ANTISOCIAL: More Thoughts on Counterculture and the New Right (PART 1)


I was a preteen in the 80s and a teenager in the 90s. I came into a consciousness of pop culture during the Reagan era, when action films were morality plays about the Cold War — notably often the rough-and-tumble humanistic and flawed Rocky or Maverick character against the inhuman robotic Soviets. Fantasy and sci-fi films wanted to emulate the Spielberg/Lucas model of box office success, and so copied the Spielberg/Lucas model of sentimentalist storytelling. Sitcoms from Family Ties to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to Roseanne always didactically delivered a lesson about love, forgiveness, honesty, and friendship while their afternoon teen drama counterparts did the same thing with the issues that effected middle and high schoolers like drug abuse, shoplifting, and peer pressure. Musicians were often social activists fighting world hunger and advocating for world peace like Bob Geldof and Bono. Popular youth-targeted films often portrayed hateful rich people (“yuppies”) as antagonists.


The arrival of Eminem, The Spice Girls, and NSYNC into the realms of superstardom could be thought of as the authenticity and transgression ethos trying to figure out what to do next. Eminem articulated and embodied what would become one essential disposition for the new century: “I am a bad guy, but I admit that I am openly, therefore my honesty is more authentic than those that hide it.” This came as an augmentation to the supposedly shared understanding that the murder fantasies and “n” words (in Eminem’s case, the “f” word, referring to homosexuals) were a goof. It was a joke you got precisely because you were not misogynistic, homophobic, or racist. After all, how can transgressive entertainment entertain with its transgression unless the boundary exists to be transgressed? One was supposed to find Eminem entertaining because he “just didn’t give a fuck” about anyone who thought he really was the person he portrayed in his lyrics. After all his lyrics were about not giving a fuck. This IDGAF posture was added to the authenticity and transgression hierarchy, near the top.


Even the Return to Teen Pop, the ascendancy of Eminem, and the associated pop punditry associated with knowing how to explain the correct and complex way to relate to these things was bound to mutate. Increased usage of the internet meant more content to absorb and more conversation about it. Stable narratives became less stable. At every step of the above outlined progression has been the presence of a widespread and tacitly understood (but rarely overtly articulated) function of ideology to art, ideas to culture and counterculture.



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