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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

curated: the grim, cynical pop culture of the Trump era

Bingo. *sigh*

posted in:
easter eggs
  • Tonio Kruger

    After seeing what happened in my home state of Michigan during the term of the previous American president, I can’t help finding that essay from Zopilote.com to be funny in a way its writer obviously did not intend it to be.

    But then it’s not like anyone thinks of Alanis Morissette when they think of the Clinton administration. And the Reagan era gave us the best work of Springsteen and Sting but it seems a bit much to give Reagan credit for that.

    I’m not a fan of the current president and I would have voted against him if I did not spend Election Day confined to a hospital bed. But I still found this essay to be reaching a bit.

  • that essay from Zopilote. com

    What essay is that?

  • Tonio Kruger

    The one from Vulture. com. “Zopilote” is a Mexican Spanish term for “vulture.”

  • Bluejay

    I refuse to give this vile, hollow excuse of a man more power than he already has, or more credit than he already craves. All this shit has existed for ages, and we’ve embraced it just as willingly in the past. Boxers and other athletes have been criticized for misogyny and abuse before. Crass popular reality shows have existed before. Pop music has been slammed for being shallow and self-glorifying before. Taylor Swift has always found a way to commodify her reputation for feuds and romantic misadventures (do “Bad Blood” and “Blank Space” epitomize the Obama era?), and it’s not like she would have released radically different music if Hillary Clinton had won; I suspect Harris would have found a way to link Swift’s music to whoever the election winner happened to be. And discounting Wonder Woman as having “little if anything to do with Americans” – a film based on an American icon from an American comics publisher, written and directed by Americans, which shattered all sorts of records at the American box office thanks to steady and repeat business from American audiences – seems like a BIT of a stretch, to say the least.

    I reject the notion that that only one side of the culture war “epitomizes our time” while the other side can be dismissed as merely “raising a fist against it.” I reject the argument that 200 Nazis in Charlottesville represent the one true face of America, while somehow 40,000 anti-Nazi protesters in Boston do not. That 62 million Trump voters speak for the nation, and somehow 65 million Clinton voters do not. That Trump alone is the embodiment and expression of American values and somehow Obama is suddenly not. That Taylor Swift now musically represents the state of our mindset, and somehow Beyonce and Kendrick and Chance and J. Cole are suddenly irrelevant. (And I reject the argument – familiar from countless movie debates with fanboys – that attention equals approval: that millions of views of Swift’s music video automatically equates to millions of people LIKING it. As of this post, 4 million have “liked” it on YouTube, which leaves the other 229 million undeclared.)

    All these voices exist side by side. Charlottesville had 200 Nazis; last night, in Central Park NYC, 200 professional and amateur/non-professional actors, of all colors and genders and orientations, took the stage together to put on a free production of As You Like It as a gloriously joyful celebration of love and inclusivity. Who speaks for America? Not just the Nazis and their golden-haired enabler, that’s for damn sure. Not while you, and I, and everyone reading this, can speak up as well.

  • Danielm80

    I agree with pretty much everything you said here, but the Trump era has led to some really good protest songs and other forms of political art:

    Thea Gilmore:


    The Nields:


    Aimee Mann:


    Ani DiFranco and friends:


    And, of course, this song has been repurposed very effectively:


    And there are these examples from the New Yorker:



  • Bluejay

    Well, exactly. Arguing that certain grim, cynical strains of pop culture epitomize “how we are now” ignores the other strains, like your examples, that are just as much a part of “how we are now.”

    It reminds me of Ursula Le Guin’s essay on “the myth of the veneer.” It’s tempting to see the darkness in humanity as our one true nature, and to believe that everything that tempers or restrains that darkness is merely a mask; but we forget that WE are the ones doing the tempering and restraining, and so that civilizing impulse is just as much a part of our nature as well.

    We have always had, and still have, two wolves inside us. And we haven’t starved the good one yet.

  • Danielm80

    FWIW, I actually alluded to the two wolves in the original draft of my comment, but I edited that part out, because the comment was lengthy enough already.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Also, I kinda like “LWYMMD”. And I thought the end of the video was cute, clever, and self-depricating.

  • Bluejay

    OK, I didn’t watch the video through to the end, at first, but that IS funny and self-deprecating. I’ve been a fan in the past and don’t think this is her best work, but it’s growing on me.

    And there’s nothing that Swift does with her lyrics that hasn’t been done by, say, hip-hop artists on their diss tracks, for ages. But Harris thinks that when Swift does it, it somehow signifies the moral decay of the West, or something? There’s more than a whiff of sexism in that argument.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    No, but 1989 was always going to be a tough album for her to follow up, let alone top.

  • I’m not sure that was going to be clear to many people. And “Zopilote.com” *is* an existing domain name, though there’s no site there at the moment.

  • There are tenors to eras, though, and I do think there is value in the tenor of the moment: it has reminded us that all the dark stuff that some of us had been pretending was gone is still there and just as potent as ever. When it’s not in your face — particularly as someone who is not impacted by the darkness (ie, a white person not impacted by racism, a man not impacted by sexism) — it can be easy to forget that the fight against it goes on.

  • Bluejay

    it has reminded us that all the dark stuff that some of us had been pretending was gone is still there

    Maybe so, but Harris picked some poor examples to illustrate it. Really, a Taylor Swift diss track (and a move toward persona-reinvention as old as at least Madonna) reminds him of the darkness of humanity? His argument seems more of a piece with the attacks Swift has long endured, holding her to an impossible double standard.


  • Tonio Kruger

    True. It was sort of a bilingual joke that I should have resisted putting in the post but I felt the need to experiment with it anyway.

    And I didn’t realize that was already a site with that name until after I had completed my post.

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