Monday, May 07, 2007
"Is there any good reason why we cannot extend our multi-cultural generosity to include another dimension? That of time. The past, too, is another country. . ."
I love this little gem by Welsh author and anecdotalist Martin Amis. You see, I live in the past. Always have. And always will. And so I fully grasp in more ways than one the significance of bestowing a geographical perimeter to the past. I'm from there. I know the land well. And if we don't protect its borders, some relativistic fuckheads are going to rewrite it out of existence.
For me, anything current usually has to age a few years like a really fine wine before I'll even make an attempt to decide whether or not I can appreciate something. That's why I've never really appreciated the entire "retro" movement. . .bell bottoms, afro wigs, so bad its good. . .It's all still too NEW for me. And I think it always will be.
Sure these hipsters go back twenty years and all. . .but they've been going back twenty years for at least ten years now. And for some reason, despite the huge expanse of past to draw upon, this retro movement still keeps ending up in only place: the 1970s.
Why there? The 1970s--with the exclusion of the 1980s, the 1990s, and our present age--was possibly the nadir of all creativity, passion, and originality in the arts, education, politics. . .even fashion! Back then and unlike now, it was considered "so good, it's good" to be good. A noble pursuit. And I applaud them. Unfortunately, the citizens of the 1970s had no concept of what good entailed. Just consider the bulk of the music of the "Me" generation. True, they weren't quite in the thick of hip-hop and techno yet, but disco was well on its way to taking care of all of that.
This isn't to deny that there weren't a few anomalies: Lou Reed, David Bowie, Johnny Rotten, the cinematic anti-heros of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Sidney Lumet, the very first season of Saturday Night Live, et al. . .
But these all beg the question--why does the postmodern retro movement only seem to have the 1970s in its sights? Of all the eras for this retro movement to move into, why there? Why not 1770? Or 1666? Why couldn't the retro movement take us back to the late 1400s or early 1500s and usher in something more worthwhile than another switchblade biker-mamma movie from Tarantino's private vault?
Something like. . .oh, I don't know. . .a Renaissance, maybe?
Or better yet, a Reformation?
There is, of course, a simple reason for the unidirectional focus of the postmodern retro movement: the slimy coke-snorting emaciated whores who prostitute themselves out in our present age as "writers" and "artists" all grew up in the 1970s. So that which is played out before us under the veneer of hipness and irony is nothing more than a movement of narcissistic thirtysomethings jacking off to their own childhood.
My, how artistic.
So that is America's retro movement. Yet ours is not the only one. Outside of these shores, one of the biggest retro movements in our world today is radical Islam.
Not having experienced the glitz and glamour of the Western 1970s, radical Islam opts to move its particular brand of retro a little further back into the far nether-reaches of the past--namely, the 700s.
So bad it's good? Well, in the 700s things were really BAD. . .so that must mean they're really GOOD now. Sawing a head off, for example--sure, I mean it's a little cheesy, but it's still kind of funny, you know? And remember when we used to stone women to death for being raped? Well, we're just being ironic when we do it now.
Then comes the big finger pointed across the oceans of the past in the direction of the present: "What do you expect from us, America? You taught us to be hip and ironic!"
"Oh," says America, "so we're to blame for sharia law now? What are we, a fucking refrigerator door for you to post all your complaints on with a Koran-shaped magnet?"
And then there's a little catfight. And it usually ends up with a war or something like that.
By the way, did you see the latest statistics? This makes me sick--
1. 42 percent of Marines believe that kissing on a first date with an enemy combatant is inappropriate for a nice young soldier.
2. Only 18 percent of soldiers said that if they got an enemy combatant pregnant, would they stick around to support the child
3. Almost 78 percent of Marines said that they have no problem with spanking their enemy combatant in a busy shopping mall or other such public place.
but worst of all--
4. An astonishing 99 percent of soldiers said that they would DEFINITELY SUPPORT TORTURE*
*. . .if it helped save the lives of fellow soldiers, Americans, Iraqi schoolchildren, old men and women, mothers and fathers, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, seculars, homosexuals, non-Muslims and moderate Muslims, and the rest of the free world as we know it.
But still. . .I mean, come on!
So I don't like this particular retro movement either. Because, like the young American retro movement, it seeks to take us back to a particular dark age.
But there will be no disco balls, platform shoes, and dewdrop sunglasses in the 700s. Instead, there will be. . .nothing. . .
And a whole lot of it. . .
As for me, I'm for a retro movement that pushes the idea of "so good, it's the best." A retro-metro with stops scheduled for Bonn, Germany in 1770 to witness the birth of Beethoven, the London Fire of 1666, the VE and VJ days of 1945. A little more variety, you see. And a lot more cultural and intellectual excellence.
The past is my Linus-From-Peanuts security blanket. And no, I don't mean, "security blanket." I am a post-Peanuts child. I grew up observing adult angst, depression and the psychosocial confusion connected to postmodern therapy compressed into the words and actions of cartoon children with oversized heads. So, "Linus-From-Peanuts security blanket" holds a little extra weight with me. Charles Schultz really had his finger on the pulse of something profound.
But in the end, does any of that really matter? No. What's most important is how many black children Charles Schultz drew.
There was only one. Franklin, I think his name was.
Posted by Will Franken at 12:25 AM