Numerous other readings of popular culture similarly fixed overly-specific signifiers onto overly-broad categories of identity. New Zealand singer Lorde’s song “Royals,” which critiques pop music’s emphasis on signifiers of wealth such as “Gold teeth/ Grey Goose/ Trippin’ in the bathroom/ Bloodstains/ Ball gowns/ Trashing the hotel room” and “Crystal/ Maybach/ Diamonds on your timepiece/ Jet planes/ Islands/ Tigers on a gold leash” was also criticized for being racist.
Again, if anything’s offensive, it’s the assumption implicit in that accusation about the relationship between “Crystal” or “gold teeth” and “black people in general.” Art’s transformative power comes, in part, from its ability to decouple symbols from their original contexts (here, rap music videos) and reconfigure them in new ones (American cultural imperialism and global capitalism), in the process stripping signifier from signified to create new spaces for meaning-making. But offense criticism attempted to superglue as many signifiers as possible onto race, gender, and sexuality, weighing down our ability to deconstruct them, rebuild them, or think outside their restrictive confines.
2013: On Being Offended by Benjamin Pearson.
This such a satisfying article to read and the perfect antidote to most of the internet this year.
This is the best list of the best films of the year, and I’m not just saying that because I edit the film section at Tiny Mix Tapes. Yeah, I kinda thought Upstream Color and Before Midnight was schmaltzy, and Gravity was overrated narratively if not visually. But still: what other film list had Spring Breakers at number one? Or had The Rambler at all? For sure none had Black Box, which hasn’t even scored a distribution deal yet. Also, damn, this list has so many well-written blurbs on it. 2013 was an insanely good year for movies; they just didn’t make it to your multiplexes.
2013 Clearing House: I forgot to post that I interviewed incredible musician/self-trained ethnomusicologist/visual artist/amateur Indonesian speaker Arrington de Dionyso at Tiny Mix Tapes. It’s a long-ass interview, conducted over the course of like 1.5 years, but it really sheds some light on his creative process and gives an alternative perspective to 2013’s reductive criticisms of “cultural appropriation.”