September 12, 2009

Jay-Z Gives Ten Reasons Why Pop Culture Authenticity Is Real Only If It's Fake On Purpose

"But that title doesn't even make sense!"  Exactly.  Yet here you are.

I watched Jay-Z's video Death of Autotune, in which he disparages guys like T-Pain for using autotune (electronic modulation of voice) and generally for being pop "z100" music, and not authentic "hot 97" black rap music.

No lyin, your niggas' jeans too tight
Your colors too bright, your voice too light...

You niggas singin too much,
Get back to rap you T-Pain'n too much
I'm a multi-millionaire
So how is it I'm still the hardest nigga here?
I don't be in the project hallway
Talkin' bout how i be in the project all day
That sounds stupid to me,
If you a gangsta, this is how you prove it to me
Yeah, just get violent
This is death of autotune, moment of silence

Ok, calling someone less authentic than you is a standard combat maneuver.  Nothing new there.

So if Jay-Z wants to depict his authenticity, to show how and raw, honest, legitimate he is in comparison to the other "niggas" he would do this by placing himself in authentic, legitimate, true to his roots situations and settings. 

Here's where it got interesting.

Based on the video, Jay-Z  is, deep down, a guy who dines alone in Italian restaurants.


jay-z eating.JPG


who pays his respects to the chef-- or the other way around--


jay-z restaurant.JPG


etc, for more pics see any episode of The Sopranos.

My first reaction was that maybe Jay-Z had had a stroke.  Is he aware that he is not actually Italian?

After this meal, he goes to the back of the restaurant with other legitimate Italians like Harvey Keitel and, believe it or not:

jay-z poker game.JPG

Yes this is an all night poker game, yes it is played in the stockroom of the restaurant, yes they are sharing a bottle of wine and some pasta, yes that's an olive oil sign, yes those are hundred dollar bills ("this ain't a strip club"), yes they are all in suits, and no he's not kidding.

In a video about getting back to basics and authenticity, he chooses an entire persona that couldn't be less authentic.  What's crazy about this is that music today tries to be more urban, more street, more black-- things that he authentically is already, he's technically won his argument just by waking up in the morning-- and yet he instead picks a character that is  utterly unrealistic, waves it in our face and and says, "this is me, keeping it real."

II.


It would be easy to just say he's an idiot, but this is a man who is hypersuccessful precisely because he can manipulate imagery to connect to his audience.  He may be Italian, but he's no dummy.

The problem Jay-Z faces is that because all anyone knows about him is images, he has no way of signaling authenticity.  If he's shows himself in the projects or on a yacht or behind bars or on the moon, no one can know if it's really him or if it's hype.  Maybe he owns a spaceship, who knows?

So Jay-Z chooses to signal his authenticity not with authenticity, but with an already established symbol of authenticity: because otherwise, how would we know he was being authentic?   Italian= authentic, traditional; black = masculine, strong.  He already has the black part.  And it doesn't matter if the other actors are real Italians either, as long as they symbolize "Italian" which symbolizes "authentic".  Hence Harvey Keitel.

There's another major benefit from choosing a completely unrealistic symbol of authenticity.  Note that his audience isn't Italian mobsters or "kids in the hustle;" there aren't enough of them.  His audience is regular people, black and white, for whom authentic isn't "being yourself" or "true to where you came from" because for those regular people, that would be unbearably boring.   For them, authentic has to mean loyalty to the persona you made up.  This video isn't about Jay-Z's authenticity, it's about letting you choose your own authenticity.

He does this not by being Italian-- obviously no one believes he plays back room poker at Rao's; but by reducing "Italian" to a symbol or commodity that can be acquired or put on, like an outfit, in order to convey information to others.  In other words, he's using Italian as a brand.  He is more authentic branded as a TV Italian than if he was actually just himself.  Read that last sentence again.

That's how you build the Matrix.

III.

This ain't for Z100... this is for Hot 97...
That may be true; and that may convey the impression that his music/this song is elite, not for everyone, it has some reserved status and/or artistic integrity, but it is not in reality any more difficult to get it from the free radio station Hot 97 than from the other free station Z100.  In other words, it's not really elite, it's just branded as elite. 

This is anti-autotune, death of the ringtone
This ain't for itunes, this ain't for sing-along
Of course it is: here's a ring tone, here it is on itunes, here's an MP3 on Amazon, and I fully expect to see lots of guys performing it terribly through open car windows...  but that's the draw.  That's the business smarts of Jay-Z.  Brand it, make it seem elite, make it an aspirational product-- but make it easily available, everywhere.  I'm surprised he hasn't thought of selling scratchy, barely audible free underground bootleg copies of the song for $24.99. 

That's Trading Up again (and I should tell you that book doesn't describe it as a social critique but in all earnestness).  That's the two parts of profiting from effective branding. You have to make it seem elite and hidden, but make it easy/affordable to access it.   Then-- and this is the key-- the consumer has to be able to show others that they've accessed it: that's the only way other people are going to know who they are pretending to be.

IV. 

This is how kids operate, but it is also how adults-- who don't realize they are adults but still think they're kids-- act as well. I hardly need to tell you what this phenomenon is called.

Here's a random coincidence for you: there's a book called From Jay-Z To Jesus, and it has this sentence on the back:

Acknowledging that young adulthood now encompasses ages 18-39...
I'm shaking my head because they're right.

V.

Guess what this picture is all about:


eagle foundation.jpg


This past July there was a panel called "Raising Him Alone," part of the larger conference "Saving Our Sons."

Don't miss Saving Our Sons! This free community event is open to everyone who is concerned about the educational crisis facing young men of color and wants to make a difference! Learn strategies for helping our young men achieve academic, professional, and social success. This event is for EVERYONE - parents, grandparents, educators, mentors and concerned citizens because real change can only happen when an entire community is informed and engaged.

It's in the Bronx, feel free to guess at the audience.  This will include a

a panel discussion featuring prominent women who have successfully raised their sons alone.

There's two ways to make this work.  One way is to find women who have raised successful black men, e.g. doctors, teachers, etc, to offer advice about how to keep your son focused on boring academics.   But no, it features the mothers of rappers.

Well, ok.  The other way to go about it is to find mothers who, like the audience, had to raise their kids in the same adverse circumstances, e.g.  it's hard to be a black single mom raising a son in the inner city.  Drugs, guns-- all of the stuff Jay-Z used to talk about before he bought a restaurant.  However, there's a bit of a problem with their panelists, see if you can guess what it is:

Dr. Mahalia A. Hines (mother of rapper and actor Common), Dr. Brenda Greene (mother of rapper and activist Talib Kweli) and Sheron Smith (mother of Grammy nominated actor and rapper Mos Def.)

Do these women have anything in common with their audience?   Dr. Hines is nominally a "single black mother"-- the words are accurate-- but she's also a woman with a Ph.D. who sent her kid to private school.  Both of Kweli's parents are college professors.  But since their sons are pretending to be inner city youth forced to choose between rapping or dealing, they are therefore mothers of inner city youth almost gone bad, even though they're not.  But no  sane person is going to question the 'hood cred of the mother of Common.

The tragedy of this conference is that Dr. Hines et al have a real and valuable contribution to make:  how they managed, as black single mothers, to continue their own education and professions-- but that's a conference no one would attend.  But shoudn't the conference organizers have pushed for it anyway, for them to be role models in that way?  Instead of letting the women be who they are, they turned them into symbols of something that they aren't to no benefit of the community at all.

And if this is a conference about educating black kids, then isn't Ph.D. mother raising a rapper son the exact opposite of what you want?  Oh, is that wrong to say?  Imagine Eminem's mom coming to speak to white parents about the importance of educating children. 

The unfortunate message of this program is the importance of raising sons to be famous (i.e. how they reflect on you)  is more important than the example you set for your kids (how you reflect on them.) 


VI.

"What's with white kids today?  Why are they pretending to be black?"

They're not, they're pretending to be masculine.  You may not believe this, but white boys/men have no symbol of masculinity or toughness-- or of sexual power-- that they can brand themselves with.  The fictional white tough guys are either "black" or are flawed: strong in one way but weak in some other (broken men, depressed, drinkers, etc.)  They have to pull it together to be tough.  And white tough guy/heroes cry a lot.  What's up with that?

If a white kid wants to project masculine energy, he better figure out a way to be black and make it look legitimate.  Fortunately, Eminem and others have done the hard work of branding blackness, reducing it from something you are to something you adopt, turning it into apparel to wear when you need to convey information.  Now it's credible that white guys can be black without actually having to be black.  Thanks. 

The odd problem that this presents is that though black kids in the inner city may legitimately need to project toughness, the white kids'-- and many black kids'-- accumulation of toughness brands is actually useless.  However, if you brand yourself long enough you begin to believe it.  At the expense of applying to graduate school and possibly your life.

They're going to find themselves one day, full of anger and resentment and rage at absolutely nothing at all-- and middle aged.

How are the 40 year olds who got caught up in the east coast/west coast battles faring today?  Was it worth it?  It was for rappers, I guess.


VII.

Back to Jay-Z. He's probably in no danger of being deported to Sicily.  But he's definitely "drawn a line in the sand" (his words) about Autotune and rap in general.

Well, maybe.  Or maybe he realized, after making an album's worth of songs that did use autotune, that it was becoming overused and hack, and so he dumped those songs, made an anti-autone song, and prepared to pretend to be the one who caused the demise that was coming anyway.

Or maybe he's creating a fake controversy that he himself doesn't believe in, but that his audience can use to communicate to other people who they want to be: "I'm against autotune, I'm street and authentic;" "I'm for autotune, I'm artistic and fun." Fake divisions that can be used as brands. 


In that way, both he and the Autotune guys can benefit.

Here's a picture of Jay-Z performing Death of Autotune this summer:

jay-z and t-pain.JPG


See that guy next to him?  That's T-Pain.

And he looks authentically pissed.


----

Clarification on masculinity here.

And then the VMAs.

----

http://twitter.com/thelastpsych









Comments

Auto-tuned: "LP, you may n... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2009 5:03 PM | Posted by Meat Robot: | Reply

Auto-tuned: "LP, you may now officially count me and my wife among your undying fanboys."

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Ah, time to whip out the Fr... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2009 5:09 PM | Posted by Archetype: | Reply

Ah, time to whip out the Fromm (The Sane Society, in this case):

"Uniformity and conformity…are covered by the illusion of individuality, but that does not alter the facts… People are willing to risk their lives, to give up their love, to surrender their freedom, to sacrifice their own thoughts, for the sake of being one of the herd, of conforming, and thus of acquiring a sense of identity, even though it is an illusory one."

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The way I see it, the only ... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2009 5:46 PM | Posted by Basil Valentine: | Reply

The way I see it, the only way out of the multiple-bind (a matrix of binds, you might say), where even opting out is packaged and resold, is to do one's best to avoid the recursive loop of how everything you do will be interpretted. IE, listen to what you like. Art for art's sake. Not even "I'm an individual, so I listen to what I like", because that is, again, another layer between you and the real world.

The only question that matters is "do I like the sound of autotune?.

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Excellent article, the idea... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2009 6:09 PM | Posted by Adam: | Reply

Excellent article, the idea of "acting black" was never readily understandable to me, until I read this article. Most of the upper middle-class white kids loved wrapping and talking "street" now we can all see why, thank you TLP.

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If white kids can't find a ... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2009 7:35 PM | Posted by mb: | Reply

If white kids can't find a white symbol of masculinity, then perhaps they're looking in the wrong places. That guy from Man Vs Wild, for example. He's pretty badass. And sexy, I'd totally hit that. He even has a manly power name: Bear. But he's British, and everyone knows people with British accents are either effeminate or evil, so there's the fatal flaw in that example...

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1) Borderline racist, alone... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2009 10:31 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

1) Borderline racist, alone. I wuz NERVOUS reading this. Heh.
2) BTW, Eminem is also a “flawed white masculine hero” as he is well known as a lunatic, but not in a cool “I’m so tough I’ll shoot anyone” rapper kind of way. He’s a lunatic in a “I will kill my mother for reasons not fully clear” type way. There was a rumor he gained all that weight on lithium, actually. White guys are only allowed to be tough when they are also considered mentally incompetent via substance or illness. Black guys, being less mentally sophisticated according to racial stereotypes, can be tough without necessarily being relatively mentally handicapped in some way.
3) The lack of “tough” white guy images in media harkens back to the other marketed idea that raw masculinity (toughness) is primitive. White racial identity is founded upon being cerebral and creative, thanks to electronics companies and starbucks. This identity is relatively asexual, which is necessary to involve women as consumers of the products. Our (middle/upper class white) cultural identity is at odds with instinct-based extreme gender representations such as “masculinity”, this is necessitated by marketing. If whites are cerebral and asexual (non-masculine), blacks therefore must be primitive, hypersexual (masculine) in contrast. As far as the media is concerned, white people are only allowed to be primitive (“masculine”) when they are on drugs and/or mentally ill (see #3).
4) While men and women (adults) do not require gender-based role models and there isn’t much of a market for it, teenage males, most of whom have weak or absent fathers, desire/require images and symbols of raw masculinity as part of their development. The compromise our culture (industry) has come to (reconciling dual idea$ that masculinity is inherently primitive/ non-white, but yet preserving it as a product to be sold to teenage boys) is to isolate cultural images of masculinity to individuals who represent primitive thinking/behavior – blacks.
5) Note that in a healthier society with proper family structures (nuclear/extended), teenage boys would not need to import masculinity, it would be plainly modeled by family members. Note that there is not the same need (market) for female role models to teenage girls, as mothers are the default caregivers (interacting) with their children.


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6) No one cares how blacks ... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2009 10:36 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

6) No one cares how blacks feel about this (being an object used to project some idea of "masculinity" and then selling it to white teenagers who have the money to buy it). As the majority of blacks have little money to purchase products, what they think is irrelevant to cultural behavior.

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You may not believ... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2009 11:33 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You may not believe this, but white boys/men have no symbol of masculinity or toughness-- or of sexual power-- that they can brand themselves with.
Let's start with a list of deuces and check that out ...

Daniel Craig
Russell Crowe
Gerard Butler
Jason Stratham
Javier Bardem

That took about 4 minutes. And you're right, "I don't believe that." The cult of the smores says more about wanting an easy answer to all of life's problems (violence), the joy of peacock male bonding and the holy grail: sex on demand.

that's authentically depressing.

BTW, read Eminem's lyrics. Don't cherry pick the album or quotes. There's plenty of diamonds in the rough and hey, y'all might learn something.

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Off-topic, but re: Trading ... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2009 11:40 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Off-topic, but re: Trading Up--when are you going to write a book, Alone?

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As a Bronx resident who is ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 12:09 AM | Posted by acute_mania: | Reply

As a Bronx resident who is admittedly completely clueless about hip-hop culture, I am in awe.

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This is why Alone can't wri... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 12:15 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by bitpunk: | Reply

This is why Alone can't write a book (a comment I left in another TLP post, which was all about science and nothing about cultural criticism):

https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2009/08/the_best_way_to_improve_your_c.html#c004898


You're hysterical as the cynical type, and then come across as much smoother with the noncynical stuff than, say, The New Scientist. OTOH, the noncynical stuff establishes some basic credibility without which you wouldn't be able to pull off the kind of cynical stuff.

In other words, "The most important article in psych you'll ever read" needs "Geodon is not BID" to be meaningful (as in "this is not just a douche posting random pictures, he's got a point"), and vice-versa.

Yeah, I'm kind of a TLP groupie. OTOH, you need the PayPal tip jar because neither the cynical nor the noncynical persona are good book authors – nor would a zombie combination of both – though your chops and your cheap shots are both sound. That's kind of the reason I never went for broke as a standup comedian.

Basically, he has two personas, and both rock out, but only because of the nature of their interconnection. Mencius Moldbug (another blogger I don't know personally) has managed to fuse geekish futurism with hyperburkean royalism, but these "facets" have to be reconciled (which is the very spectacle of his persona), while Alone's "facets" feed off each other quite naturally, like siamese twins, and the magic dies if they're separated.

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I can think of one example ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 2:58 AM | Posted by Captain Swing: | Reply

I can think of one example of non-violent white male masculinity: Don Draper from AMCs Mad Men. But he is very much targeted at an older audience, not teenagers. Interestingly "Don Draper" is an entirely ficticious identity.

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How should we feel about th... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 5:20 AM | Posted by mark: | Reply

How should we feel about the identity vacuum that results in people making the depressing decision of choosing to become a "pro autotune person" or an "anti autotune person?"

Could our society be better and have "authenticity" (does it even mean anything anymore?) or people who don't have to interact through the retarded process of symbolic product consumption?

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miscellaneous thoughts:... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 11:42 AM | Posted by Aaron Davies: | Reply

miscellaneous thoughts:

@everyone: afaik, eminem is authentically black in every way except his actual genetics. this probably says more about detroit than anything else, but it's still interesting.

@bitpunk: yay, another fan of mencius! do you comment on UR? i don't recall seeing this handle on there.

@captain swing: i still can't figure out whether the writers/directors/producers of mad men mean for us to find anything positive in don. so much of the show is devoted to sly "20-20 hindsight" gimmicks ("it's not like the there's a magic machine that makes copies of documents!", to lingering shot of the drapers happily leaving their picnic trash behind in park, gay Sal) that i have a hard time seeing its being meant as anything but a harsh critique of the "pre-sixties" culture. (personally, and see the above @bitpunk, i prefer to view it as mencius moldbug might--a glimpse at a grown-up world that the counterculture and the media destroyed.) if we're meant to see anything good in "don", it's probably his status as the ultimate self-made man.

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What bothers me the most ab... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 11:46 AM | Posted by Bryan: | Reply

What bothers me the most about all of these fake identities is how accepted they are and the effect it has on people who are actually honest with themselves and not just part of the herd. Being intellectually honest in a dishonest society can be quite painful.

I think the same auto-tune analogy can be applied to sports fans. Sometimes these pop culture controversies, just give uninteresting people something to talk about that is "safe" to disagree on, like Browns vs Steelers Fans. One of my best friends is a girl who watches football just so she'll have something to talk about with her guy friends. She doesn't like football.

I'm sick of having to choose between the blue and red pill every time I wake up. I guess it's my choice though, choosing who I wish to engage in conversation or associate with. This has made my social circle smaller that it once was. I am the water blaming the glass I'm in for my shape. For me, this is less of an issue and more of an observation of my situation.

BTW, I went on trial for erroneous weapons charges earlier this year. Does that make me a "real" gangster?

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All of these are about Afri... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 12:23 PM | Posted by KayleighKins: | Reply

All of these are about African American men, what happened to the women? Oh right, they don't matter. Not even our first lady, all anyone cares about are her damn arms.

Can I just say he looks a million times better in a pressed shirt and tie? Good God, if he inspires his fans to do the same, then all power to him. Putting on clothes creates an image, absolutely, this isn't anything new. Everyone just needs to understand that these people (all races) aren't just trying to dress like gangsters, they're trying to dress for success. In the "gangster's world" sneakers that match your shorts, shirt and hat are equivalent to a suit and tie. It's not any different from the 1950s image of a man, just different clothes, the meaning is the same (for them).

@mb: Man vs Wild is utterly and completely flawed. The entire movie/book/life he leaves people who would love him and care for him. He is so wrapped up in himself and his aloofness that he is not capable of seeing the good in front of him, the good of the people around him. At the end, he dies, half because of his unbearable loneliness, because there was no one around to save him. There is nothing about that man that should be idolized in any way.

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@ Kayleigh:You are... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 1:48 PM | Posted by sasasasasa`: | Reply

@ Kayleigh:

You are mixing this dude:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bear_Grylls

up with this dude:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_McCandless

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Holy crap yes I am, thank y... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 2:04 PM | Posted, in reply to sasasasasa`'s comment, by KayleighKins: | Reply

Holy crap yes I am, thank you.

Um, for the record Bear is badass.

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I'm an example of white mal... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 2:26 PM | Posted by T-pane: | Reply

I'm an example of white male masculinity...

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I think the real problem he... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2009 10:41 PM | Posted by Twunked: | Reply

I think the real problem here is the kind of false dichotomy that Mark brings up — the idea that one must be pro-Autotune or anti-Autotune, instead of just saying well, yes, we could probably do with a bit less Autotune, but some highly entertaining celebrities owe their careers to it, so it's not all bad.

This extends well beyond the problems highlighted by Jay-Z (really? We're still using the tired old Italians-as-gangsters trope?) in his video. This either-or thinking places people at the poles, without allowing the subtleties of the continuum. Mac v. PC. Democrat v. Republican. Vampires v. werewolves. Doesn't that destroy the kind of discourse that leads to productive consensus? And it's a chicken/egg argument: which is driving which, consumption or branding?

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For them, authentic has ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2009 3:37 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

For them, authentic has to mean loyalty to the persona you made up.

What defines an authentic persona? Granted, there are factual requirements - you can't claim to have been raised in Appalachia if you've never been - but as for a set of ideals and goals that one adopts, they're all artificial. The music we like, the politics we agree with, the myths we subscribe to, and the phrases we use are all borrowed. A truly authentic personality would be a feral child.

The problem is stupidity and laziness. Laziness leads people to copy actions that seem to be valuable to others, and stupidity doesn't question the actual value versus the specious. People copy visible solutions whose merit they don't evaluate.

What can be done, though? Nothing. Hand wringing and pontificating. Things are the way they are because that's how people work. Until people begin to question the actual value of adopting a given attribute, things remain the same. Surely, someone who thinks that being an asshole attracts women will take notice of his repeated failure? If they can't see that reality does not match their theory, what hope can we have?

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Bull.1. Cowboys<br ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2009 10:03 PM | Posted by anonsf: | Reply

Bull.
1. Cowboys
2. Chuck Norris
3. Rambo (pure Philadelphia)

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No, your list is evidenc... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2009 10:22 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Alone: | Reply

No, your list is evidence of my point. Your list has guys who are tough, but not "tough guys."

I'm assuming Russell Crowe and Gerard Butler are references to Gladiator and 300, respectively. Those characters are certainly tough, but it is no coincidence that the they both belong to an entirely different era where that behavior was prized. Those characters can't exist now, because honor and emotional steel aren't valued as much as relentlessness tied to emotionality (think Jack Bauer again.)

I concede, however, that Jason Statham is such a tough guy, serious, strong, no outward displays of weakness, any emotional baggage is kept deep. He is "ice," "hard," etc. He's Steve McQueen with muscles.

Schwarzenegger was such a tough guy. NB: not native American, and not this generation's action hero.

And when you consider Schwarzenegger of then and black tough guys of now, you begin to realize that what really made them tough was the lack of depth of their characters. The "tough black sidekick" was there as supporting cast only to be tough, to make funny one liners. But, and this is exactly my point, when people want to emulate (word chosen carefully) toughness, they are therefore forced to emulate that same shallowness in order to achieve the desired toughness.

It may be impossible to create a contemporary white tough guy with depth on TV or movie-- you'd probably need a book. But, and again my point, if you do not create this, then people will simply gravitate to whatever AVAILABLE representation of toughness there happens to be.

I guess I should say something about the state of fatherhood-- any no nonsense, straight to the point, honor/duty/family first fathers out there?-- but that's for another time.

James Bond is a very unique situation, arguably the epitome of what it means to be a "white" tough guy-- finesse over strength, etc. All of these are stereotypes, of course, which is again the point.

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What bothers me the most... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2009 10:35 AM | Posted, in reply to Bryan's comment, by fraise: | Reply

What bothers me the most about all of these fake identities is how accepted they are and the effect it has on people who are actually honest with themselves and not just part of the herd. Being intellectually honest in a dishonest society can be quite painful.

Absolutely. Also called "the tall poppy syndrome" and "hammering down the nail that sticks up", yep. It might be interesting for Americans to know that in the rest of the world, the US it not at all seen as an individualistic culture, but as one that "values teamwork and conformant behavior", to put it in cultural-studies-neutral terms. Only Americans who've never lived a significant amount of time in a non-English-speaking culture claim that the US is individualist. (I say non-English-speaking not because other English-speaking countries are necessarily like the US, but because it's far too easy to imagine they are, even living there for a long period of time, when you don't have to change something as fundamental as your native language.)

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fraise, have you been to Ch... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2009 3:43 PM | Posted by anonymouse: | Reply

fraise, have you been to China, Japan, Korea, or Vietnam then?

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<a href="http://www.salon.c... (Below threshold) Please! We do not ad... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2009 8:55 PM | Posted by Paula: | Reply


Please! We do not admire/idealize actual men who love and are present for thier children. Why do we need a tough guy macho thing?
I do not get it!
I did not care about models and I liked Angie Dickensen in Police Women. She did her job and was still who she was. I also liked Rhoda, and she is pretty much her character. Oh, and Penny Marshal as Leverne. My females do not have to be some fake tited anerexic bubble lipped borderline who never eats. Whats wrong with you guys?
Ugh! I just saw a special about these women teachers and priciples PARENTING and RE-PERENTING- what- who -guess- NO way- NOT BLACK inner city blacks!! Get out! Thier parents have no degrees/vocation and no fathers- NO!!! Get out!!! I mean really- if your a self centered asshole--you have kids without considering thier future security and stability. Are there so many more blacks that are just not smart enough to get this concept? No identity? No real parenting skills need to be learned? Kids just fall out of your vagina and take care of themselves? Really?
I see poverty/sexism in rap and OLD country music- but in counrty music NOW-they have learned BIG time to make it very sensitive and about women- love- closeness. They are not allowed to treat white dumb asses like bitches and ho's. They LEARNED. Sensitive cowboy crooners make the cash now.
Even punk rockers didn't hate women- they hated the queen/intellectuels! All the old school black crooners sang love songs- this new breed hates women, and kill each other!Gross!ugly!
No identity due to no father and stupid mother's- horrible culture. Obama is the ultimate man-right now!!

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anonymouse, I have been to ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2009 9:44 PM | Posted, in reply to anonymouse's comment, by Blargh: | Reply

anonymouse, I have been to Thailand, Japan, and lived in Indonesia, and I never really saw any substantive difference between people there and here (in the U.S.) w/r/t individuality. Except, US-ians talk a lot more about it. Is this wrong?

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That was very funny!... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2009 9:56 PM | Posted by Andrew: | Reply


That was very funny!

Andrew
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<a href="www.ted.com/talks/... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 2:43 PM | Posted by The Complex Days: | Reply

Authenticity is a two by two matrix.

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The people who are arguing ... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2009 6:50 PM | Posted by Claudius: | Reply

The people who are arguing against Alone's point are most likely white males who feel insecure about the societal view that black males are more masculine that white males. Well, in general, they are. I'll explain why.

Like most stereotypes, this one is based partly in truth. Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but I'd say this one holds true in most cases. It has more to do with socio-economic status and your living area than skin color, though.

Where do the majority of the white people in this country live? The suburbs. Oh, the white suburbanites. Scare will you find the white suburbanite who has been in a real fight or endured any type of real hardship (other than mommy and daddy don't pay enough attention). They know they can't fight/be tough, and none of their friends do either, so they look at people who can fight (inner city blacks) and act like them to be tough.

There is no model of masculinity. In the inner city, you stick with your group. You have loyalty. You depend on each other to survive. In the suburbs you bitch and complain about getting your next videogame. There is no sense of loyalty, no masculinity. Although most inner city kids (black and white) are tougher than suburbanites, even their model of masculinity is flawed. The concept of what it means to be a real man was lost long ago...

Centuries ago, traditional education of boys used to include martial training. It's part of being a man. Men have a part of them that wants to kill and it's needs to be recognized and tamed. Parents, administration and lawyers in suburbia attack/sue/punish any boys that try to solve their problems with their fists and then wonder why school shootings occur.

It's like trying to suppress sex drive. It's not possible. All base instincts need to be addressed, not ignored, and taught how to be controlled.

I believe the rush and discipline martial training creates would dissolve many of the emotional problems in suburbia.

Perhaps that's why Fight Club was such a phenomenon. But even Tyler Durden was flawed. The best you can do as a white male is to be a crazy white male. (As Alone speaks of...)

Green Street Hooligans is another movie that accurately displays a white US suburbanite being taught how to be a man (again, not without flaws). But he doesn't learn it from his father or in the US. He learns it in England from the leader of a football firm.

High school latin taught me that the Romans would describe a true man as one who possessed "virtutem." A weak translation of this word means "courage"--but it means much more than that. It refers to all the qualities a man should have--"manliness" in a not cheesy sense.

I always wondered why there was no word synonymous with "virtutem" in english...

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I'd like to know if TLP let... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2009 10:54 PM | Posted by Information Addict: | Reply

I'd like to know if TLP lets his kids watch tv.

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I work in higher ed (a prof... (Below threshold)

September 25, 2009 9:36 PM | Posted by Jack: | Reply

I work in higher ed (a professor) and I can tell you that academia has been de-masculinized to a terrible degree. I has not been "feminized" (which would imply some female attributes), but merely been made dull. The edge is gone. There was a time about 20 years ago that deans started caring more about feelings than about research productivity. A fellow faculty member actually got a D he assigned turned to an A by a dean. Why? Because the professor used "harsh language" to talk about a state where the student once lived. This was said to constitute a "hostile learning environment." Now journals are filled with articles that have not been truly critiqued by peers. There is a general sense that BS can be allowed and tolerance must reign. No wonder students graduate with a terrible knowledge of basic science, social theory, and life. We are no longer allowed to teach them the lessons. The result = rampant narcissism among people who could have been so much more.

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I haven't seen the video, b... (Below threshold)

September 26, 2009 10:11 AM | Posted by Ben: | Reply

I haven't seen the video, but based on the screenshots, I wonder if you could be missing the point here. The song is a critique of those who are not being real or authentic. Have you considered that Jay Z is using the visuals to illustrate the concept of inauthenticity? Yes, it's jarring to see Jay Z "playing" at being a gangster...and that's pretty much the point, right?

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Great article. I totally en... (Below threshold)

October 10, 2009 8:42 PM | Posted by Yonathan: | Reply

Great article. I totally enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

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One thing to note is that J... (Below threshold)

October 18, 2009 6:06 PM | Posted by Vladimir Sedach: | Reply

One thing to note is that Jay-Z is riding the anti-autotune meme initiated by even more "authentic" rappers this spring:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8RqgDsO3c4

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I have searched the net and... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2010 1:33 AM | Posted by Mary: | Reply

I have searched the net and I should say I've not come across an article like this which is so easy to understand and learn .
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Been a while seeing this po... (Below threshold)

November 29, 2010 3:44 AM | Posted by stretch mark removal: | Reply

Been a while seeing this post. I stumbled upon one that has this story here also and I got myself hooked on the instances that did happened here. I am thoroughly intrigued by this.

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<a href="http://reduce-stre... (Below threshold)

November 29, 2010 3:46 AM | Posted by stretch mark removal: | Reply

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How is going to say death t... (Below threshold)

December 29, 2010 9:56 PM | Posted by matreiya: | Reply

How is going to say death t auto-tune, when he has Rihanna on his label and she is a complete auto-tune artist.

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I think Jay-z is saying the... (Below threshold)

March 27, 2011 3:21 PM | Posted by wart removal: | Reply

I think Jay-z is saying the truth. autotune is very annoying to the singers that make an authentic songs. Death Of autotune song is really cool as for me!

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Jay Z is one of the singers... (Below threshold)

April 1, 2011 10:36 AM | Posted by James Byden: | Reply

Jay Z is one of the singers who says real thing about culture, art and politics
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its really a good writeup,... (Below threshold)

March 18, 2012 10:55 AM | Posted by ptc: | Reply

its really a good writeup, would be interested to read such more informative draft from you ahead, can be a wonderful help to the new readers like me.

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Yall totally missed this on... (Below threshold)

April 25, 2012 9:20 AM | Posted by B: | Reply

Yall totally missed this one. The video is simple. Who do you think of when you think about putting a hit on someone? The Italian mafia. Jay is saying "I haven't been street-level for a long time. Matter of fact, I've been an OG player so long that I'm even in with the sicilians [or might as well be sicilian]. I decided that autotune needed to die, and I'm putting a hit out on it." The whole Italian thing is just to set him up as a boss with the authority to kill that autotune shit whenever he wants. No hidden messages about masculinity and authenticity, just a little storytelling.

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Bear Grylls is a "badass" o... (Below threshold)

April 25, 2012 2:54 PM | Posted by gral: | Reply

Bear Grylls is a "badass" only to people who spend all their time in concrete jungles and cement&steel canyons. To folks who actually spend significant time in the bush, Grylls is an annoying ponce who couldn't do much of anything without his 21st C technological safeties. There's so little reality in Grylls' schtick that it reminds me of MTV's "The Real Life" -- completely contrived, but presented as real.

And the name "Bear" is just the killing shot of the whole gambit. At least they didn't nickname him Aardvark or Earthworm, I guess.

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PS:For pasty white... (Below threshold)

April 25, 2012 2:58 PM | Posted by gral: | Reply

PS:

For pasty white adolescent males who lack a positive model of masculinity, maybe they could check out a movie that I saw someone else mention in a different thread here. It's Lee Tamahori's "The Edge" and the character worth observing is the one played by Anthony Hopkins, in contrast to the one played by the always-annoying egomaniac Alec Baldwin.

Or they could always assume that Black = primitive masculinity = badass = great role model. I guess.

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"I'm against autotune, I'm ... (Below threshold)

April 3, 2013 4:58 AM | Posted by Zombomb: | Reply

"I'm against autotune, I'm street and authentic;"
"I'm for autotune, I'm artistic and fun."

why oh why didn't you write "fun and artistic". You would have had a catchy pop lyric discussing pop discourse.

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he's in Rao's btw - an Ital... (Below threshold)

June 18, 2013 7:37 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

he's in Rao's btw - an Italian restaurant in Harlem frequented by both black and Italian gangsters. Quite authentic for him to be playing poker there.

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