About a month ago NPR reported on a study which proved that the lyrics in popular music has become increasingly narcissistic over the last 25 years. In 1985 the #1 song was We Are The World. Now it seems like at least half the songs that are playing on the radio include lyrics that let us all know how fabulous the musical artists who are performing them are. It's easy to spot the trend, from Timberlake who claims to be Bringing Sexy Back to Taio Cruz and Ludacris who are going to Break Your Heart...but that's apparently forgivable because Ludacris doesn't "think there's anybody as bomb" as he is so we need to feel blessed that he's giving us any attention at all.
I asked my Facebook and Twitter followers what they thought about the issue and I got a lot of responses, many of which blamed the rise of narcissism in our pop-culture on the self-aggrandising nature of social media. Others pointed out that narcissism is the foundation of most reality TV.
Real World was the big reality show. It topped out at 5.5 million viewers. The Real World San Francisco featured a man named Padro, who was gay and living with AIDS. He became a cultural icon and when he died the President actually issued a statement mourning our nation's loss and thanking him for helping to raise AIDS awareness.
Now MTV's big reality show is Jersey Shore which averages 8.9 million viewers. That's particularly impressive when you consider that The Real World had much less competition than Jersey Shore has (back in the Real World days of my youth most of us didn't have 500 channels and 2 television sets). And who are the Jersey Shore break-out stars? They're the most narcissistic of the bunch. Snooki and The Situation. And yes, we say it's because we like to laugh at them, and some of us do. But the we-just-watch-for-kicks-and-giggles argument sort of went out the window when Rutgers University paid her a $32,000 appearance fee to do a Q and A with their students. And then there are the Real Housewives. The more selfish their behavior the more likely they are to make it on the cover of US Weekly and that's not because US Weekly loves the Real Housewives, it's because they know that enough of us love them to justify plastering their picture on a cover. Many point out that viewers like to look down their noses at reality show stars and that doing so makes them feel like their own lives are more together than they once thought. I can't entirely disagree with that but I think there's more to it.
As for the music, well I'll be the first to admit that I love a lot of those narcissistic songs. When you dance, sing or simply blast them from your car stereo they no longer belong to the musical artists who created them, they belong to you. And therefore those narcissistic lyrics feel personally empowering. And although I'm not a Jersey Shore or Real Housewives fan maybe those who are are driven by similar motivations. After all most of us wouldn't run around acting like a drunk diva (à la Snooki) or as selfishly as one of those bleach blonde Orange County housewives. But maybe part of us wishes we could every once in a while. Maybe we wish we could have a taste of that level of confidence and entitlement. Maybe that's always been the appeal of rock-n-roll. Yes, it's true that Mick Jagger has never gotten on the stage, grabbed the mic and screamed, "There's nobody as bomb as me."
But he sure as hell implied it. And his badass energy continues to infect those of us who tune into it.
And we loove him for it.
Bestselling Author of:
The Sophie Katz Mystery Series
and So Much For My Happy Ending
Check out Vows, Vendettas & A Little Black Dress in stores now!
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Monday, May 02, 2011
When I first heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed three thoughts rushed through my mind. They were as follows (and in the following order):
1) Wow! We actually got him!
2)...but Judaism tells me I can't celebrate an enemy's death
3) What exactly does this change in the grand scheme of things? Not a lot.
The second thought is absolutely true. It's why, on Passover, we have to take a drop of wine out of our cups for every plague we list off during the seder. It doesn't matter if only our suppressors were stricken down, our cups cannot be completely full while anyone is being killed. So as evil as Osama Bin Laden was I was wary of celebrating the victory. As you can see from the Huffington Post, I'm not the only one who felt this way.
And then I made the mistake of talking to my mother about all this over the phone within earshot of my son who was excitedly drawing a picture of the American Flag. He heard me speculate on how this would not in any way shape or form end terrorism or shorten the wars we're involved in and all the rest of it and he immediately started tearing up. "I was so excited," he said, his voice shaking. "I thought this meant something."
And that's when I realized that I was looking at this thing the wrong way.
As I sat him down an analogy popped into my head. "If someone kills your family," I said, "and the killer is caught ten years later and given the death penalty it doesn't bring back your family. It doesn't stop other murderers from killing people. But what it does is restore our faith in justice. It assures us that the rewards of evil are fleeting and the consequences severe and irreversible. That means a lot. Today there is a little less evil in the world and today marks a huge victory for Justice."
That is most definitely something worthy of true celebration.
As for the whole thing about celebrating the death of an enemy....
Well in the words of Mark Twain, "I have never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure."
Pretty much sums up what I'm feeling right now.
The Sophie Katz Mystery Series
So Much For My Happy Ending