Death and the Meme

In order to understand why the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is in fact, not “rapey”, we must go all the way back to the myth of Hades and Persephone, sometimes nicknamed “Death and the Maiden.” A fantastic play and Roman Polanski film (IRONY) also use this title as a reference to the myth but features an inversion of the genders, text, and subtext to craft a story of revenge both sensual and political. Rape is definitely a theme in that story, and there is certainly reason enough to reference this myth when dealing with such themes. It’s clear from the films he chose that Polanski saw women as powerful creatures brought low by cruel men, and how that pity may lead someone to destruction and resentment of the female is another discussion altogether. We’re here to talk about a Christmas song.

The original “Death and the Maiden” myth tells how Hades, lord of the dead, kidnapped his bride, Persephone, and brought her into the Underworld. Her enraged mother, Demeter, blights the earth with cold and famine on condition of seeing her daughter returned. This continues despite the pleas of other gods until Zeus tells Hades to return Persephone. He does so, but secretly sends her with seeds of the pomegranate. The pomegranate, carnal and chambered like a bloodied heart, is the original Fruit of Knowledge, as there were no apples in the lands where these myths were written. Tasting of food binds Persephone to Hades so that she must spend a third of the year with her husband. When she is away from her possessive mother, we are punished. This is why in winter, it is cold outside, if you will.

“Death and the Maiden” is where the tradition of carrying one’s bride over the threshold, symbolizing the death of the bride’s previous life with her parents through a ritualistic “kidnapping,” originates. It can be seen as a repeating motif throughout art history in countless paintings and repeated whenever a monster picks up a woman draped in white: think Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, all the way to The Force Awakens. If it doesn’t happen in one way or another, possibly even reversed, in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, I’ll be surprised. And it is echoed, in a lighter form, in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Is it a coincidence that this is a winter song? Probably. But in a Jungian way, it may be the subconscious repeating an archetype it doesn’t know it possesses.

The key to understanding, contextually, what is going on, is to understand the place of such stories in history, in ancient gender roles, in politics, and in honor-based cultures, which most conservative wartime cultures like that of Ancient Athens or WW2 America (1944 to be exact) are, almost without deviation.

Persephone ate the seeds willingly. Demeter was no fun to be around. Gods of death, for obvious reason, are often portrayed as possessive and jealous–people’s experience of death and the impossibility of bringing back the dead inform this. But there is a recurring arc of the possessive parent throughout archetypal stories, as well, and it is a right of passage to be “taken” or “freed,” as the case may be. Like Rapunzel, Persephone is her mother’s captive. Hades, “kidnapping” her, frees her from innocence, chastity, childhood, and the shackles of parental overprotection while saving Persephone face with Demeter because it was all “against her will.”

Throughout honor-based cultures run by patriarchal ideals, the Maiden is forced into the role of eternal virgin followed asexually by Motherhood, and then thanklessly, to Cronehood. A father, in this case, the entire Patriarchy, does not want to know how he gets his grandchildren — but make no mistake, a mother character can also be a patriarch.

In the Forties, to have a woman struggle against an implied sexual interlude, but only to struggle lightly, was for her to consent. There is a game being played — sex is never mentioned, and she feigns innocence because to be forward would be to imply a further depth. When culturally a woman hides 90% of her experience, to be forward is to say one is essentially a prostitute, because you’ve implied there’s 90% more beneath that layer. So everyone knows the song is about a seduction, and about the fact that she must let him seduce her, or else everyone, not just the man in the song, would be put off. When she asks what’s in the drink, it isn’t a roofie. She’s implying it’s spiked with alcohol, or stiffer stuff than her usual — because otherwise, she wouldn’t be in the process of consenting. “What’s in this drink?”, the very line many have latched onto as the “rapey” section, is the moment of consent on her part. By establishing an audible excuse for her future behavior, she’s sent the signal that she’s willing while simultaneously saying that this isn’t something she makes a habit of doing.

Persephone ate the seed willingly. Eve ate of her pomegranate first. A woman’s role in the Forties was to put on a shadowplay that the man was in control, sexually, to save face with her parents and the outside world. But we all know a threshold doesn’t hold thresh, that the monster is more alluring than the suitor waiting at home, and that the woman is who spiked her drink in the first place.

Disney’s Wayward Daughters

Demi Lovato Singer

Demi Lovato, star of Disney’s Sonny with a Chance, just checked into rehab.
Miley Cyrus, pug-faced star of Hannah Montana and daughter of Billy Ray. Father issues self-explanatory. Now auctioning off clothing (taking pictures of herself undressed) and wearing Cher-style outfits on stage, in the attempt to sexualize herself. Still looks like someone bred Hilary Duff with a pug, which is already the unholy offspring of a pig and a dog.
Lindsay Lohan, star of Disney’s The Parent Trap. Slowly transformed into coke whore and fame exhibitionist, in and out of rehab. Father dating girl Lindsay’s age who dresses and styles herself after Lindsay, implying abuse or at least inappropriate paternal relationship, probably due to a lack of the father’s presence until daughter’s pubescence. Mother riding daughter’s fame wave, enabling destructive behavior that continues fame wave, and stealing ice cream.
Britney Spears, star of Mickey Mouse Club. Drugged-up horrible mother, once married to an honorary Chalmation*, shaved head for short period of going fucknuts. IN AND OUT OF REHAB.
Christina Aguilera, starred in Mickey Mouse Club. Basically, a giant whore, although schizophrenically alternating between being a classy call girl and a tranny on Santa Monica Blvd. Had anal sex with Dimebag Darrel from Pantera, but hey, all that’s consensual, and at least she hasn’t been to rehab! BTW, if I google Britney, I get a thousand pics of Britney. If I google Christina, I get 700 pics of Christina and 300 pics of Britney. So really, I think we can all understand Christina’s little sister complex, and why she acts out. Lucky for her, Britney went fucknuts and now she’s the one looking to have actual staying power. Right now, she’s coming out on top.
Strangely enough, Ryan Gosling — successful and respected film actor. Justin Timberlake — escaped the shackles of N*Sync to be a successful pop star and garner actual respect both as a performer and an actor. So what’s up with Disney’s little girls? There’s something royally fucked in Denmark, and it has to do with either how Disney treats its girls or how it picks them. I’m going to go with a mix of the two.
Disney seems to be “saving” most of their little starlets from lower to lower-middle class families with no or severely fucked up father figures, then cleaning them up, putting wholesome little dresses on them, and tossing them aside once they’re done with them, just like their fathers did. At Mickey Mouse Club in particular, there seems to be a general atmosphere of competition between the females, either fostered by or not discouraged by Disney. In addition, they were rehearsed for insane amounts of hours just to get onto the show, let alone once they were on. Their mothers, much like all beauty pageant mothers, pushing all of their own hopes and dreams into their daughters.
In desperate attempts to try to remain relevant, they continually use sexual tactics in a game of “Hot Seat”** with each other, all while on shit tons of cocaine so they can make it through that next show or film. Now this mostly falls on the parents, or parent as the case may be, but Disney is somewhat complicit — they surely audition so many girls that in order to outdo the competition, one must have a psychotic mother and a daddy one is trying to win back by say, getting the attention of the entire world. But why are the guys fine? Is it that fathers pushing their sons eventually let go, not feeding on their child’s spotlight? Or is it that it is still mothers pushing their sons, but a son can escape their mother more easily?
Or is something more sinister at work here? I can’t help but come back to the sexualization of these Disney girls. JT and N*Sync were basically made into eunuchs. It was always insulting to me how they both used girls’ pubescent intensity and simultaneously ignored it, as if girls don’t get horny, they get crushes. All their songs were about love, while they pranced around with open white button-ups. Meanwhile, Britney and Christina get paraded around in midriffs as they sing songs that pretend to be double entendre, but in fact only make sense in a sexual context — an old Madonna trick. But all that was post-Disney, wasn’t it? I don’t know. You cannot tell me that Hilary Duff and now Miley Cyrus were not being subtly sexualized during their runs on Disney. Hilary almost got into a whore-off with Lindsay, but Lindsay clearly had more daddy issues, and now it seems Hilary Duff might be the only girl to have escaped this cycle yet — and she and her sister are no longer famous because of it.
Is it us? Is it Disney? Or is Disney just programming all of us, including their stars, that girls have to whore themselves out to get the all-desired reward: attention, attention that they never got. Maybe Hilary, Ryan, and JT just got enough love, were breast fed, and had both parents in their lives enough. Maybe they were just naturally talented enough to get in, and the rest of these girls got in because they were attractive and because they needed it so bad they made themselves hit that E over high C or put on that Catholic school girl outfit. I don’t know. Just food for thought.
*A Chalmation is a person from Chalmette. Chalmette : New Jersey as New Orleans : New York.
**“Hot Seat” is a game in acting class where the two sides of the room compete to get the attention of the audience, by any means necessary. The audience is tasked to yell out, “Left!” or “Right!” when one side wins their attention over the other.


Okay, so I bought the New Moon soundtrack, ’cause hey! Death Cab, Muse, Thom Yorke, The Killers, OK Go? That overpowered even my intense hatred of the books and overwhelming boredom with 98% of each movie. But now this is getting ridiculous. Here’s most of the band list for Twilight: Eclipse‘s soundtrack:

The Bravery
Florence & the Machine (whose song “I’m So Heavy” is pretty damn good)
The Black Keys
Dead Weather
Vampire Weekend
Band of Horses
Cee Lo Green.
Which means I’ll be getting this one as well, but here’s the thing. Something’s been bothering me about these soundtracks for a while, and I’ve been assuming it was just because of the obvious. You know, we’ve come a long way from the days of The Crow where the soundtrack first surpassed but still enhanced the film. Now we’re at the point where, pointedly, the Eclipse soundtrack eclipses Eclipse the movie by so far that it’s actually enough to drive a person mad.
But that’s not what’s bothering me, even though it’s very close. It’s not so much an overall quality thing so much as it is a sentiment thing. If the soundtracks were filled with awesome bands or extremely popular acts of any other kind, I wouldn’t be bothered at all. OK Go is actually the only band that can tip-toe on this line, but if Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, My Chemical Romance, or any of countless other teen-focused or angst-ridden bands of the last decade contributed, I would still get the record, but be far less confused. My guilt level would be as appropriate as it would for having seen the first two films in the first place (the first with Rifftrax on, the second in exchange for getting a girl to watch Buffy, hoping she will convert or at least stick to True Blood). I would enjoy that soundtrack, but keep it to myself. There certainly wouldn’t be a blog entry written about it.
No, what’s bothering me about the artists they’ve chosen is that they seem to have gone out of their way to choose sincere musical artists for their soundtracks. Sincere and mature, of all things. The songs aren’t just better than the movies or the books, they’re richer, more enlightened, and more grown-up, more melancholy inside of 4 minutes than the source material could be with all five of its books completely rewritten. These books are the inane ramblings of a not particularly deep teenage girl coming from a very sheltered life, craving a man who will control and shelter her for the rest of eternity, and obsessively cling to her as much as all of her little sycophantic male friends still. The fantasy of the immature, feminine anima aspect of us all, but not one of a mature adult woman who is healthy, or of anyone without major issues. The music chosen to represent these movies is…well, it’s too knowledgeable, too world-weary, and too honest.
The best kind of songs for something like this is not the songs from the people who brought us “Fake Plastic Trees” or “I Will Follow You into the Dark”. The perfect Twilight soundtrack needs to be music that gives into fantasy, pretends love will last forever and can somehow defeat death, that ignores a hundred years in the field of psychology and pretends there is no such thing as the Electra complex, that tells us everything will be okay if you wait till you’re married to have sex, and that the whiter someone is, the more special they are, and is naive enough to not realize that all of this is Mormon parable. Also, can we get a little age appropriate here, please? Most of the audience for these movies should not know who Thom Yorke, UNKLE, or Muse are, okay? There are bands they would recognize and would be more appropriate, however.
Here’s the bands that would actually enhance the experience of Twilight:
1. Evanescence
2. Creed
3. Flyleaf
4. Paramour
5. My Chemical Romance
6. Fall Out Boy
7. Panic at the Disco
8. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
9. Breaking Benjamin
10. Dashboard Confessional
11. Taylor Swift
12. The Jonas Brothers
13. Celine Dion
Because, make no mistake, this is The Crow being ratnerfucked by Titanic and making a weird, new Hybrid Suck Fetus of Awful for the new generation.
*PS: What are these kids called, anyway? Are they Generation Z? If so, that’s retardant. I think Generation “I” would be more accurate. Ah, well.

Make Pretend

It’s time to bark it’s time to fuck it’s time to
make pretend
We’ve got the time we’ve got the gas now let’s go
have a weekend

Remember when you took my virginity where’d you put it I’ve got a
formal to go to
Air beds squeak and bounce and toss you off, not much fun unless there’s a
friend to hold onto

Chinatown’s no fun without you
All those family portions with
Nothing but strangers to pass them to

It’s time to sulk it’s time to brood it’s time to
make pretend
I’ve got no time I’ve got no car so guess
I’m staying in

I hold the hand of mannequins now I get odd looks
at the mall
Cuz you’re not there where I wish you where
I wish you to be

This is how I forget you
Or at least how I planned to
But a dream of you still sits
typing on the laptop I wish I was in my brain

This is how I’ll forget you
Make a painting of a fake you
Build a dream of you to hold
that’s nicer, neater, sweeter and altogether more sane

Vieux Carre‘s no fun without you
All that sarcasm and
Nothing but strangers to give it to

It’s time to pack it’s time to move it’s time to
make pretend
I booked a flight, made reservations
to stay in your head

And when I get there, I won’t ever, ever leave
I’ll paint a portrait of the real you
Use shades to cover up my orange naive
Use every color in the book but that rhapsody hue

Remember when I broke my pride where’re the pieces you’ve got some
love to glue it to
Air beds squeak and bounce and toss you off, not much fun unless there’s a
friend to hold onto

No Accounting for Taste

There are some bands or artists of which I will just never understand the appeal, or rather, the intense appeal or hold they seem to have over large groups of people.

I get the Beatles, to a point. Not as much as most Caucasians with parents over 45, mind you. I get the quantity of good songs, the high quality of each effort, and the variance in and blending of what had come before. That’s why I like the White Stripes. But, much like the White Stripes, I can take them or leave them. I just don’t feel passionately about any of the Beatles’ songs except “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “A Day in the Life”. The rest are so generic and childish (Paul’s) or incomprehensible art for art’s sake (John). While that does not preclude them from being capital ‘G’ Great, how can I call a band the Greatest Band to Ever Live if I would give up their entire catalogue, forever, if it meant I got to hear “Sympathy for the Devil” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” one more time? I’m not even a Stones fan.

I’ve tried, continuously, to listen to and understand what was so good about Velvet Underground now for years. It just sounds like really high people lazily singing about the drugs they just got, and I’m sorry, not well. Plus, the production is shitty. Generally, the way white music drolled out and just laid there in the early ’60s depresses me. Give me Motown any day. Ironically, I love Lou Reed’s album Transformer. But that did come out in the ’70s.

Joy Division. WTF? The music sounds like it could sound amazing. The vocals sound like they could be distinctive and cool. So why did they go into a sewer tunnel and lay down in piss, then hook up tin cans and string to record? Was that what “Goth” was? I don’t fucking get it.

Maybe it’s because of an association with racism and/or conservatism, but most country music and Southern rock just sound like Klan rallies to me. I like “Free Bird” and “Simple Man”, but you can keep the rest of Skynyrd’s catalogue.

Lady Gaga is like Christina Aguilera, only less edgy while pretending to be more edgy. The thing is, Gaga isn’t doing anything we haven’t seen before. It’s like she read Shock Music for Dummies and cooked up some music video ideas, but the music is innocuous repetitive dance music with less to say than even her partner in crime, Beyonce. Christina did an album that took ’40s style USO music and made it talk about guys with big dicks. She just released a video that looks like a mash-up of every Madonna video ever made, but where the video looks derivative, the song is surprising for a pop star: “Cause I’m doing things that I normally won’t do / The old me’s gone; I feel brand new / And if you don’t like it, fuck you,” all while she implies she’s going to be willingly gang-banged. That is real shock. That’s feminine sexuality actually, finally, completely, unrelentingly unrepressed instead of suckling at the 30 year-old teat of androgyny. You may not like Aguilera, but she’s proud of liking to fuck. Gaga is just another repressed little girl who wants to surround herself with gay men because she’s terrified of her own vagina.

(500) Days of Summer

Over the course of my life, there have been movies and songs that seemed to be made just for my generation, or just for people in similar situations as me — Fight Club was perfect for a 19 year-old male with mother issues, Rushmore seemed made for boys who spent their adolescence in a restrictive all-male high school who prized creativity over grades. The band Tool spoke to all my interests in science fiction, philosophy, the occult. You know, deep shit.

But there are some things that transcend mere love as it is defined for music or film or a book or play. Sometimes it’s not about liking the thing, or knowing what it is talking about. Sometimes something just speaks directly to you, and you get the distinct impression that very few of the people around you are going through the same experience. Though they are laughing at the right places and tearing up at the right places, they are still sitting in a theater or listening to the radio. You are in the movie, you are in the song. It’s like you and a friend both met a very attractive girl at the same time; both of you were turned on, but one of you is a different person for having met her.

All of this is to say, I’m the type of person who has tasted the love of a good book (Stranger in a Strange Land), I have heard songs from 20 years prior that let me know that I was not alone in being alone (How Soon Is Now?), and I have been forever altered by connections made with television characters (My So-called Life).

Three movies have taken me inside them and sweat a level of cold comfort from my body, leaving me altered but thankful for it. The first was The Breakfast Club. I’d seen parts of it a thousand times, but the first time I watched that movie from beginning to end, I was just the right age to do so, and in just enough of a teenage depression to be severely helped by it.

The second was American Beauty. I remember every last bit of that experience. I remember that when I saw it, it was more about the two teenagers than it has been since. I was in my first relationship, and I was a bit of a morbid lunatic — but I was more confident than I’ve ever been since. Irina did that to me, still does. Her belief in me is so pure it can bolster me from shut-in to prophet, and I’m glad for the occasional fix of it. The plastic bag sequence and the ending narration reacquainted me with a deep-seeded joy of life of which I never fully let go.

The third is (500) Days of Summer. Most people who either saw it with me or have heard me talk about it since think I’m being a tad bit melodramatic about it, or maybe that I just need to shut the fuck up. I’m sure they’re right. I walked out comparing it to Requiem for a Dream, in that I had been traumatized. This was a joke, but not entirely hyperbolic. I didn’t know if I’d ever want to watch it again. As the days go by and my appetite to see the film again increases, I’ve realized I was wrong. I will be watching this film quite a lot.

The film basically condenses the past 4 or so post-Katrina years of my life, and the pseudo relationship of which I’ve been a part, into a 2 hour indie tour de force. Sure, it took out the distance, obviously doesn’t mention a preceding hurricane, and the relationship doesn’t advance in a series of installments when the two main characters happen to be in the same city, but like I said. Condensed. Tack onto that my man crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt that started with Brick and was solidified by a squee when he was in two seconds of a shot in Brothers Bloom, and the fact that I think I fall in love with Zooey Deschanel differently for every part I’ve experienced her play, from Elf to Trillian to Weeds to Tin Man.

The movie continually tells you what the movie is, yet it still punches you in the gut when it is what you’ve been told it is. Much like Tom, we are holding out the hope that we are being lied to, and are crushed by the truth. For me, it was a strange, unwelcome but needed wake-up call.

I am also thankful for finally having my type portrayed on screen at all. Not all men are sex-crazed commitment-phobes, and not all women are needy, insecure relationship-aholics. In my experience, nothing but the exact inverse of that has been true, and it was nice to finally have that portrayed in a film. Certainly, Say Anything had it’s Cusack, but Ione Skye was anything but a fun-loving gentleman’s woman like Summer. This version is intensely more accurate. There’s always someone who’s more into it than the other. True love, perhaps, is when everything’s even.

Marc Webb, formerly a music video director, does a phenomenal job here. His background shows in spades, from the remarkable soundtrack (which kills me all over again because of how linked the music is to specific emotions in the film), to a musical set piece that is the highlight of the movie. He also uses color, or specifically avoids color, to force us into Tom’s position a bit — the palette for the entire movie is neutral, except when Summer is present, and the amazing blue of Zooey Deschanel’s eyes subtly surround us.

If you have the time or inclination, I highly recommend the film, and if you love the film, I highly recommend visiting the website, where if you look you can find a Marc Webb-directed video for Zooey’s band, She & Him, featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a recasting of a scene from Sid & Nancy featuring Zooey as Sid and Joseph as Nancy (a reference to a line in 500 Days).

Top Ten Albums by Women

My favorite female/predominantly female-composed albums of all time:

1. PJ HarveyStories from the City, Stories from the Sea
2. Tori Amos Scarlet’s Walk
3. estherobreath from another
4. Xray SpexGermfree Adolescents
5. Liz PhairExile in Guyville
6. HoleLive through This
7. Ani DiFrancoDilate
8. Alanis MorissetteSupposed Former Infatuation Junkie
9. Sarah McLachlan Fumbling Towards Ecstacy
10. elasticaelastica