Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hump Day Treat: Reader Suggestion Edition

It's the last week of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and I'm surprisingly bummed! Just as with Women's History Month, I've appreciated the opportunity to keep this particular issue at the forefront of my thoughts, mostly because there are just so many issues to tackle. Sometimes, it's comforting to focus on one.

But anyways, today's video was inspired by fellow music journalist and Bad Idea Potluck hostess Bev!

Yesterday Bev asked, "I'd like to know your thoughts on The Raveonettes 'Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)' from their most recent album In and Out of Control. I reviewed the album and wasn't sure what to make of it. [Read Bev's review HERE!!!] It seems straightforwardly anti-rape and yet the tone is so strange that I'm very uncomfortable with it."

Intrigued, and also unfamiliar with the song, I decided to go to the video:

Trigger warning: The lyrics, which are literally spelled out in the video, might be too graphic for some viewers. Please watch with caution.

Even though Bev explicitly mentioned the song's 'strange' tone, I wasn't quite prepared for this. The song is spacey, mellow, and it's written in a major key. It doesn't quite match the thematic content of the song, and I agree that it does cause a certain amount of discomfort.

But that might be the intent. It's possible that The Raveonettes purposely wrote poppy, girl-group sounding music for their apparently anti-rape anthem to bring attention to the way rape is white-washed and ignored. Rape is reduced to a minor crime that doesn't really matter or affect that many people (...kind of the way that girly popular music of various genres is often trivialized and made to seem like it wasn't very influential, huh, funny that), and to sing about rape so airily and peppily mimics that trivialization.

I read the song this way because I think that might sort of be the point of The Raveonettes as an artistic project. When I first heard the band several years ago, I didn't really like them. I understood their use of 'Americana' as a silly gimmick at best, and perhaps cultural appropriation at worst. (This raises the question of whether or not one can 'appropriate' the dominant culture, but I think that's an issue for another blog.)

Now I'm older, wiser, and possess a much better understanding of what it is that artists do. Now, I'm very reluctant to presume that Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner 'don't really get' U.S. '50s and '60s pop culture. Instead, I gather from their work that they're fully aware of what that time period and culture mean, and that they're layering modern, current, lyrics over old school rock and roll and even Motown-y sounds with the goal of problematizing that culture, and the way it's packaged in the present age.

The Raveonettes seem to want to us to ask difficult questions about the rosy Happy Days-type nostalgia that's so big here in the states. So listen, watch, and oblige them on this hump day!


Bad Idea Potluck said...

Looking forward to the post on appropriating the dominant culture.

Maggie said...

I like this song actually, and anyone bothered by the content probably doesn't get the seriousness of rape.

jamie said...

@Bad Idea Potluck: much as I've been thinking about this issue, academic literature's oft-use phrase, "beyond the scope of this study", comes to mind. If you have insights on this, I'd love to hear about it!

@Maggie: I'm glad that you like it! I think it's growing on me. I'm also intrigued by your assertion, and think it's a great point: if you're getting your training bra in a twist over someone singing about rape, maybe you need to stand back and put things 'in perspective' as they say.