No Wonder in Wonder Woman

ww-1

Wonder Woman was the last Justice Leaguer I met when I was a kid. I spent most of my afternoons watching TVO, Fox Kids, and YTV: the latter of which featured debuts and reruns of the iconic DCAU Batman and Superman series. Between the stellar superheroines (even antiheroines) in X-Men and Spider-Man, I wasn’t exactly thinking too hard about the absence of women when it came to action and adventure; but I also wasn’t keen on the difference between DC and Marvel, the latter of which seems to have an endless erection for Wolverine despite its notoriously vast and diverse galleries of narratives.

Wonder_Woman

I met Wonder Woman in the early 00s when the Justice League animated series came out, and became more acquainted with her through cult coverage in documentaries or comic conventions. She seemed like a powerful character: a literal Amazon whose allies and nemeses were themed through Greek mythology, which appealed to me since I liked to read those classics in middle school. Her star-spangled costume with its trademark tripartite of red, white, and blue iconized her in the vein of Captain America: appealing to Americana and fashioning the heroism ascribed to the Allies whom ultimately won WWII whilst championing the USA. She was also strong and intent. Despite the chauvinism that marks faculty and fandom that surround a lot of canon, compared to her male cohorts, Diana was ironically less flushed or furious than forthright. What struck me about her story was how I felt it could parallel the X-Men [my favourite series tbh]. Her narrative was driven less by justice than discovery. Sure, she fought for ‘justice,’ but she was driven by a sense of urgency and reckoning that was yielded from an irresolute identity and past. She left Themyscira to war past and despite a realm of reservation, forged friendships, cultivated mortal enemies, and discovered the dynamics of being beyond duty.

31305__2

I’m sure there would’ve been an abundance of insight into that development and likely legendary enemies or allies added to her roster had she’d been picked up with her own DCAU series—but she wasn’t. Neither were a bunch of my beloved favourites, even if they did manage to earn the odd DCAU movie special or motion comic. Which is why the recent Wonder Woman movie was so ground breaking. Not only did it grant Diana her deserved debut to the big screen, it also reaffirmed the revelatory ethos she stood for and dignified her as a feminist icon: a beacon of light and strength amidst the otherwise all-male Justice League and spotlighted narratives. Wonder Woman was never a feminist idol of mine, although I did think she was a feminist and likewise represented feminism. I was keener to Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Zatanna when it came to DC; while Storm, Rogue, Jean Grey, Black Cat, and Calypso were my faves for Marvel. Wonder Woman was great, but I felt a bit conservative in how she emblematized Americana and idealism whereas my picks were pronounced through power, prowess, and prerogative.

maxresdefault

That doesn’t make Wonder Woman a ‘bad’ feminist or superheroine by comparison. It just means that I hold respect and space for Diana in a different way. Admittedly, I looked at her with new respect when the Injustice games came out. She not only mobilized the misguided Amazon army to rise above an autocratic regime against her evil twin, but she inclined people to discern between independence and interpersonality as well as pride. Her feminism was explicit rather than just implied according to her prior incarnates. She spoke directly of how men can convolute women: how misogyny drove the adoption the autocracy of Superman, and how any allegiance to him was self-destructive as well as superficial against the ethos and hubris of real warriors. And, she did actually say this stuff. Not word for word or quite as abstract, but there’s a portion where she declares these principles during the story mode. It was then my heart took a dive as she proceeded to emphasize ideas the clank of her sword against her shield, then knocked her evil twin out cold, and led the charge of her warrior sisters against Aquaman’s army. This Diana got me thinking. I could get into this side of Wonder Woman.

ww-01748c-h_2017

Then, some years later, Wonder Woman was announced. Knowing that it was going to be run and adjunct to the lackluster series of films which comprise the latest DC hero franchise, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. For me, the recent movies—Man of Steel and Batman v Superman—bastardized any original character or canon which kind of undercut the source material. Not to mention we saw Superman and Batman on the big screen many times. Given the span of time, the frequency and continuance of their reboots was becoming more of a nuisance than a running gag; a lot like Wolverine. So, a Wonder Woman narrative which shared a similar budget and campaign was refreshing, if not surprising. It wasn’t just going to be great to see an alternate take; it was going to be epic because it hadn’t been done before. Yet, I still found myself mildly unimpressed with the promos and previews—and eventually, the actual movie. Diana was reduced to romance and rebellion rather than strength, urgency, and undertaking. Themyscira read like an afterthought to her fascination with the outside world. She embarks to eviscerate not because she can, but because of clumsy attraction. This Wonder Woman was nothing like the champions I’d read into or watched onscreen over the years, and she was the polar opposite of the star Injustice had made me fall in love with. I still don’t have the spoons to do a film review, but all I can say is that she was like a caricature: a witless warrior whose quest wasn’t to innovate or liberate, but to become one of the guys.

ww_gif

Which is accentuated by Gal Gadot. She was briefly scandalized for being a Zionist, but people could’ve cared less once Wonder Woman broke. The movie captivated critics and was acclaimed by audiences as revolutionary. Folks fancied that it was a text which transmuted the mainstreamed misogyny and signal boosted ‘feminism’ as a matter of representation. Little girls and teens could now assumedly identify with this genre because it had afforded them a leading woman. As if Wonder Woman’s regalia hadn’t already afforded them that before this film. As if everything would’ve been undermined had it featured another actress.

Wonder-Woman-trench

Consequently, Gadot was iconized akin to Wonder Woman by fans whom thereupon imposed their ideologies. She became an avatar of ‘girl power’ in light of her casting, and further assumed the role when she refused to work with Brett Ratner whose sexual harassment was exposed in the wake of callouts which followed Harvey Weinstein. I honestly don’t think much of celebrities when it comes to activism or advocacy, especially the declaredly ‘feminist’ ones whose social justice is operant upon their social capital. For me, Gadot’s Zionism and cult of celebrity discredited any likeness to Wonder Woman and feminism as I knew it. Because, the personal is political. Politics inform and reflect our worldviews, and their principles signify encoded values we abide and legitimate. Zionism is not merely problematic nor can it be divorced from someone’s personality; and given historical horrors and current events, I don’t think it should be taken lightly, especially when its assumed by a prominent celebrity who is cast as some symbol of feminism or revolution. I also just don’t think it’s wise or realistic to levy that much likeness upon one person or one text. The personae of Wonder Woman and similar heroines related as feminist are vast in and of themselves. Gadot and Wonder Woman are simply singular instances, however informed they purport to be by the whole.

tumblr_static_duc4608p4i88w0gsk8ow8w8wg

Which is why when this story broke, I was unmoved by the shock and outrage it has elicited from Wonder Woman and Gadot fans. Regardless of the script, Gadot’s correlation to Zionism spoke to a degree of amorality and antipathy which was evident in her deliverance of the role. I could also note that she seldom spoke of feminism or politics beyond that in real-time—which made all these assumptions of her feminist fervor all the more ludicrous, if not unfounded.

Comic-Con International 2017 -

When it comes to the hype of Hollywood and celebrity, prospects aren’t so much limited as they are sustained. If something is made, it’s bought. Its dislike doesn’t discount its dollars. Which is why Wonder Woman and others like her can be commodified and commercialized through any means. If their stories are ever dignified, they’re applauded. Their mere existence is seen as radical even if there is nothing particularly innovative in how they are delivered or conceived, even in considering their constituents or market objectives. I don’t know if Wonder Woman will ever get the diverse, continued cinematic treatment equivalent to her comic counterparts. What I do know is that I’m not the only one displeased by this one as it stands; nor am I the only one who discerns between the face of the character onscreen and whom or what that face belongs to IRL. Diana might not have had the profound, perspective feature film I’d hoped for; but she has had a good run and I won’t let Gadot or any other casting discredit that.

Hi, Society

gossip-girl-chuck-3

Back in 2007, I was bouncing from coasts between high schools for what was left of my sophomore year. Guitar Hero, synth-pop, leggings in lieu of pants, along with the prominence (and pervasion) of forums were all the craze. Haute was being subverted through kitsch avant-garde that was nonchalant and nihilistic, somewhat nostalgic of Warhol and the dystopian edge of the eighties.

Gossip-Girl-Verizon-4_ivfhus

Social media was also taking on a new life and meaning. Platforms like Blogger, Myspace, and MSN faded out against Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; the latter of which offered more immediacy and interconnectivity with clicked connections that enabled prompt, personalized content as opposed to tailored templates. Despite their more multiplex and expedient advances, these new sites and services were as accessible and user-friendly as their predecessors; but they were also as frenzied. The individualism was indulgent and immoderate, because there was—and still is—no oversight of this mass connectivity. People connected easily and swiftly, but not necessarily nicely.

The late 2000’s cultivated countercultures through cyberspace which were amenable to activists, but conversely bred toxic trenders and trolls; and unlike the live moderators or some semblance of staffers (however arrogant) of the ‘old days,’ amoral algorithms and unresponsive personnel then supplanted management or moderation. Which is why Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram operate as walled gardens whose fruitful objectives are more quantified than qualified. They’re bigger, better playgrounds, but there’s nothing or no one to prevent somebody—or if you’re targeted, legions—from dunking your head in the sand or cracking your teeth off the monkey bars.

nategg

But, I could’ve honestly cared less back then. I was a sophomore, soon-to-be junior, then senior who was absorbed in aces and university applications. Social media didn’t really appeal to me either since I wasn’t keen on being social. I didn’t have many friends. Between relocations, burying myself in school and work, and what would become clinical anxiety: I couldn’t. I also just wasn’t into what was trending. Around that time, most folks in my generation (and some before) were swooning over sparkly, stalker vampires whose concept of romance was obsession—and that yielded an even creepier offshoot which nauseated me, and still affirms an apocalypse or the inevitable extinction [via self-destruction] of our species. These trends, however tripe, dignified the somewhat conspiratorial theories posed by the anti-tech crowds. The internet had bred the means and ends to not simply imposing insights and ideologies, but indoctrinating them. People became content creators who could—and did—cultivate and capitalize upon followings whose interests were not merely interconnected, but intertextual.

99daa94688048b8bf9c7b5022c6e52af--chuck-blair-chuck-bass-and-blair-waldorf

Positively, this fractured the gatekeepers. Esteems earned through some establishment were no longer the exclusive determinants of merit or success. The con was pure, unadulterated populism. Free press risked the reverence and redistribution of rubbish. Catharsis could be captured, then consumed through clickbait. Our concept of that surplus, simulated connectivity bled into our concept of real life in very real ways. Society itself is social; but when media mitigates that, the social can wholeheartedly supplant rather than strengthen or subvert the personal and political. Everything becomes a spectacle: a matter of subscribers, shares, likes, hashtags, and filters in which an audience is amassed and applauds. Practice, pleasure, and personality become more performative because it isn’t about catharsis; it’s about a curtain call.

eblastblair

The prospects and power of social media are well-known today, many of which have produced some notable celebrities; but it was only the tip of the iceberg when I was in high school. Social media could create social moments. Folks were eager and excited to navigate their news feeds and create their own headlines. The ludicrous albeit lucrative trends had entertained and inspired people to share, sell, and sympathize; because trends are temporal and definitive. And, these new [social] networks enabled some superfluous signs of the times.

chuck3

Maybe that was why Gossip Girl was such a hit. The series was created in the same vein as its producers’ prior hit, The O.C. which I was probably too young to get into when it first came out. It was based off a bestselling young-adult series of books, but moulded in the interests of teen angst which meant crucial, liberal departures for the sake of television. Families were drastically scaled down from their literary extensions as were the more marginalized identities of sexuality and gender fluidity, which made for a relatively tame cast of pretentious personalities. What made Gossip Girl distinct were its subtexts of classism, nepotism, elitism, and oligarchy. Most of the characters were woefully wealthy and wicked, whereas the poorer people were craven for acceptance. Everyone was envious, enchanted, and entitled to each other. Everyone had a story that simultaneously anguished and admired avarice and artifice—which was the tragic irony of it all.

'Gossip Girl' TV Series, Season 2 - 2008

The eponymous ‘Gossip Girl’ was an online persona who ran a notorious blog devoted to narrating and knocking the lives of the main cast, for richer or poorer. Its surrealism is marked by its presence as operant as opposed to just existent. The blog was frequented and functional. It incorporated tips from onlookers which were substantiated by pictures, texts, or other messages, some benign and others malicious. Gossip Girl was effected as an equalizer who humbled its loathsome, lavish subjects amongst pessimistic peasants whom came to climb and rival their ranks. It provided a fictional, but resonant account of how real lives are affected by the ‘reality’ of social media; even if that ‘reality’ isn’t real.

gossip-girl-season1_2

Which is why the recent #MeToo hashtag assumed a life of its own in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s cancellation and comeuppance as a pig who weaponized his industrial interests and insights to extort sexual favours and rape with impunity. #MeToo went viral shortly thereafter to signal the solidarity of women whom had predominantly been victimized, antagonized, and otherwise objectified sexually by men whom had nonetheless prospered. Celebrities applied the hashtag to their own experiences in Hollywood, whereas others used it upon reflection of their overall assaults and ensuing traumas which were enabled by rape culture: a rape culture that social media has not only exacerbated, but aided in its venues which range from chauvinistic forums to crash dumps of revenge porn; all with faulty algorithms that discern offenders are somehow not in violation of Community Standards. Gossip Girl explored this briefly in some of its seasonal arcs, where the titular blogger is privy to sexts, sex tapes, and sexual histories of women whom are subsequently scorned or [slut-]shamed.

original

I only watched Gossip Girl for Chuck Bass. He was suave, seductive, and surrealistically shrewd amongst the other moneyed misfits and hated the have-nots. He was also a rapist. The first season saw him as a misogynistic misanthrope whose toxicity is haphazardly implied to be justified by his unresolved Mommy and Daddy issues. After trying to force himself onto another character, he attempts to rape a freshman some episodes later—which is pretty much glossed over after he’s consequently punched and he somehow manages to become a redemptive, definitive personality of the overall series.

tumblr_m4w3tj1RvK1qcqbdbo1_500

Chuck was someone I related to family-wise and in the sense of how I internalized. I disliked people; and I was actively aware—sometimes, in awe—of how they could be airy and artificial on instinct, even to their detriment. My cynicism prevented any suspension of disbelief which was a requisite for imagination or immersion. I was more avoidant than escapist, but I preferred to take more than I gave. The difference is that I didn’t just take; and I exercised empathy in that I likewise felt wasn’t not entitled to anyone’s time or energy, because I knew (or at least, liked to think) nobody was entitled to mine. Chuck never quite got that. Maybe money, masculinity, misogyny, and misanthropy prevented him from making that leap. For all of the paltry politics and pretenses, he saw society and social media as walled gardens—and believed any- and everything were simply a means to sow his own oats. The more I watched him, the more I hoped he would change with each passing season.

But, he didn’t.

chuck-1

Chuck’s progression was defined by his own permissions and parameters which would caustically, characteristically violate those of others’. The series stretched on for years and I started hating him, because his privileged, profound, and profane prerogative nullified literally any redeeming aspect. There would be glimpses of reflection, realization, along with some erratic, but earnest effort to be accountable—and it would be completely disingenuous.

Which now kind of correlates to the actor who brought him to life: Ed Westwick.

3396_900

Westwick was flying pretty high during Gossip Girl’s run, and lived relatively privately despite that while his cast mates were more in the public eye via their relationships or scandals. The only mention of him people really got were his rooming with co-star, Chance Crawford (Nate Archibald), and relationship to his co-star Jessica Szohr (Vanessa Abrams)—which only made waves since fans were annoyed he wasn’t dating his onscreen love interest, Leighton Meester (Blair Waldorf). Some other tidbits about his hobbies also surfaced. I vaguely remember folks mentioning him being a musician and theatre buff?  After Gossip Girl [colossally unsatisfactorily] ended, I think he just gradually faded out. There wasn’t any mention of his colleagues, co-stars, or confidantes in following projects; and the rest of the Gossip Girl cast had moved on with their lives in a comparably similar obscurity.

Now, Westwick has gone viral in real life akin to Weinstein and other Hollywood personnel whom have been divulged as predators.

And, I really can’t say I’m not surprised. Not because I link Ed to Chuck, but because this is a story I’ve heard before, one that I will likely always hear; one that I have myself told. Bad people can be those you’d least expect; those with an abundance of assets which are underlain with some fundamental flaw; and those you would expect given the premise of their positionality that prompts them to simply pluck or pain whom they choose. Westwick may be of either likeness in his own way; and I quite frankly find it unnerving that his response to such a grave accusation is a mere note—which oddly coincides with the concept of social media as a delineative, distributive, destructive, and sardonically disconnected force reality must reckon with, if not resolve.

UPDATE: Westwick now faces another survivor’s narrative. 

If It Isn’t Love

 

“Love” and Hip Hop

I’m seeing an old clip of Joseline Hernandez and Stevie J going off on Benzino and Althea at the season three reunion of Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta (LHHATL) resurge and go viral on Twitter. But, I find myself kind of numb rather than sharing the collective keke that echoed across the Internet.

I don’t know what other people were watching that season, but all I saw was trash.

For one, I never forgot this. Everything made sense afterward. Dee was never “overprotective” or comical. She’s one of those toxic mothers with internalized misogynoir whom coddle their sons’ rather than hold them accountable. I mention her because she “apologized” on Scrappy’s behalf; and proceeded to gently walk him through why men shouldn’t beat up on women, tit for tat, even though he had prior knowledge of Erica’s survivorship within other abusive relationships.

The cycle then extends to Bambi—who later went on to order an attack on Erica in a nightclub—whose instinct was to drag Erica regardless; as if expression of condolences was disrespectful, as if she’s responsible for Scrappy’s suspected indiscretions, as if she’s delusional and her attraction was unfounded, as if he did nothing.

maxresdefault

Then, there was Mimi Faust—whose sex tape with her then-boyfriend, Nikko Smith [London]—was leaked. Even though the slut shaming she received from her fellow castmates was atrocious, what hit me hardest were her ‘friends’ whom were less inclined to be supportive than sanctimonious. Which is innately contradictory to the emphatic declarations of “girl power” and “womanhood” the women in these series so earnestly and evidently, superficially cite. The condemnation and condescension she fared against from her ‘friends’ as if she were to blame for her violation; as if any resultant discrimination or abuse aren’t yielded from chauvinism and rape culture within society at large. Moreover, there’s the fact that if your friend does have a sex tape leaked, you don’t have to watch it. Nobody does. In fact, if it was leaked without their consent, your viewing is violatory. For me, there was little consolation in the fact that the video was ultimately staged. If anything, that fact just made me think of the more chilling prospects had it been real; how utterly unsupported and undermined a woman would be by her very ‘friends’ whom would rather condemn her as culpable in her victimization.

It all made me think of how and why I’ve always hated LHHATL the most: because, it’s got the ashiest characters whom reinforce the ashiest stereotypes. I know Love & Hip-Hop is already chalk full of slut shaming, internalized misogynoir, amidst the beckies and chads (and anybody else) whom blackfaced; but there’s something about LHHATL that I just can’t shake, and I feel nauseated whenever it comes on.

maxresdefault (1)

It’s like a caricature of every toxic trope in a trash song: the serial cheaters; the fools who take them back time and time again; the other women or “side pieces” whom are dragged or demonized for the whole thing; the ignoramuses fighting over ain’t shit mates; and the kids who get caught in the middle, often sadly and naively encouraging their adulterous parents to reconcile. LHHATL has that on loop, and there’s no semblance of anybody remotely evolving.

I just think season three was particularly trash; between Scrappy putting hands on Erica, Mimi being slut- and body shamed for her leaked sex tape, likewise with Althea, and Kayo Redd’s suicide—all of which were glossed over, save for when they were gassed up for kekes or feels at the reunion. It makes me think of how much “reality tv” is divorced from reality, yet isn’t.

01

These personas lead arrogant and airbrushed lives because folks tune in to see trainwrecks; and yet, their behaviours on meaningful issues reflect exactly what we’d expect from peers only we’re not as indulged or infantilized. We don’t have heaps of money to throw at our problems; and I have to wonder if anybody is truly as inclined to forgive and forget, as if materialism and exhibitionism can supplant intimacy in the wake of infidelity.

In the realm of performativity, are people just innately prompted to pretend when they’re being watched? Or, is it a defense mechanism wherein ignorance insulates us from painful reality? Moreover, what’s to be said about the truths translated by the lies: the simplicity that is irrevocably inconsistent and inapplicable to the reality, the enormity of life.

Mierda

 

33841755304_3fc9eef02e_z

Critical race theory amongst other modalities of marginalized peoples have fostered indispensable, insightful discussions about privilege and positionality. For me, they have also provoked reconsiderations of reparations and reservations; which spurred my support and service to groups in grassroots, advocacy, and aid.

And, I’ve decided to ease off—if not, completely disengage with most of them. The years have taught me that social justice collectives are themselves communities; and like every community, their pillars and populisms predominate their praxes. The earnest efforts envisioned are seldom enacted; and when they are, they are attributed to proxies. Spokespeople overshadow the ‘little people.’ Compared to them, I noted how I was treated; and whose stories were amplified while mine were muted or otherwise obscured. This conflicted with the principles that people cited, the principles that I was taught. We were supposed to cultivate comradery. We were supposed to collectivize and carry the weight of our causes to ensure that none of us bore heavier loads. We were supposed to make and stick to resolutions. There was supposed to be a mutual merit in what we did, stood for, and espoused; and that merit would manifest for us all.

34684006855_1acfb89716_z

Not just a select few or those most visible.

The irony of the social justice spaces I have occupied is that the very morale that inspires me to persevere is the same that vindicates my disdain for the selective solidarity these spaces enable. I resent radicals whom are ratified by the mainstream; many of whom are supported by classmates, colleagues, and comrades. I find it not only unfair, but absurd that celebrities spur ardent sympathies from my contacts; whereas for me, they can only muster meagre condolences. It is hypocritical how these people ‘gently’ dissuade me from pursuing my own justice while assuming the charge of another.

There are a number of cases that have circulated rather widely within my locality regarding inequality, doxing, and the censure of social justice activists. They are all warranted and I sincerely hope the superiors involved will be held accountable, if not curbed or culled. However, I cannot help but note the absence of action, if outrage surrounding my own similar—and sometimes, more severe—experiences institutionally; and the more I have disclosed, the more I condemn my confidantes. The same people whom listened intently as I detailed my cases within the academe and the judicial system amidst other injurious social contexts are the same people whom urged me to “let things go,” accept the injustice, and move on to better things; yet these same people have taken it upon themselves to advocate for more visible victims; the same people whom swear every little bit counts, but are more inclined to acknowledge and aid the hubris of headliners.

 

34540485362_7005649bdc_z

Earlier this summer, I relocated to dissuade the cause of my own pursuer whose puissance has yet to waver. I try not to dwell on the reality of this necessity. My survival is starkly succinct, contingent on my mobility and vigilance.

And solitude.

Because, my agency and anxiety are augmented as well as admonished by the artifice of my allies.

This has shown me that there are truly good people. I am grateful to engage with them, and I make active efforts to reciprocate. They have offered substantive feedback, aid, and resources; intermittently as well as immediately. And, they also understand the inconsistent imperatives within communities whose constituents are driven to delude or dally with dignitaries sooner than they would support their own.

Pay it forward. Just don’t go broke, beloved.

Shout Outs to Wine Cellar Media, Single Simulcast, Kinfolk Kollective, Americans United Again, South House, Sweetsouthernradio, and Africa is a Country

Art by John Rodriguez

 

Perchance to Please

Late Night Viewing

19875262_10155631978508969_3461712181610160951_n

Earlier today, I managed to scavenge a laser printer and small stand which is enough to turn my room into a makeshift office—which is great, because my school doesn’t give us [its students] unpaid printer access or office space. Nor does it afford us access or discounts to textbooks and required reads that cost a small fortune. Not that I can think of other schools that do, but I wager others would do well to think about this the next time someone harps about how “nice” it is to have hard copy books and how their mood shifts to productivity on campus. Especially, when that someone happens to be a professor or upper-middle class. It never ceases to amaze me how folks subscribe to these “nice” notions from wealthy optimists; and how the avowal of alternatives is always lost on those with acceptance and an abundance of resources.

Maybe this relates to the subscription to social media and artificial intelligence—as in, indulging intelligence premised and operant upon artifice. Technology might have advanced, but life has always been more built than lived. Concepts like religion, law, and norms have imposed ideologies long before we constructed and comprised online worlds. However, there is just something distinctly indulgent and individualistic when it comes to new media; something cultivated through consumption and crowds whom command through quips and clicks, as they steal behind masks of coy and ‘cool’ personalities. Perhaps, this could account for the nervous laughter and expectant esteems that predominate; and why precedents are unspoken as well as unquestioned.

d1

No one covers these prospects quite like David Stewart. I came across him years ago, late one sleepless night when I’d plugged into YouTube to stay awake during revisions of a manuscript, when “Silly Boy” emerged in my recommendations. I heard something not only insightful, but immediate; and I hear this in his entire discography, which is what partially drove my first novel. Stewart is a distinct resolute, but reflective voice amidst the crass cult of celebrity. He manages to make singularity soulful instead of surplus and superficial. Every subject is simultaneously dependent and defenseless to their desires. No one is betrothed to bravado and there is no marriage to ignorance and idealism, but rather a sheer divorce from reality. “Silly Boy” ponders the purpose of pleasure in the present, however pretentious, and the absence of prospect should it be prolonged, which is thematic from the track’s album aptly titled Dark Side of Paradise. “Mirrors on the Ceiling” fixes to thrill with familiar, finite convictions which foster albeit limit likeness; “Play Love with the Devil” mourns how performativity prevents sincerity despite connectivity; and “Power” muses upon the flushed, but fading merits of the moveable and material world.

d2

Unlike the drugged, dispirited decadence of Dark Side of Paradise, Stewart’s second album—Late Night Viewing—evokes an erotic and existential treatment. The eponymous track, “Late Night Viewing,” sets the tone as Stewart stakes the earnest and empty, but exhibitory urgency of lovers that are ultimately aromatic albeit aroused; keenly aware that they are not alone in the universe. “Lay on the Bonnet” intones that intimacy is operant upon ignorance— “Yeah, I get that you don’t know me; but you’ve got the time to show me”—that obliging the world (and ourselves) at large devalues it. “Scream More” and “Blood Rush” convey carnivalesque carnalities, gushed and gamed, that crave candour even as they are resigned to conventionality. “Incredible” [which features Yasmin] ruminates upon a rueful, but rousing romance whose lovers are ambushed by attraction.

For me, this track bled into “Red Light” as a song that articulate the lure of liaisons which reject reason and transverse temporality; how compatibility can contradictory in our compulsion to contrasts as Stewart prompts the listener to “forget about pride” and “Make sure the Barbies don’t bring Kens.” The Grease-reminiscent “Woman in Lust” [with Wretch 32] and “Run the World” [with Example] are charged, decisive power trips which dishearten dissenters and endow eavesdroppers as impartial. “Heaven” [with Ed Sheeran] rounds out the rest of the tracks as it culminates in curiosity accompanied by anxiety and accountability; reflecting upon the repetition of mistakes, each done under the same pretext of a promised payoff, as heaven “is going to haunt us until it takes us”; while “Breathe Slow” is an airy, ambient cue of conclusion: the “party’s over” and one must “breathe slow” to internalize. Only given the immoderation imparted within the crux of the content, you’d think there was no point.

d0

Late Night Viewing is curious because it bears a lesson learnt in the absence of catharsis. Stewart fleshes out fine, but frigid feelings of being fulfillment: being full of nothing. He knows things won’t last, but those things still define us. Therefore, by some token, those things—however fickle—are worth whatever we expend upon them. Stewart effects this knowing that agony precedes afterglow; that indulgence and intuition are impractical, but cultivate our consciousness. We value and venture to small, sometimes hollow victories from battles we bereave in lieu of a war.

 

Reclaiming Joy Through Trial and Triumph

 

joy1.jpg

These days, I seldom admit that I write. I don’t even call myself a writer since I doubt I can dignify the title—even though, Christ knows that must seem mighty modest considering that title is assumed by many mediocre magnates. I have always written, but I have only recently began publishing [either by myself or through independent publishers]; and I have very rarely profited off of it. The term “starving artist” took on a literal meaning for me once I invested in the venture of self-publication after traditional publishers rejected me for my indistinct niche in the market(s) and because I lacked the social capital or substantive endorsements that would’ve made me an asset. At first, I took that rejection very personally—and in some ways, I still do—but a bit of digging into the ‘success stories’ and otherwise prosperous platforms amended the slump I found myself sinking into. Because, I found that particular privileges played a prominent part in one’s ‘marketability’ and that “capitalism” is operant upon even abstract levels since there’s something inherently exploitive and exclusionary when merit is monetized, when success is more quantifiable than qualifiable, and when certain insights are inopportune.

16682045_1805509769673891_724582526076451987_n

Which is funny because whenever I tell people about my overall life, they tend to think it makes an interesting story. I was already “starving” so to speak as a university student whose scholarships, grants, and [small] savings ensured my academic attendance while a rustic diet and the odd [inexpensive] splurge ensured my survival. Then, I was isolated from most by the time I hit grad school which exacerbated my paranoia and anxiety. Solitude surely strengthened my scholarly output, but it amplified my suspicions and self-consciousness—which already peaked during my stint in modeling that culminated in aesthetic and agented admonishments, depression, as well as eating disorders. Somewhere between my revelations in being racialized and protesting alongside students with whom I shared rage over rising tuition fees, I critically considered how life itself was a catalyst for my creativity and lack thereof. This was around the mid 2000s, when reality TV had just struck gold with a select few franchises—of which there are countless clones now—and existentialism began to wane in popular culture. Self-publishing had begun to flourish which simultaneously created and destroyed cumbersome celebrities. This was the time when social media users with millions of hits and followers were starting to be afforded endorsements, even reality shows of their own; where the lifestyles of the rich became flaunted and famous; and where the internet and personable publishing fashioned a permanency in which gossip could snowball into an avalanche.

This time would’ve marked me as an anxious preteen not so much coming of age as going with the flow. For reasons I have yet to fully explore, I developed and maintained severe avoidance issues which prompted me to disengage and depersonalize by any means possible. And, “any means” was always—and still is—art. I wrote, painted, danced, and piled on playlists. It never once occurred to me that these means were something upon which I could capitalize. When it did occur to me, I honestly didn’t care. I did art as a hobbyist and saw the advent of interconnectivity—forums, sharing sites, galleries, etc.—as beneficial for pen-pals and free access; not ‘marketing’ to a worldwide audience for coin. I only started publishing after I felt like I had a viable idea to actually market; and I was also admittedly arrogant in thinking the content that was definitive of present bestsellers and trends was somewhat banal as well as easy to surpass conceptually. Who wants to read the same story—the same, tired and [perhaps unwittingly] toxic tropes—over and over, especially in a purportedly ‘progressive’ world?

Well, pretty much everybody. Those narratives wouldn’t continue to define weight or sell otherwise. Plus, I doubt that people quite frankly can be bothered to invest in imagination or innovation given how they tasked they are with trials and tribulations. There is little, if any esteem in vision within a world whose successes are defined by expenditure—which is why being an artist or creative entrepreneur is more than a little uninspired. And, also why I literally “starved” once I invested into my creative outlet: which detracted from my thin budget and meant I was periodically and unromantically (looking at you, hipsters) fasting. But, I was no stranger to food pantries before that; and I’d met a number of other creatives going there, campus centres, as well as shelters. These places sometimes had lengthy lines, wait times, or just generally provided a piece of paradise amidst terrible weather conditions; and I had connected with a number of people in these places, many of whom I admittedly never saw again. However, each and every one of them reaffirmed my value of being cognizant of those around me no matter how substantial or superficial. I eventually realized that, despite my affinity and coping mechanism of avoidance, that I simply couldn’t ignore any- and everyone; that despite the enormity of the white noise, I couldn’t tune everyone out because I then would be unable to hear my own calling.

joy2

And, I hear something rattle in my soul whenever I listen to Joy Conaway. I stumbled upon her through an oddly fruitful social media suggestion—a recommended page on Facebook—and I haven’t been able to stop listening to her since. Her EP, A Tale of Joy & Sorrow, is off the wall amongst an assortment of her other tracks. For instance, “Alone” is a novel and optimistic perspective on support and sentiment. It bespeaks the priceless proclivities of genuine pleasure, yet discerns that there is can be umbrage in unity in a prevalent praxis of simultaneous insensitivity and indulgence. “The Lion’s Awakening” is an acoustically driven beat avowing pride, perseverance, and personality which affirm there is no expense too great to dignify your own truth; similar to “Forever Song” that imparts the importance of invaluable, interpersonal insight despite its hardships. “Monsters” is a placid, poignant ballad conveying how we are our own worst enemies whom can be amended and astounded by love; if not, overcome by objective. While “Pretend” and “Deepest Fear” are reminiscent of the plucked peace that marked many contemporary artists of the 90s, whose tracks backgrounded the pensive dialogues and epilogues of heartland dramas; thematic of nascent, but noticeable turmoil driven by disclosure.

11987090_1612629138961956_8375936005367624706_n

For me, Joy Conaway relates to my own reconciliation of art, aversion, and avoidance. Her songs infuse light into the beacons I had burnt out from my childhood. Rarely do I ever hear such songs that are hopeful and optimistic without being idealistic. Conaway doesn’t profess that dreamers are beneficiaries on the virtue of simply dreaming, nor does she propose glory or principle in obliging some obstinate. She simply serenades the significance of sincerity and self-discovery. No track is nautically naïve or nonchalant, instead avowing anchorage amidst the sea of life and longing.

Moreover, Conaway’s craft itself is worth noting as she is a modest treasure with a small, select discography and promising platform. She creates quality content in the absence of quantifiable artifice. Her songs have soul, which is something that cannot be sold. Not that she isn’t worth investing in. The distinction is that she is a rarity whom cannot be replicated or consumed without question. Her sound has nothing formulaic or processed, which inclines one to understand that connectivity and visibility cannot and do not supplant actual value—and I believe that is also a core theme underwritten in her songs. Listeners are not only empowered by truth or triumph, but also by appreciating meaning as a matter of intimacy and sensation rather than rate.

Partition Through Perspective

Spellbound

Amidst my current thesis, time seems to pass me by as it stands still. Most of the time, the people in my life are anomalies to my aspirations. They laugh, love, and live while I wonder if I’m actually living; if my life is on ice until graduation, as the only permanence in my life is publication. Each time I poke my head out or click around online reinforces the reality that feels and fashion are a matter of fiction. Truth has too hard. No one wants to be tasked by trial or tribulation.

Reggae has always tendered my truth. It sounds a faith not blind, but fruitful. In that way, the genre is distinct. It declares kinship and catharsis which lack the pretensions of glossy, gaudy glamour. The reggae vibes revere roots, which is why wherein Bob Marley is so iconized as humble and reflective; unlike comparably vain contemporaries whom serenade materialist, megalomaniac manifestos. For me, a prime principle of reggae is its distinction of the internal and the individual; how it proposes the possibility of looking within without looking against or looking away from others. It also acknowledged the need, the right to assert autonomy even if one chose to abide anti-violence.

Since my roots were cultivated in the Caribbean, I’m no stranger to reggae. Its fluid, formative medleys defined most of my childhood. Friends and family would play Bob Marley, Barrington Levy, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Glen Washington, Shabba Ranks, amongst many others: all of whom related principles of perseverance and peace despite the distinctions of their artistry. Notably, like other genres, reggae has been called out for mainstreamed anti-LGBTQA+ sentiments [that seem to have peaked and progressed from the early eighties following the influx of homophobic and traditionalist, eurocentric televangelism being broadcast]. I never really thought much about this when I was younger, but I began to hear this as I matured with a critical ear. If reggae artists truly believe in the infallibility of an almighty peace, whether that be through a Rastafarian concept of Zion or Jah, then there is a false logic in propagating bigotry given that people may be naturalized to embody an array of ambition, attraction, and love. That’s not to knock the genre altogether, however it must be addressed how colonialism has convoluted the popularized narratives enforced by particular figures. Addressing that will not only abolish ignorance, but additionally strengthen and harmonize the genre’s true intent. And, I think islanders may be able to speak to that intent of nautical nirvana adrift amidst tempestuous tides.

 

kellis

Kelissa ponders paradise, not politics on her latest album: Spellbound. Although, I think that her overall message can be politicized as emancipatory and existentialist. She imparts insight into capitalism and the material world as recalcitrant, which is why it is fruitless to avow audiences or appearances. There is a personable, peaceful frame through which we can view Kelissa. “You are enchanting like the stars in the night,” she sings in the opening titular track. “And, my sky you’re lighting like a firefly” which affirms her as a smitten songstress from jump. ‘Best Kept Secret’ conveys a conscious rather than calculated intent of consumerism where love is prided, yet more impactful than intimate. Being jilted in life is hardly surprising, but artists like Kelissa evidence that it may be innovative. Her sadness is sublimated into strength and insight as she reflects, “You told me I was your treasure, but treasure just don’t last forever.” Accompanied with the ‘Give Your All’ interlude—“Take a leap, you fall, and get up again. Never try, never know you’re capable.”—affords listeners empowerment through enlightenment.

My favourite track, ‘Topsy Turvy,’ reinforces optimism through a brisk beat with an underlaid unhurried rhythm. Kelissa purports that paradise awaits those whom not only persevere, but individualize from mainstreamed monotony and malignance. Freedom can be clumsy and chaotic, but it cultivates confidence and catharsis—which isn’t a matter of immediacy as her ‘Slow Down’ interlude follows to articulate a natural, elemental ambiance. ‘Take Your Time’ goes on to prompt us to purge ourselves of pretensions wherein Kelissa insists to be interpersonal, one not need be impulsive. The concluding ‘How Many More’ builds upon this as she ruminates against the grain of romanticism and rationalism wherein truth and dissent are denied in the superficial scheme of social order. “Is it worth the price that we pay to live the life we do?” she wonders. “How many more will have to fall? How long will we ignore the ones who call?”

Spellbound reveres the spirit of reggae as not just a site of intent and intuition, but how humility in tandem with hubris is the harbinger of happiness. In divorcing herself from recidivism, revisionism, and romanticism, Kelissa marries trial and error with trials and tribulations. Her relative rhythms are forthright because she is unreliant upon dumbstruck, starstruck signifiers or collaged carnality which consequently shifts perspectives from pride and prowess.

Get Out, the Sunken Place, Slavery, and the History of J. Marion Sims

by Adiza Sanchez-Rahim ❦

 

n5fiuoliop0cti719u8k

There’s plenty to be dissected within Jordan Peele’s social thriller, Get Out. I’ve personally read a handful of incredibly insightful pieces since watching the film—twice!

While each character had their own unique story, Georgina, played by brilliant fellow Juilliard alum, Betty Gabriel, is the most haunting character. With very few lines, Betty’s artistry conveys to the audience a deeper subtext—a tragic story of unspoken and untold Black pain, specifically that of Black women. Peele gives us a front row seat to Black horror in American history in a way that hasn’t really been done before, at least not within the film genre of a psychological thriller.

In more ways than one, Georgina is representative of the enslavement of Black women throughout history, but even more specifically, the Black women who were used as the human guinea pigs of  J. Marion Sims. As defined by Jordan Peele, “The Sunken Place means we’re marginalized. No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us.” In essence, both generations of women are trapped within the Sunken Place, shackled in either body or mind.

J. Marion Sims was a physician who was born in South Carolina in 1813. He is lauded as the father of modern gynecology. Aside from owning his own clinic in Montgomery, Alabama, he was also a plantation physician. From 1845-1849, Sims conducted a series of experimental surgeries on enslaved women sans anesthesia. He sought to perfect a technique to repair a condition called vesicovaginal fistula (abnormal fistulous tract). This basically means that there’s an opening between the vagina and the bladder, or rectum and usually occurs after traumatic childbirth. Having these fistulas meant one couldn’t bear children, nor could they continue working, which ultimately lowered these women’s value to their slave masters. During his experiments, Sims would use sutures in order to close up the opening.

One can’t quite imagine just how painful this operation must’ve been without anesthesia. There was a belief at the time that Black people didn’t feel pain in the same way that White people did, especially Black women. Sims did treat white women; although, he always treated them with anesthesia.

 

Get-Out-art-gallery-06

Sims not only performed these experiments without anesthesia, he would invite other physicians to watch while he conducted surgeries on naked Black women. So, while we consider the physical pain these women experienced, we can’t forget about their loss of dignity and sexually exploited bodies.

Much like Georgina to the Armitage family, these women’s bodies were property to Sims. They could not consent to anything. I stress this point because we still have to remind white people that as a slave, you’re not afforded the privilege of self-determination. This means that you don’t do what you want; you do what you’re told.

People love to romanticize everything about slavery. So much so that enslaved women have now become “mistresses” to the white masters who raped them. Recently, the Washington Post published an article referring to Sally Hemings (an enslaved woman owned by Jefferson), as his mistress. In what reality can one engage in a consensual relationship when you’re the enslaved party? Hemings was born as Jefferson’s party and he started raping her when she was 14 and he just north of 40. Even by today’s standards, this is predatory grooming and statutory rape. For a person who legally could not say “No,” it is an even deeper level of violation. So, no: Hemings was not Jefferson’s mistress. She was a victim of rape.

Today, Sims is memorialized in statues in South Carolina, Alabama, and New York. When I think about these statues and the memorials to Sims, what I see is what’s not shown. Where does it say that this technique was perfected on the bodies of enslaved Black women? The medical advancements that all women are still benefiting from today, were obtained at great human cost. How many Georgina’s did it take for Sims to accomplish his great medical breakthrough?

Yet, our society refuses to even entertain the discussion. People would rather forget about Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy. The character of Georgina acts as a staunch reminder of the generational trauma that we as Black women carry with us from the days of slavery. We carry it within our DNA. If we toss away these images, these women’s stories will be lost. I want to hear their stories. As Viola Davis said, “Exhume those bodies, exhume those stories.” It is our responsibility to make sure their names aren’t forgotten. We do not know what Georgina’s name was prior to her entering the Armitage house and becoming the slave of Grandma Armitage. Like Andre, later known as Logan, her name was most likely changed. Her body was stolen and her identity erased.

get

There’s plenty to be said for how Black bodies have been conceptualized by the medical profession throughout history. Jordan Peele makes direct reference to this dynamic, along with the lack of agency Black people have had over our own bodies for millennia. It shines a light on the longtime legacy of Black female bodies repeatedly violated, and how we’ve been forced to carry the burdens of others.

While many would find it easy to say, “That’s all in the past,” I invoke the words of William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Accursed Arithmetic and Caustic Caucasoids

Love, Math, and Sex

Screenshot_20170313-005309.png

Roughly four days after I saw Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed Get Out and combed through the many think pieces—mostly on interracial [POC + yt] relationships and white supremacy—that it yielded, I found my newfound attraction to Turkish star, George Corraface, led me to Charlotte Silvera’s drama, C’est la tangente que je préfère (also known as Love, Sex, and Math for its English title). The film centers the timeless trope of fresh innocence crowning, concealing, and catalyzing naïve predatory proclivities. The film not only centers the trope, but transmutes it as a motif and narrative device rather than a mere element of character.

However, to read the film as a simple story about masks, musings, and manipulate is to ignore its contemptuous commentary on the eroticism of erraticism, capitalism, and critical race relations. Silvera showcases the hubris of happenstance, subverts its, and illustrates the ignorance of uncritical, unevidenced idealism.

Julie Delarme plays Sabine, a 15-year-old math whiz from France, whose catharsis is defined by her relationship to Jiri, a Praguian (and Turkish) national and director, played by George Corraface. When Sabine isn’t charging her classmates for tutoring, lifting tips from waiters, or irking her impoverished parents, she esteems existentialism through incorrigible ideations of arithmetic.

Initially, Silvera invites us to observe Sabine’s daily life in scenes that are signifiers of youth: classes, courtyards, and clusters of companions. The amicable ambiance changes on a crowded [street] car ride when she firsts spots Jiri seated in the back. It is through her contrast of him and her friends that we see she internalizes in isolation. She dispirits her youth while her friends and elders respective celebrate or envy it.

The sight of Jiri as well as the revelation of her inarticulate intrigue and aloof attraction to him incline her to adopt reductionist, reactionary attitude onward. She rationalizes chance encounters with him afterward as a mathematical likeness of probability and resolves that a third chance encounter evidences some connection, that serves as grounds for her to pursue him erotically albeit aromantically. Through her musings on his adulthood, his “finished” development—as opposed to the ongoing, unsteady growth of her peers and stubborn stagnance the fickle elders that prod her—she associates him with strength and sensuality.

But, her parents’ indigence and iniquity compels her capitalism and materialism despite any romanticism. Any tenderness is overturned by transactional thinking wherein there is only significance in a sale or monetary value. Her first date and sexual encounter with Jiri (with anyone) concludes with her snatching banknotes from his dresser, saying that nothing is for free; and subsequently insists he solicit her sexually in which money will mark a mutually beneficial arrangement.

The carnality of coincidence, of love being likened to luck, sex, and sentimentality, is desensitized as Sabine commands cold, hard capital. She uses math as a device to distance herself intellectually and impersonally from everyone around her, including those her own age. Math is a means of protection and mobility, sparing her from interacting interpersonally with her own peers and affording her a path to academic sponsorship above her current [status] class. Likewise, her interest in math wanes as her love for Jiri flourishes.

And, so does her perception of positionality start to bloom. A misread altercation with Jiri leads her to believe he’s cheated on her, which sets her on a dark downward spiral. She gravitates to her parents pessimistically through self-harm and self-deprecation. This side of her is representative of basic hostility since she alienates and aggresses everyone around her, including her parents, with visibly unfounded anger or annoyance.

This Sabine illustrates how a propensity for profit does not translate to prowess or principle. She cultivates cash, not consciousness or a capacity to discern complexities. Her aversion arises from not only her understanding of Jiri’s betrayal, but also of a betrayal of math because she discovers that hard sciences are not solutions to hard problems. Her ingenious insights of math and intermittent outbursts reflect the absence of reasoning and thus reckoning in capitalism.

To spite Jiri, Sabine reports him to the authorities, alleging that he sexually abused her (i.e. corruption of a minor) although we know she concealed her age from him from an earlier exchange [and there’s no justification for him indulging her after finding out]. It is not only this falsehood that unnerves me, but her sense of entitlement. Reflective glances coupled with this venture of vengeance evidence that she understands her position as well as the weight of her report.

Distinctions of race and realization are shown through sharp contrasts in skin tone and temperament; distinctions that parallel my own positionality as a Black woman and film scholar whose lens is perpetually as well as personally darkened (no pun intended) by: critical race theory, blood memory, and knowledge as well as lineage connected to a not so distant colonial past.

For me, Sabine’s spiteful, fabricated report of Jiri reminds me of the infamous tragic case of Emmett Tillan African American boy who was murdered on the accusation that he’d whistled at a white womanan accusation that came from a white woman. An accusation that was admittedly false decades after his death and the acquittal of his murderers.

Along with Sabine, we later find out that Jiri never cheated on her, but was merely having dinner with a [female] colleague; and even then, she neither feels or admits to any wrongdoing regarding that report. The absorbent fee for withdrawing the charge is her only concern upon their reconciliation. It is through this we see that more than she ‘loves’ him, she dehumanizes him as a trinket that will tether her own catharsis. This is much like how white supremacy and eurocentrism demote the needs of Others as inferior or inconsequential in addition to completely devaluing them, only to regulate our existences if we dare want to exist.

C’est la tangente que je préfère disillusions its audience of any notion that romance is manifest in materialism and asserts the reality of race and rationalism surpassing rapport. It cautions us to think through behaviours and motifs as intent rather than innocent or instinctive. Silvera puts forth that not only are romance and rationalism no match for the crude caveat of capitalism, but are made moot against the ire of whiteness and antagonisms that augment worldviews. For, the ignorance of youth is not exception to the knowledge of whiteness.

Fury and Future

Fierce for the Night

The first time I heard disco, I was in early grade school. Even then, at that age, it was defined as a thing of the past: a relic, yet a reverberant realm of endless possibilities. With ambition afloat and airy affections, the genre still rings more supple than succinct. It was only until recently that I understood why I found it infectious and why its composition is a timeless treasure.

Disco deigns delight and desire where there is none; or rather, where it is dormant. It invokes insight and instinct that is not only repressed, but also agonizingly absent in the meticulous monotony maintained in daily life. Disco simultaneously drives and disorients us with our own emptiness, because it single-handedly encapsulates and articulates the esteem of every energy and emotion.

This is why one of its core, collective ideals was unity. It esteemed expression and androgyny, but it inclined coming together. Even though it could convey contrarianism, I think that it emboldened a more passive form of resistance. More or less, disco songs pride us as playmates in paradise; as opposed to casting us as militant or heated comrades as in genres that build more upon rock and stricter soul.

Which is perhaps why its popularity declined towards the eighties, a decade that roused a revival and nostalgia of the social justice activism and free love of the sixties. Rock was anglicized to articulate the anger and annoyance of the West, whereas more intellectualized and weaponized in the East.

A discursive dystopia emerged artistically as people somehow started to grasp that their futures were being not only driven, but dictated by woeful world events and paltry politicians. The sixties’ strides had elapsed with modern, morbid developments dedicated to the destruction of marginalized communities lest they mobilize again.

And, the advent of neoliberalism was the dissolution of unity. It corrupted the concord and sense of community disco had striven to invoke. People could no longer be appeased by a buoyant, boogie beat, nor could they honestly or wistfully aspire to the prospect of an airbrushed utopia.

After the pounding preclude of rock, brass ballads and new jack swing began to voice a sense of urgency and agency. The nineties then built upon that and culminated with loud, lurid resistance bespoken in the rage of rap and grunge; while carnalities and consorts were serenaded in smoother evolutions of new jack swing, R&B, and soul. Symphonic pop briefly endeared and empowered throngs, until existentialism emerged as audible apathy in later anthems of the decade while techno and house hailed the millennium with acclaimed avarice and excess.

But, disco was there through it all. You could hear it in the sequencers and synthesizers. You could hear it in the pensive lyrics that pined after paradise despite the droll of the daily grind and colourless corporates amidst the concrete jungle. You could hear it in the ironic inflections of craven, crestfallen hopefuls whom dared to dream despite their trials and tribulations. You could hear it, because you could know it; knowing that wanderlust led to wonderland. And, you could hear it in a like heartbeat that throbbed against yours.

Now, you can hear it in nu-disco: a generic derivative from the classic.

 

vrgina

Which is how I came to hear Virginia, a songstress from Europe whose latest album, Fierce for the Night, is currently the only reason I visit SoundCloud. Fierce for the Night is a comprehensive contemporary coveted by and within the classics. Virginia gives voice to an objective, optimistic confidante whose acumen comes not from academia or accomplishments, but from adversities.

The eponymous track, “Fierce for the Night,” is a blithe beaten track whose refrain—fierce for the night, fierce for your love—accentuates its powerful pulse. “Bally Linny” is a brooding, barred arrangement grounded by its gradual progression; “Funkert” is a raw, regretful rhythm reflective of the reality that love is not a game, but a powerful emotion whose trivialization yields intense consequences; “Follow Me” evokes the esteem of early electronica underlain with rave and breakbeat; and “Han” balances plausive percussion and a light, layered hymn to dreams.

“Believe in Time” is a tempered, trancelike tune musing into the mediocrity, monotony, and malignancy of the moment that transcends temporal space. Its verses are ventures that discern the ‘nu’ of ‘nu-disco.’ Because, unlike the classic’s confidence and camaraderie, the contemporary is rather disillusioned and dispirited, but not disconsolate.

“Subdued Colors” also enunciates a dearth of deliverance that afflicts hopefuls, the classic believers, who fare against a fiscal future. “Lies” uncovers the umbrage faced when one abides the ascriptions of artifice through a conventionality and gentility that are as functional as disingenuous; and “Raverd” declares a genuine connection that couples buoyant beats with echoed avowal, while “Obstacle” parries the principle and proficiency of perseverance against unlikely odds.

Fierce for the Night nods to the ascendant cadence of disco, yet parlays the pessimistic parameters of the present. It doesn’t discourage tact or tenacity, but it recognizes the reality and triviality of tropes and trends that are paced as well as practiced to procure capital. Virginia cautions us against living on the increasingly strained hope that we will someday be good enough instead of treasuring today, because poised pretension and performativity assures dark days ahead. She compels us to take a hard look at ourselves and the world around us; and to take an even harder look upon whom, what, and where we draw happiness.

And, she sounds funky doing it.