50s (see the post for pictures of Midcentury pop singers).

With the unabated attempt by the cultural Powers That Be to get a '90s nostalgia movement going, I decided to look into where 1995 stood on this shift, judging from the Billboard Year-End singles chart. There were some attractive singers (Madonna, Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow), but still a fair showing of homely women as well.

Something struck me about the homely ones, though: a good number were black. Rap and R&B were big at the time, were dominated by blacks, and featured about as many women as men. So, homely black female singers were a core part of pop music back in the mid-'90s.

Fast-forward to 2014, when there were only three black women on the Year-End charts -- Rihanna, Beyonce, and Nicki Minaj. Compared to most blacks, they are lighter-skinned, mulatto / exotic-looking, with the kind of mixture you'd find in the Caribbean. They're not bombshells, but they're clearly more attractive than their homely predecessors in the '90s -- TLC, Da Brat, Monica, Brandy, Des'ree, etc.

In this way, pop music has returned to the cocooning Midcentury, when there weren't many black female singers before the '60s. It wasn't until 1963 that the black girl-groups really took over R&B. And although they could sing, they were homely -- the Chiffons, Martha and the Vandellas, the Ronettes.

How about during the so-called image-obsessed decade of the '80s? Black female singers were well represented, and as usual were on the homely side. Several were also middle-aged. From '83-'84, there was Patti Austin, Donna Summer, Dionne Warwick, Roberta Flack, Tina Turner, Deniece Williams, the Pointer Sisters, and Shannon. Irene Cara was the only exotic Caribbean-looking mulatto. Back then, it was still "can she carry a tune?" rather than "how much sex appeal does she have?"

You might think it's odd that these changes haven't been noticed before, especially given the potential angle of "dat's raciss!" and "dat's sexiss!" But it would require black women admitting in public that they aren't very good-looking, so that trends toward good-looking pop culture stars will have a "disparate impact" on them.

Or white liberals risking ostracism in trying to explain the lack of black women in sex-appeal sectors, by pointing out that they aren't very attractive. White conservatives don't pay much attention to any of these matters to notice.

41 comments:

  1. "With the unabated attempt by the cultural Powers That Be to get a '90s nostalgia movement going, I decided to look into where 1995 "

    I'm trying to figure out just when the 90's jumped the shark in terms of the charts. I've looked week after week at the rock charts (the pop charts having been infiltrated by (c)rap by 1990) and the week of http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-mainstream-rock-tracks/1996-04-06 is probably the point where I lose total interest.

    I've youtubed a lot of these highly austere, derivative, generally cold rock songs of 1995/'96 and there's occassionaly a half listenable song but by the spring of '96 most of the songs are slow and dull rehashes of past styles. And the middle aged likes of ZZ Top, AC/DC/ Aerosmith etc. were still charting with washed up material well into the 90's which really says something about how few younger bands were really resonating. Even the grunge/alternative bands on the '96 charts had already peaked.

    As you've said before, the vast majority of 90's culture of any endearing value was made in the first half of the decade.

    I also noticed that the production/mixing/guitar tuning really began to get ugly, harsh, and compressed in 1996.

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  2. Have you heard about the thing in the 80's where MTV was bashed for not playing black artists?

    I think Cable in the 80's was mainly for affluent whites. Affluent white Gen X teens in the 80's were most interested in mostly white New Wave in the early 80's and then all white hair metal in the later 80's.

    When cable expanded to a less exclusive audience in the 90's and whites also became more interested in black artists, MTV started playing a lot more black artists.

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  3. I don't know. TLC, Tina Turner, homely, I don't think so. Mostly, this post made me think about C+C music Factory(early 90's) where they used a different person in their videos then they did on their records. Phil Collins was a drummer and a singer for a a super group so it doesn't surprise me that he got his own record contract. I do think however, that Phil Collins or Peter Gabriel where selling more albums to older people in the 80's then Taylor Swift does today. Older audience, more kind to older looking performers. That probably is a change. Boomers buying albums by thirtysomething boomers and then you throw in the younger x's buying those albums as well you get platinum records. Swift, Jonas Brothers and many other acts seem to be targeted to the under 25 set. Enjoy your perspective but not sure about this post.

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  4. But the musicians popular amongst younger people were also much homelier.

    for instance, here is the band "Toto"'s music video "Africa":
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmOLtTGvsbM

    someone makes this comment:
    "Love Toto. Love their music to death. Very gifted musicians. But today they'd never get a deal. They had what you'd call a face for radio. LOL I'd hate to have been the director of the videos trying to shoot around the ugly, especially when they're the ones with the lead vocal. The 80s were very forgiving to talented musicians. That's not so prevalent nowadays."

    (frankly, its too harsh to call them ugly though)

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  5. "TLC, Tina Turner, homely, I don't think so."

    You're grading on a very generous curve. How many guys had posters of TLC, Brandy, Monica, Des'ree on their wall? How many have pictures of Beyonce or Rihanna as their desktop wallpaper?

    "Older audience, more kind to older looking performers."

    It's not older vs. younger looking, it's about attractive vs. homely. Selecting for younger performers these days would not weed out black women. Filtering for good looks would.

    In any case, major record labels can discover and promote someone who's over 30 and still looks relatively attractive, who they can dress fashionably, and so on, to make their appeal purely based on sex appeal.

    In fact, the #2 single from 2013, "Blurred Lines," was by Robin Thicke who was 36, T.I. who was 32, and Pharrell Williams who was 40. Thicke's only appeal was his looks, and they weren't like a teenager's.

    Other chart-toppers who are promoted mostly for their sex appeal while being over 30: Justin Timberlake, Adam Levine from Maroon 5, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Shakira, etc.

    Sadly, these people are still listened to by 30-somethings, as much as the '80s artists were by 30-somethings. For the most part, though, Boomers were not a big part of the '80s audience, having settled into music from their adolescence and early adulthood.

    I remember my mother being unusual among other parents for liking Duran Duran. My father was more typical -- he liked the occasional new hit like "Bette Davis Eyes" and "Silent Running," but was firmly settled in the music from the mid-'60s to the early '70s. And still is.

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  6. "Affluent white Gen X teens in the 80's were most interested in mostly white New Wave in the early 80's and then all white hair metal in the later 80's."

    Metal has always had a mostly blue-collar audience, though, even in its friendlier butt-rock incarnation.

    If MTV didn't play black artists early on, it's not because their music wasn't popular with white audiences on the radio or in dance clubs or movie soundtracks.

    All-black TV shows enjoyed their highest ratings during the '80s, and those audiences were largely white. So it's not as though white TV audiences were against watching blacks, nor against listening to black music on the radio.

    I'd put it down to black music managers not wanting to get into the music video business for whatever reason.

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  7. The guys in Toto were not only homely but clearly older-looking. The lead singer had a full beard. So did Kenny Loggins, who made the theme songs for Footloose and Top Gun, whose audiences were mostly teenagers.

    Today, a Top Gun remake would have to feature a soundtrack with a singer who looked like Tom Cruise rather than Kenny Loggins. Ditto for the remake of Footloose, which actually happened (the original theme song was covered by Blake Shelton, named "sexiest man alive").

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  8. "Your grading on a very generous curve. " I'll take that as a compliment. To be more precise, I don't think a record company executive saw TLC's appearance as a negative. They looked young, thin and stylish and yes, at least as attractive as Beyonce. Tina Turner ran around the stage in fairly tiny dresses which at least, showed confidence and trim legs if nothing else. Thicke also has a famous last name and a rich father which gives him connections that most thirtysomethings don't have. Most of the over thirty set rose to fame in their twenties or teens so the didn't use over 30 sex appeal to succeed. As always an interesting take, just not sure if I am buying it.

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  9. "but by the spring of '96 most of the songs are slow and dull rehashes of past styles."

    That sounds about right when I stopped listening to the radio or watching MTV altogether. It became impossible to want to be cool *and* follow contempo pop music.

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  10. "They looked young, thin and stylish and yes, at least as attractive as Beyonce."

    Ah c'mon now, let's go to the videotape:

    Beyonce circa 2003.

    TLC in the '90s here, here, and here.

    T-Boz is below-average, Chilli is homely, Left Eye has a cute babyface but still does not exude beauty or sex appeal. She's the only one who would have a shot today, and not surprisingly she's part Cape Verdean, part of the Atlantic island mulatto look.

    Young-looking and thin, sure, but not being a bloated old hag doesn't make a woman sexy. And fashion doesn't make up for it -- no guy cared how edgy and cross-colours-y TLC dressed.

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  11. Mya was another milestone along the path toward few black women in pop music, and then only sex appeal mulatto types. She was big in the late '90s and early 2000s, was a lot more attractive than the average black girl, and in fact was only half-black, and half-white (or half-Italian, at any rate).

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  12. " "Your grading on a very generous curve. " I'll take that as a compliment."

    This is where white people trip themselves up when they try to burnish their reputation as Definitely Not-Racist by confessing to the "black is beautiful" credo.

    Any black guy or girl can tell that Mya and Beyonce are a quantum leap above the Chiffons, Tina Turner, and TLC. (And so can any honest white person.) When you claim that TLC was at least as attractive as Beyonce, they realize you're just patronizing them, or would suspect that you're gay and can't tell which girls are more attractive than which others.

    Giving blacks affirmative action points is shameful for us and stunting for them.

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  13. The 90's were the first decade in which quite a few white kids began favoring black artists.

    Between the tired rock scene and the sudden fascination with Gen X tuff rappers/mediocre R&B, MTV's then largely white audience began demanding more black videos in the 90's.

    The Jew label owners who pushed nihilistic rap garbage in the 90's is as good an example as any of how quickly things went to hell.

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  14. I think that when your point is acknowledged by SWPLs and blacks (and it will be acknowledged), it will quickly and easily be rationalized away as "people not thinking black women are attractive are just thinking that due to stereotyping/social programming."

    Periodically black women post articles and blog posts, seconded/promoted by SWPLs in the media, about how "black beauty" needs to be showcased more by the media since it's evil wrong racism keeping everyone from masturbating to African tribewomen videos over asian and white school girl porn.

    Heck, the increasing "normalization movement" for porn will probably tap into this, as somehow the disparity in pay and fame between what black women can get in porn v. non-black women will be proof of insidious racism caused by Evil White Men and must be stamped out through enforced masturbation.

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  15. A.B. Prosper3/16/15, 4:17 PM

    In my observation the cultural cutoff year seems to be about 1994 or so. Its correlates in some way with making the Internet a public commonplace thing but I'm not sure in what way.

    If you watch media from the period you'll note that a lot of media up to the election of Clinton was very 80's same as the media till 1982 was still kind of late 1970's in flavor

    Some of this is lag in production styles, projects might start in the 1970's and not some to fruition till 1981 or start in 1989 and not be seen till 1990 sometimes but some of it was also cultural shift

    If you can sit through it, the mediocre movie Reality Bites is a great culture shift indicator. Its just cusping 90's ethos with the later one.

    what makes this a bit confusing is that the normal cultural shifts kind of got thrown off course with 9-11. Those events along with advanced in technology kind of shifted the US from the 90's culture to the 2000's paranoid one making that phase a few years short, That might be the only happy thing from the time actually but that's a matte of opinion I guess.

    I'll pass on commenting on the current situation but is suspect the future one will be a lot less functional and will resemble a Latin American situation as much as a Euro American one, It may well split with isolated introverted Whites in many areas, more open Latinos and a Black culture pretty much same as before

    if trends continue past this without a boom. most probably the general culture will resemble Afro-American culture in many ways since nearly the majority of children are born out of wedlock.

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  16. Brandy is a good example of a black singer who was attractive while having an authentically black-american appearance (dark skin, broad nose, etc.) She has big eyes, full lips, very symmetrical. Still it's hard to imagine anyone putting her on the same level of sex appeal as Nicki Minaj or Beyonce. She was nice-looking but in a more wholesome way than the current mulatto sex symbols.

    Also, Beyonce is part Louisiana Creole--probably more than 25% white, I would guess.

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  17. You're really trying to make personal preference on attractiveness into an empirical thing? I may be in the minority, but I'll take 2/3 of TLC over Beyonce any day. You're gonna tell me these girls are average to homely?

    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/11/15/article-2507646-196BD3A400000578-767_644x939.jpg

    Also, while mixed race people tend to have the broadest appeal physically (which makes perfect biological sense to me), there are people all over the racial/ethnic map who have their own admirers. For instance, I find the actress who plays Michonne on the Walking Dead to be highly attractive. She's very African looking and pretty. A friend of mine thinks she's straight up ugly, but then he likes thin Dallas Cowboy cheerleader blondes. To each his own. I mean, are we even discussing this? It's silly. We get it, you don't find black women attractive and in your aspergic way, you must project that personal preference as some empirical, quantifiable system.

    I do agree with your point about musicians pre-MTV. Most guys in bands back then were almost famously ugly, but then it didn't matter because videos weren't a thing. Aretha Franklin, who has probably the most powerful female voice in pop music history, but has always been overweight to downright obese, would simply not have made it these days due to the demands of video performance.

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  18. Also, this point:

    "I'd put it down to black music managers not wanting to get into the music video business for whatever reason."

    From what I remember and have read, black artists were clambering to get on MTV. When MTV started in 1980, Michael Jackson was already a major pop star, with Off The Wall being released the year before. He was also an early proponent of the music video, yet it took 3 years before MTV would play his stuff, and only after the unprecedented success of Thriller.

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  19. "You're really trying to make personal preference on attractiveness into an empirical thing?"

    I proposed a very simple empirical "test" of group preferences, not personal ones: what fraction of teenage and young adult males had a poster of TLC hanging up on their wall, vs. a picture of Beyonce somewhere prominent? It's not a serious proposal because we already know the answer, that Beyonce is a sex symbol and the girls from TLC were not.

    Nor were Des'ree, Monica, Brandy, Da Brat, Queen Latifah, or any of the others I mentioned. No matter how much some of you want TLC to be good-looking, you haven't disagreed with the main point -- that there were far more homely black women in the '80s and into the early-mid '90s, compared to today.

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  20. "I do agree with your point about musicians pre-MTV."

    There was music on television before MTV -- the Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand. I wonder if that had an even stronger conformist effect because the TV audience got to see and hear the reaction of the studio audience. When you tuned into a video on MTV, you didn't know if anyone else thought it was cool or lame at that moment.

    Technology doesn't seem to be behind the audience demand for attractiveness over performance. Live TV appearances should have made the girl groups of the '60s look good, and MTV should have had the same effect, but didn't.

    The main change with MTV was the option of making a "concept" video (like an old short silent film from the '20s), or a traditional shoot of the band playing. Perhaps that helped homely performers even more -- you could "hide" behind a largely conceptual video that may have shown very little of the band themselves.

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  21. 'I was going to mention that - many music videos from the 80s had storylines with actors and actresses.

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  22. Truly no accounting for taste. Tina T. and LeftEye turned me on, Minaj (bless her soul), nice rack, but that face just weirds me out/turns me off. btw, I'm white, older, male, and not a virgin thank you. Straight up, Tina T. was a sex symbol into her 50's pushing 60. You can look it up. Few white woman could/do/will age as powerfully gracefully as Tina did. Just a guess, but she could probably put more than a few of us into a fuckcoma, and then go dancing.

    Although entertainers from Josephine Baker, to Eartha Kitt, to Dianna Ross, to Tina Turner all started off as Black women they ended up projected as sex symbols adored by a predominately White male audience.--from http://chimurengachronic.co.za/do-right-women-black-women-eroticism-and-classic-blues/

    Video Killed The Radio Star - True in 1981, sadly even more true today. Another thing to consider, plastic surgery hadn't really been perfected in 1955 and everyone was just a little less pretty then. Check out porn from 75-150 years ago, bangin' bodies, some fugly faces. turn down the lights, all cats are gray, face down is better anyways.. so says OlDeej- Music was how ugly guys and girls got noticed.

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  23. "Michael Jackson was already a major pop star, with Off The Wall being released the year before. He was also an early proponent of the music video, yet it took 3 years before MTV would play his stuff, and only after the unprecedented success of Thriller."

    Right, 1980's MtV was extremely sensitive about it's image. The 80's were quite conservative and there was a lot of concern about pop culture at the time. Dungeons and Dragons, satanic metal bands, etc. The PMRC might seem like a joke now, but it was sufficiently threatening that a number of bands (mostly metal) wrote response songs.

    MTV was reluctant to show too many black videos (or videos with explicit violence, sex, or drug references) lest it alienate the often conservative whites who made up the bulk of cable subscribers. Had MTV not shown the restraint it did, it's likely that pressure groups would've gotten the channel booted from middle American cable systems.

    In the 90's, black videos became much more common because things became so liberal so fast and also because so many whites began lapping up black stuff since rock got so crappy in the 90's.

    You can't overstate how things were MUCH more conservative in the 80's. John Bircher type values were still alive and well. A father saw his kid watching an 80's GI Joe episode and saw two male characters getting a bit, uh, close. He shut the TV off and called the station, who gave him the number to the production company. Evidently he made such a fuss to so many people that it became a cautionary tale to the entertainment biz. to be very careful about content.

    In that kind of environment, Clinton era thug rap and PC alternative BS would've been unthinkable.

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  24. Just for the record, I know that black artists were popular in the 80's. However, prior to the 90's, Pre Gen X black artists had to carefully cultivate an amiable or even silly image so as not to offend the still not so enthusiastic about multiculturalism white America. White were more able to get away with a bad boy image, because, well there OUR bad boys. But keep the real jungle off our radio and TV, please.

    As we all know, this got turned upside down in the 90's when all of the sudden legions of white boys adored tales of the ghetto. Parents threw away metal records in the 80's; in the 90's you weren't supposed to judge what your kid was doing with his life.

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  25. "I proposed a very simple empirical "test" of group preferences, not personal ones: what fraction of teenage and young adult males had a poster of TLC hanging up on their wall, vs. a picture of Beyonce somewhere prominent? It's not a serious proposal because we already know the answer, that Beyonce is a sex symbol and the girls from TLC were not."

    I don't know about poster sales, but I can assure you that the girls from TLC were considered sexy. Sure, Beyonce is more of a classic sex symbol and has more fans in general than TLC ever did. A better comparison would Madonna, as both women were/are the pinnacle of fame for their eras. And I'll grant you that the pop stars today on average are better looking than in the 90s, I just don't think it's a race issue. The white pop stars are better looking today, too.

    "Just for the record, I know that black artists were popular in the 80's. However, prior to the 90's, Pre Gen X black artists had to carefully cultivate an amiable or even silly image so as not to offend the still not so enthusiastic about multiculturalism white America. White were more able to get away with a bad boy image, because, well there OUR bad boys. But keep the real jungle off our radio and TV, please."

    Plenty of unabashed blackness in 80s music, it is the decade when hip hop came of age, of course. Granted, not until a white group, the Beastie Boys, broke through that rap became palatable to the mainstream. In that respect, it was merely mainstream culture catching up with what was going on in black music and the white underground. Same as it ever was.

    "You can't overstate how things were MUCH more conservative in the 80's."

    Very true. I can vividly remember the first time I heard a character on a sitcom said the word "suck," as in, "This sucks." It was in a show called It's Your Move and starred Jason Bateman as a smart ass teenager (in contrast to the smart ass adults he now plays). It was shocking and refreshing to me as a teenager. TV was highly conservative. Movies and music, not so much, at least not the stuff I looked for. But mainstream culture in general, yeah.

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  26. First thing I found when looking at the UK albums charts.

    Although I figure albums probably skews more towards talent over looks, on the basis that it needs to be sustained.

    The 2014 top in the UK looks pretty plain faced to me:

    http://www.officialcharts.com/chart-news/the-official-top-40-biggest-selling-artist-albums-of-2014__7579/

    Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith are not good looking guys at all. Paloma Faith is pretty average, although she's heavily stylised.

    2013 -

    http://www.officialcharts.com/chart-news/the-official-top-40-biggest-selling-artist-albums-of-2013__3656/ - a blander year, Murs may just be plainer faced than Collins though.

    Likewise 2012 -

    http://www.officialcharts.com/chart-news/the-official-top-40-biggest-selling-albums-of-2012-revealed-__2691/

    Emili Sande and Adele aren't exactly lookers either.

    Maybe its an aberration though.

    Singles charts might be more looks based and probably are.

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  27. "Movies and music, not so much, at least not the stuff I looked for. But mainstream culture in general, yeah."

    Movies did have more blood and nudity in the 80's, with people being tougher and more comfortable with the cycle of life and death.

    But there was minimal Jew friendly toilet humor and bashing of traditional values. That would come in the 90's. PC was a lot weaker in the 80's so an institution like MTV wasn't under as much pressure to set aside airtime for pet liberal groups like blacks or whatever.

    While rock groups did sometimes project a stud or even seedy image, it was still about being cool and fun with power ballad type sensitive songs serving to broaden appeal.

    Like with movies, music artists got more vulgar, ugly, and even nihilistic in the 90's.

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  28. "But there was minimal Jew friendly toilet humor and bashing of traditional values. That would come in the 90's. PC was a lot weaker in the 80's so an institution like MTV wasn't under as much pressure to set aside airtime for pet liberal groups like blacks or whatever."

    Toilet humor is specifically "Jew friendly"? Anyway, plenty of traditional value bashing in 80s movies, the most popular and obvious of which are the John Hughes flicks. Starting from Sixteen Candles, with what I think is an overlooked but powerful scene at the end when the two leads sit cross-legged ON the probably very expensive dining room table. A total rejection of the values that led to the ability to purchase such an item, not to mention the dining room table is a locus for societal manners, hence the symbolic gesture. TONS of other examples in 80s movies. And jeez, how about 70s movies? Five Easy Pieces and whatnot. Utter rejection of tradition.

    I don't think MTV made a decision to "set aside airtime" for black music based on some political reasoning. Black music is very popular, and once Michael Jackson broke the color barrier there, it was strictly business to feature black artists. To ignore the emergence of hip-hop, for instance, would have been bad for both business and cultural credibility.

    I'll agree with you that pop culture became far more nihilistic in the 90s. Gen X (of which I'm smack dab in the middle of) gravitated towards that outlook for various reasons.

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  29. Typical WASP-bashing Jewish humor was at a nadir in the '80s, but was still on display in Caddyshack (and even more in the awful sequel). Spaceballs too to a lesser degree.

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  30. When describing those singers in the 80's and 90's, homely is an overstatement. TLC and Des'ree were mildly attractive, as were The Chiffons and The Ronettes in the early 60's. Not beauty queens, but pleasant enough.

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  31. Comedy punches up, particularly social satire. Our political and societal institutions are mostly WASP-y, hence they are the target. I don't know if the nadir of such comedy would be Caddyshack, although that movie is hilarious and something of a touchstone. It's been going on since, I don't know, Swift? I'll grant you the Jewish writers, mostly one Jewish writer, was behind much of the 70s/80s comedies. Harold Ramis, of course. But there were plenty of WASPs and other non-Jewish accomplices.

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  32. I should ask, the WASP comedy writers coming out of institutions like the Harvard Lampoon who routinely satirize typically WASP-y institutions would be accused of biting the hand that feeds them and general disrespectfulness, I guess? While the Jewish writers doing the same would be accused of contributing to the nefarious global plot to dismantle Western Civilization?

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  33. "Comedy punches up" -- so white trash are allowed to make movie-length caricatures of the Jewish elite in business, finance, media, journalism, entertainment, etc., specifically ridiculing their ethno-cultural traits?

    What a shameless apology for the rich and powerful to paint Jewish elites as hardscrabble rag-pickers.

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  34. The typical retard WASP writer for The Simpsons has more of a self-deprecating tone, or more like humble-bragging, when satirizing WASP-y institutions.

    Jewish caricatures of WASP-y institutions are puffed up with haughtiness and animosity toward an out-group who they perceive as unjustly in control of things ("goyische kopf!").

    You ask what you think is a rhetorical question about whether an in-group satirizing itself will do so in a different tone than an out-group satirizing them. That sure is a rhetorical question, because the answer is: no shit.

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  35. The decade that made Chuck Norris and Stallone big stars was not exactly kind towards brash, tasteless hostility towards common sense honor and decency. Sure, there was some irreverence towards authority. But it was reserved for the most pompous, out of touch, and hypocritical figures. Dirty Harry hated pencil pushers telling him what to do but he cared about cleaning up the streets.

    It wasn't until the 90's that it became fashionable to ridicule basic norms of propriety and taste.

    John Hughes doesn't strike as me as a particularly self righteous, flippant, early Boomer liberal. The Gen X (or very late Boomer) kids in his 80's movies were quite sympathetic. Many early Boomers hated 80's youth culture for a variety of reasons, chief among them the fear that the Reagan era was not making kids sufficiently leftist. I once heard James Hetfield say that he hated the hippies he saw as a kid in the late 60's/early 70's.

    Also, the 80's/early 90's were when the Boomers had to share the spotlight with Gen X kids (and Non-Boomer presidents). So there was consternation over that. By the mid 90's we had turned away from a youth oriented culture and the Boomers have hogged the show since then. The 80's were the one time in their entire lives where early Boomers were not the total center of attention and they hated it.

    The slacker slur towards Gen X (and to a lesser extent, late Boomers) was generated at least partially by middle aged Boomers being irritated that 80's teens were not mindlessly raging against all forms of authority.

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  36. "I'll agree with you that pop culture became far more nihilistic in the 90s. Gen X (of which I'm smack dab in the middle of) gravitated towards that outlook for various reasons."

    Among other matters of good fortune to bless the Boomers, the Boomers also didn't get subjected to trash 90's culture in their formative years. The 90's was when our current decay began in earnest and it's a shame so many X-ers have bought into Boomer propaganda about how awful the 80's were.

    At least the Boomers don't sweat about gays. X-ers, on the other hand, put homos at the core of their conscience. The 90's can kiss my ass. Oh lord, accuse me anything but don't call me a homophobe.

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  37. ""Comedy punches up" -- so white trash are allowed to make movie-length caricatures of the Jewish elite in business, finance, media, journalism, entertainment, etc., specifically ridiculing their ethno-cultural traits?"

    Yes. Plenty of examples of stingy Jewish types in movies, although of course not written by white trash. Some (I'm thinking Coen brothers, specifically in Barton Fink, but there are others) written by Jewish people themselves. Does that not count as self-deprecating and/or humble-bragging? You mention the Simpsons, whose writing staff is fairly equally represented by WASPs and Jews. So, which bits are "Jewish" and which are "WASP-y?"

    The poor, including white trash, typically aren't behind the scenes in almost any creative capacity. Which brings us to punching up. I don't have to tell you that being part of a group that is perceived as the oppressor does not in any way make one an actual oppressor. So, some people see WASPs as the oppressor and any WASP individual as part of that hegemony, while others think it's the Jews. Individuals from both camps pretty much dominate media creation, and most do not come from particularly wealthy families, yet are privileged in other ways. And these are the people who write/wrote comedies that poke(d) fun at traditional institutions and societal norms, as those are always "the man." They, both WASPs and Jews, were mostly playacting at rebellion, albeit motivated probably by genuine feelings of disenfranchisement, however fleeting due to their upwardly mobile stations, those were.

    I kind of went off an a tangent here, but I guess my point is, I just don't see a particular Jewish slant here, and certainly not an intentional one of any kind.

    "It wasn't until the 90's that it became fashionable to ridicule basic norms of propriety and taste."

    Animal House pretty much brought the Harvard Lampoon/Mad Magazine style comedic assault on tradition and "common decency" into the mainstream in 1978. That movie started a landslide of similar movies throughout the remainder of the 70s and the entire 80s. So, I'd say the trends started way before the 90s, and was a Boomer initiated phenomenon.

    "By the mid 90's we had turned away from a youth oriented culture and the Boomers have hogged the show since then."

    It's my impression youth culture is more pervasive now than ever before, but maybe it just seems that way to me now that I'm in my 40s.

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  38. "Animal House pretty much brought the Harvard Lampoon/Mad Magazine style comedic assault on tradition and "common decency" into the mainstream in 1978."

    Animal House was coarse for it's time, but it didn't have an idiot manchild screaming like Adam Sandler throughout the movie. It also didn't have anyone ingesting sperm, nor did it have a lengthy diarrhea scene like Dumb and Dumber (1994) or American Pie (1999). I honestly don't pay that much attention to comedies in general, but 70's culture was unpretentious enough and 80's culture was amiable enough that the popular comedies of that era were comparatively wholesome compared to the despoiled culture of post 1992. If you don't believe me then you haven't suffered through enough of this crap like I did in the 90's/2000's.

    When did Jim Carey's career take off?

    "By the mid 90's we had turned away from a youth oriented culture and the Boomers have hogged the show since then."

    "It's my impression youth culture is more pervasive now than ever before, but maybe it just seems that way to me now that I'm in my 40s."

    Millennials are so reticent and immature that they and their culture are largely ignored by older folks. Agnostic has repeatedly pointed out that many TV shows and movies have been desperately avoiding Millennial casts since they are so dull. Casts in fact have been getting progressively older since the 80's (the last time the culture was youth focused).

    Eighties movies are frequently lambasted for being too youthful, but critics need to be aware of the cultural context of the period. Besides, late Boomers and early Gen X-ers were cool enough to deserve the spotlight back then.

    Remember, the Silent Gen. was largely overlooked and not just because of their small numbers. They just bored people. We never had a president born in the 30's. Admittedly, I like some figures from that era and due to the low inequality of the era they aren't as flippant or crude as Millennials are and likely will be for the future.

    Meanwhile, the Greatest Gen and the Boomers were charismatic and exciting enough to grab the focus of many, not just their peers. And they remained prominent for a sustained period.

    Gen X-ers are a tougher call. The juvenile delinquency epidemic of the 80's/early 90's certainly provoked attention, but I think that was largely the work of the growing black/hispanic element and it was also a function of America experiencing a surge in broken homes, urban decay, and "anything goes" mayhem as inequality widened and crime rates shot up. White Boomers were bigger hell raisers than white Gen X-ers whose misbehavior generally shied away from sociopathy and cruel violence, even when they were teens in the wild 80's.

    During the initial alternative explosion of the very late 80's/early 90's, the media branded many of these artists as the sound of Gen X and they certainly were the subject of much talk. Yet the most popular and endearing of these groups often had at least 1 late Boomer in the band. Soundgarden's classic lineup had just 1 post '64 birth.

    Simply put, the early Boomers (who dominated cultural discourse in the early 90's and still dominate) got it wrong. The alternative scene that got attention in the early 90's was actually to a substantial degree yet another scene in which late Boomers made a big mark. It is fair to say that these alt. groups were more popular with Gen X-ers than late Boomers, however.

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  39. "Animal House was coarse for it's time, but it didn't have an idiot manchild screaming like Adam Sandler throughout the movie. It also didn't have anyone ingesting sperm, nor did it have a lengthy diarrhea scene like Dumb and Dumber (1994) or American Pie (1999)."

    It had a hell of a lot of other things, though. I suppose we can agree a specific type of gross-out humor began in the 90s, although I'm sure I'm forgetting some from the 80s (and I'm not counting John Waters flicks as he remained underground). Just off the top of my head, I can think of 5 or 6 extremely popular and very coarse 80s movies:

    Porky's
    Caddyshack (man-children)
    Fast Times at Ridgemont High
    Stripes (man-children throughout, albeit not screaming)
    Easy Money (man-child and hilarious)
    Night Shift (man-child)

    I'd say Bill Murray pioneered the man-child in comedic movies.

    "Agnostic has repeatedly pointed out that many TV shows and movies have been desperately avoiding Millennial casts since they are so dull. Casts in fact have been getting progressively older since the 80's (the last time the culture was youth focused)."

    I honestly don't get that impression at all. Movies these days are practically exclusively concerned with younger audiences to the point of frustration.

    "During the initial alternative explosion of the very late 80's/early 90's, the media branded many of these artists as the sound of Gen X and they certainly were the subject of much talk. Yet the most popular and endearing of these groups often had at least 1 late Boomer in the band. Soundgarden's classic lineup had just 1 post '64 birth."

    Well Nirvana, the most impactful band since the Beatles, was Gen X through and through. And most of the bands I can think of during the late 80s/early 90s bands were mostly Gen X, and certainly the underground was. But then, I'm not that concerned with age cohorts. I'm mostly confused at your assertion that it all went to hell starting in the 90s. Anyway, I could discuss this stuff all day.


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  40. "Movies these days are practically exclusively concerned with younger audiences to the point of frustration."

    Targeted at youth, yes. But what about the age of the actors? The blockbuster movies of Christopher Nolan have almost no Millennial actors. Who is playing the lead actors in all of those superhero movies besides the Batman movies? The last actor to play Superman, Henry Cavill (1983) is probably the youngest actor trusted to carry a 150 Million+ tentpole. He was around 29 at the time of filming.

    Meanwhile, in 1977 George Lucas/Fox gave the lead role in Star Wars to 25 year old Mark Hamill. Yes, I know that Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christiansen were younger in the recent prequels but people hated their acting anyway.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_in_film
    2014 top ten hit movies (ages of first 5 actors listed on the movies wiki page):
    Millennial I define as an actor born in 1984 or later.

    1) Transformers: We need more ideas (2 Millennials out of 5)
    2) The Hobbit: Beating a Dead Horse (No Millennials)
    3) Guardians of the Galaxy (No Millennials)
    4) Maleficent (1 Millennial out of 5)
    5) The Hunger Games part Bullshit (3 Millennials out of 5)
    6) X- Men Days of who cares (1 Millennial out of 5)
    7) Captain America: C'mon Hollywood (1 Millennial - '84 birth Scarlett Johanssen)
    8) The Amazing Spiderman 2 (2 Millennials out of 5)
    9) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (No Millennials))
    10) Interstellar (No Millennials)

    That's just 10 Millennials (or actors who were the 31 or younger as of 2014) out of 50 lead actors.

    I tallied up the 1984 top 10. 16 out of 50 actors were 31 or younger, not counting Corey Feldman in Gremlins. And while Eddie Murphy wasn't playing a teen role, he was about 23 in Beverly Hills Cop. Imagine a Millennial actor playing that role at 23. Footloose, The Karate Kid, and Gremlins are all films dealing with teens in modern day America. Though obviously Gremlins has fantasy/horror elements. 2014 has two movies with teen themes (Maleficent and The Hunger Games) but they have entirely contrived settings.

    Movies are as stale as ever, but it's not the fault of casting too many annoying Millennial kids. This fits in with the idea that the more vibrant the scene is, the more focused on everyday teens/young adults it will be.

    The reason movies blow right now is because audiences (especially Millennials) need so much gimmicky high concept BS that your eyes and ears get an unrelenting bludgeon. When it's over, you've already forgotten half the movie and after a few months go by you won't remember a thing about it other than how bad it was.

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  41. Society's older too, and consider many youth are non-Whites.

    http://www.crmtrends.com/images/chartMedianAge.gif

    Millennials may be less interesting as people (or less "acty" in some way), still at the same time, the average age of the audience is older, so there's less money in tailoring to the young - especially if you've got Boomer and X generations who are not so keen on moving through life's stages and passing it on.

    YA drek is targeted at kids. I'm not sure Marvel is targeted as much at young kids - as much at people who grew up with those comics and are pretty familiar with them.

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