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.


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.

(Ballad of the) Stupid Things (Fighting to Be) in Love

Imagine a steady beat and an acoustic guitar, maybe keyboards. Pop, in the style of Death Cab / Broken Bells:

This is what you want if this is what you want

Don’t let it go

(That’s right)

If this is what you want then this is what you want

Stop letting go

Don’t you dare let go

Fell into your arms long before I knew my name

This what I waited for, this long with no detours

Touched the side of your face before I heard your voice

We’re living backwards now, it won’t be long before

We’re on all fours

Knew the color of your eyes before I saw at all

“Can we just talk a while?” And memorized your smile

Saw your face then relearned to speak

I age like Merlin now, Benjamin Button style

We’ll die infantile

This is what you want if this is what you want

Don’t let it go

Don’t let it go

If this is what you want then this is what you want

Stop letting go

Don’t you dare let go

You’ve got to hold a grip to all you love

Even if you love stupid things

You stupid thing

You’ve gotta love what goes through your grip

Even if it’s just a way of clinging tighter

We’re all lovers if we’re fighters

Oh I’ll love you like a fighter

You love her if you fight her

I love her like I fight her

I still love you, I’m a fighter

Felt the smell of your breath ‘fore I saw what you were saying

Can we just walk this hall? Till we forget it all?

Saw the touch of your mouth when I heard your name

This what I’m wanting for, this long and still indoors

This is what I want if this is what I want

I’m gonna let it go

Till it will not go

If this is what we want then this is what I want

Don’t let me go

Grab my hand, let’s go

Favorite Albums of the Aughts

1 Radiohead – Kid A
2 Tori Amos – Scarlet’s Walk
3 Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
4 Thursday – Full Collapse
5 Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
6 Arcade Fire – Funeral
7 Pj Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
8 Damien Rice – O
9 Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
10 Tool – Lateralus
11 Bright Eyes – Fevers & Mirrors
12 Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
13 Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
14 Feist – Let It Die
15 Panic at the Disco – Pretty. Odd.
16 The Mars Volta – Bedlam in Goliath
17 Glassjaw – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence
18 Deftones – White Pony
19 Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
20 Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf