A Conversation Concerning What Rebecca Black Says About Social Culture

(I thought I’d share a sample conversation between Enchantment Under The Sea’s two masterminds concerning Rebecca Black, just to give you a taste of the kinds of conversations that led us to start this blog in the first place.

This conversation started with the Found Footage Festival (Andy Toby’s review here), which is basically a collection of terrible VHS footage from the 80s and 90s repackaged as a humorous film piece. But that led to a discussion about exactly what kind of enjoyment this sort of art was providing.)

Andy Toby: I think that Generation X, and the hipster continuation, don’t believe in anything except for ironic relationships with consumerism they pretend to reject. It’s like the pessimism of Generation X, combined with the nihilism of capitalism in general. But I do like the idea of finding subversive art in consumer dreck. Its a sort of post-modern realization of what Andy Warhol started. Also, how the hell did rebecca black go viral?

Stephen G: For a similar reason: people enjoy shitty things. Listen: here’s the real question: people legitimately ENJOY these terrible things, and it’s sort of an ironic enjoyment, but they aren’t pretending. It’s ironic, kind of, but not disingenuous. So what is actually going on?

Andy Toby: I’m not sure anymore.

Stephen G: But it IS something. We’re not all just pretending.

Andy Toby: I think people who think they are being hipsters are actually just as big of consumers who enjoy laughing at other people as people in the mass culture.

Stephen G: You’re right. they are still being sold something, but it’s like an anti-selling-you-something kind of selling you something.

Andy Toby: Thats why the crappy people on american idol episode is so popular. I can pretend I’m not into American Idol and laugh at Rebecca Black, and then buy American Apparel and Apple computers.

Stephen G: …and Rebecca Black’s iTunes single.

Andy Toby: That, too. I think counter culture is being subverted by this kind of thing. Well, actually, I’m not sure if that’s true. But counterculture is kind of like making an echo chamber instead of holding up a mirror.

Stephen G: That is probably true. But is there any period in time where that was true previously? If we’ve learned anything, it’s that everything has happened before, right?

Andy Toby: Hmmm. i’m not sure. Nothing coems to mind immediately.

Stephen G: And also, is there a divide within counterculture, where part of counterculture still is doing the mirror thing? Like for instance, counterculture at one point included both Abby Hoffman and also sweaty hippies that accomplished nothing. Know what I mean?

Andy Toby: (after a brief pause) I’m reading the Wikipedia article for the Rebecca Black song. One critic said: “Black’s video for ‘Friday’ is one of those rare occurrences where even the most seasoned critics of Internet culture don’t know where to begin. From the singing straight out of Auto-Tuned hell to lyrics such as ‘Tomorrow is Saturday / And Sunday comes afterwards / I don’t want this weekend to end’ and a hilariously bad rap about passing school buses, ‘Friday’ is something that simply must be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.” Why would a critic bother doing that to a 13 year old girl?

Stephen G: I guess there are two ways to enjoy rebbeca black: just revel in the terrible and have fun, OR vitriolic mean-ness.

Andy Toby: Yes. Ugh. As a journalist, I prefer to be someone who makes sense out of everything, instead of promoting reactionary thought

Stephen G: Well, making sense of things and trying not to be reactionary is ideally kind of the critic’s job as well.

Andy Toby: Yeah, I think generally critics dont bother to review things that are bad and insignificant. It’s like Coke Machine Glow talked about how it’s not worth going out of their way to eviscerate the guy covering Led Zeppelin in his garage. But I guess with the internet, that type of thing can actually get a global audience. Again, I think this is just tapping into this schadenfreude thats getting so popular.

Stephen G: Though it’s probably wrong to call what that guy did “criticism.” It’s more like humorous essay writing.

Andy Toby: I guess on the other side of this coin, Rebecca Black will probably get a record deal or something out of this. At the very least, she’ll get studio time. Obviously this will be short lived, but now she has some kind of claim to fame.

Stephen G: Well, The Room didn’t get tommy wiseau another movie deal.

Andy Toby: Right, but he holds some degree of relevance now. I bet MIT would bring him in as a genius scholar or something.

Stephen G: Haha. Well but: it’s hard to make a case to someone that runs a studio that giving Rebecca Black studio time will lead to units sold, beyond as novelty or ironic sales. So yeah, maybe she will get studio time, but no one is going to release a SERIOUS Rebecca Black album. Her SERIOUS career is over. Forever. Unless she reinvents herself at age 30 or something

Andy Toby: Oh no, I totally agree with that. Even someone like Ted Williams, who has some modicum of talent, will not be significantly well known. I dont know how long memories last on this kind of thing. The internet invents these people and spits them out. I mean look at the Chocolate Rain guy: Dr. Pepper decided to give him a commercial AFTER he ceased to be relevant. And that whole process from start to end was like 8 weeks. Tops.

Stephen G: And that was the PREVIOUS internet generation.

Andy Toby: Right. How weird. I dont know how you habitate in this kind fo stuff. I prefer newspapers. Newspapers do have shortcomings, but they have a long view.

Stephen G: Heh. Well. When the stream is so high volume and constant, the patterns become more noticeable, and the units of culture that make it up become more important than the instances.

Andy Toby: You’re right.

(The conversation went on to some stuff about the role of journalism and the state of activism now, but this was the relevant part about culture. Hope someone got some enjoyment out of reading this real-life conversation. It’s like reality television, but on a blog!)

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