After a bit of a hiatus, I’m back. Temporarily, anyway. It’s been all work and responsibility here in the Turnbull house. I feel a bit like the mounds of ice at the end of my driveway, frozen up and rounded over by icy winds. Certain people might call me hard-bitten, but like the ice, you have to just tap at my exterior a bit and the warmth will flood out.
And on that not-so-subtle note, might I bring the discussion around to sex.
I saw this video the other day on CMT:
Jeez. God. There are too many things going on here. One could write a book on this video. But I’ll just deal with a few of the important issues.
I was tempted to call this post “When Country Became Rap”, because I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more obvious attempt to channel rap culture in a country video. The potentially interesting narrative suggestion of mobsters protecting their prohibition-esque stash en route to a party turns out to be, well, asshole dudes with a lot of cash protecting their beer en route to a party. As such, the markers of rap culture are presented to us viewers with the veil of country slapped over in a few key lyric lines (“Rock this quiet little country town/Get up, drop a tailgate on ya truck/Find a keg and fill yer cup up”), but otherwise, we have gyrating women in little-to-no clothing, bling out the wazoo, and full bodyguard protection in addition to some form of (automatic? semiautomatic? I don’t know) rifles. Rap dialect abounds unapologetically (“Pull into the party like y’all wassup ... Pretty little mama lookin’ at ya like that/Make ya wanna slide on in like ‘Girl, what’s up’ ”) in the context of a drunken bash, ending with the weak-chinned sheriff being shot by the protagonist. In case there was any question as to Brantley Gilbert’s adoption of a rap persona, the gunshots are capped off with his menacing trademark.
But I’m not so concerned with the appropriation of rap symbolism in this video. It doesn’t matter. Country has been absorbing pop music influences since time began.
Let’s turn now to a song currently on the pop charts, which I saw just after the Gilbert video:
Actually, I like this video way better.
It’s a total piece of crap song. The horn riff is annoying, the content is unimaginative, and the lyrics are so absurd, they border hilarious, but don’t quite make it. (“Dos Cadenas, closed the genius/Sold out arenas, you can suck my penis ... Every picture I take, I pose a threat/Boat or jet, what do you expect?/Her pussy so good I bought her a pet”) However, the video is arguably better: the dancing is awesome, and Derulo makes no bones about what he’s doing. He’s boasting about his conquests and requesting more. He wants to get laid, and he wants that prefaced by girls who scored an A+ in nasty vocabulary class talking to him. This is in contrast to Gilbert’s less obvious advertising for a good time; he offers himself up as the purveyor of illegal substances and rockin’ good tunes, but his ultimate goal is the same.
Here’s the real problem: men are lost.
My friend was over last week and we got drunk on a bunch of beer and talked about why we don’t need men for anything – and why our men are so happy when they seem to have a lot of control over their own lives. I’m not anti-man, believe me. We were just noting that the available roles for men to serve seem to be dwindling. I still can’t change my guitar strings, but I can pretty much do anything else – deal with the furnace, assemble a piece of furniture, check the oil in my nonexistent car. I have a career and I’m financially independent, and I could probably go have a kid on my own if I was nuts enough. Where does a guy fit into all of this?
This ain’t news to anyone, but what this realization is doing to men is forcing them into a display of hyper-masculinity, as revealed in these pop culture gems. The thinking goes that maybe a woman can clean up the cat poop, do the laundry, do everyone’s taxes, and lead a boardroom of executives all in heels and a powersuit while her dopey partner stays at home playing video games and watching porn all day, but that same woman still craves a man who’s going to throw her down and give it to her hard, a la Derulo and Gilbert, rendering her finally somewhat powerless.
Add to that the titillating power of a man with money, who can furnish his conquest with gifts and goodies, perhaps turning her daily struggle to gain career respect and credibility into a sweet hobby wherein she runs a bookstore or publishing house for fun, and the conquest is complete. So basically, in the new world of sex and romance, dirty talk, a big dick, and some cash are all men need to still claim their manliness.
What this is doing is fucking us all up. Check out the dude in the last Dan Savage entry this week, who just can’t reconcile his desire for kinky sex with the obligation he feels to date a nice girl (who will inevitably only offer vanilla sex). Bam. We’re back to the same problem of women serving only one of two possible roles for men, who are now reduced to cash-carrying sex objects, and where the hell did interesting relationships go?? As far as I’m concerned, the man who really gets me going is the one who is genuinely excited to see me every time we run into each other. He’s the one who has real conversations with me, actually takes an interest in me instead of only sucking up all the attention I have for him. And after all the real talk of common interests and shared commiseration and celebration of each other’s successes, he’s the guy I go home and fantasize about. That’s a real relationship. There’s nothing easy or straightforward about it. And there certainly is no proscribed male or female behaviour dictating its progression.
I don’t know, man. I just don’t get it. But I find Gilbert’s tattoos and earrings, truly, a thing of wonder.