Big bucks and bad boys: commercialized
Thrust n' Perry
Even if you weren’t alive in the 1950s,
there are two guys you remember: James Dean and Elvis Presley.
Dean rose to the top in Rebel Without a Cause and Elvis, the so-dubbed
king of rock ’n’ roll, “rebelled” musically.
Presley, whose manager coined the term “any publicity is
good publicity,” began a trend vital to the survival of rock
music: the rebel. The renegade figure has even been picked up by
hip hop’s “thugs” and country music’s “outlaws.”
Popular music is not exempt from the business credo “it
has to look new to sell.” In the particular case of music,
to challenge the mainstream is to become part of the mainstream.
Love them as I do, I have to admit: pioneering bands like The Clash
and Rage Against the Machine have sold a lot of records, and punk
and rap-metal scenes are financially booming (despite their artistic
Music, however, is only a thumbnail of the larger culture of pseudo-rebellion
in which we live. The rapidly changing styles of clothing which
come and go (weekly) indicate a desire to change — but to
pass off the “punk look” as rebellious is absurd. The
mere existence of a name like “punk look” gives it
an identity and puts the commodity up for sale.
Tattoos and piercings — when not so common — were
definitely a valid form of rebellion and a hearkening back to the
centuries of humanity’s tribal history, which capitalism
has wisely swept under the rug. To get a tattoo today, though,
you just walk into a parlour and pay for the service — it’s
no different than a dry cleaner.
What about Jimmy Dean’s cigarette? When it was realized
smoking caused cancer, he looked even more rebellious. But how
soon we forget: in the ’50s, people smoked like it was the
cure! Nevertheless, Dean’s estate is still raking in the
Rebellion Inc. is alive and well: even I bought a Che Guevara
T-shirt. If I wanted to honour a socialist, I paid a capitalist
to do so. The hip hop clothing on the market today is supposed
to look “ghetto,” but is distributed by industry moguls.
Think about all the paper bought to advertise “Buy Nothing
Adbusters magazine is out to raise consciousness of how advertising
works, but has to advertise itself. The Matrix made its point about
the fictions of society — from Hollywood. Michael Moore is
an anti-corporate corporation. Western consumer societies have
mastered co-opting your rebellion and then have the nerve to sell
it back to you. Sony produces a video game where the player becomes
an anti-globalization protester.
As Joe Strummer put it, we’re lost in the supermarket. So
how do we get out of the box? There are two choices: 1.) break
some branches, find a sharp rock, fashion yourself an axe and cut
down enough trees to build a longhouse, or 2.) buy something to
make yourself feel better about your consumerist impotence; something
that will make you look and feel younger and more attractive...
And I’ve got just the thing: “Swatch Revolution Snowboards.”