By Luke Devine
I love academic discourse. I love the verbosity and pomposity of it. Undergrad in arts is like learning another language, in English, that only a few people can understand. Back in the day people who understood this “discourse” hung out at university and verbally sparred with each other. They overloaded their sentences with words. The goal was to win the conversation. Some people used this power for good, and some for evil. It’s the same today.
It was only a matter of time before discourse went large. Just add internet. Now everyone with a portal can read your rationales. Academics have unprecedented reach. Hmm what should you write about? Celebrities of course.
There are reams of critique on Lady Gaga diagnosing everything she does. Lady Gaga is not just a rich kid from Manhattan high on cash and drugs, she is a ‘cultural phenomenon’. Every pop star wants to become culturally phenomenological. But it presents some occupational hazards. Such as RACISM.
This year has seen a wave of discussion about the inherent racism of some acts. Miley Cyrus objectified black female bodies in her VMA performance, offending people everywhere by “associating her burgeoning sexuality with black female bodies,” and inspiring a slew of PHD candidates to write about it.
Criticising someone who has grown up in America’s south, amidst what is still palpable racial tension, is one thing. However when Vanessa Bayetti-Flores called out the racism in NZ teen pop singer Lorde’s hit song “Royals” things became ridiculous. VBF asserts that when Lorde itemises the ubiquitous consumerism presented in popular music today she is being racist, because some of the things mentioned are big motifs in rap and RnB. “Black music.” VBF suggests Lorde should offer broader critique of the white male dominated capitalist system in her four minute pop song.
“As an antipodean” I can safely say that no American can understand how US popular music decontextualises race relations when it’s disseminated to an audience who hasn’t been to the states. And if you read through the comment thread of VBF’s or any other related article you’ll see versions of this and any other idea you might have, replicated ad infinitum.
In the thread VBF spars with people. She uses academic rhetoric to further justify her attack on a 16 year old girl, and when she’s called out she just pulls out more rhetoric to justify her profoundly UScentric position. When I read The Citizen’s satirical take on VBF I thought someone had legitimately written it, because I’m so desensitised to academics making outlandish claims. It begs the question, when does critique become outright trolling?
Lorde’s Tennis Court cover image sourced from http://lordemusic.tumblr.com/