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The Triumph of Vulgarity

Posted by Warthog on November 21, 2003

In Reply to: AC/DC & gay icons posted by Anders on November 20, 2003

: : : : : : : Last night during a retrospective on the year 1986 on the VH-1 cable channel, they censored the word "retarded". This was in a reference to the TV show LA Law, which featured an actor playing a retarded office assistant at the fictional Mackenzie-Brackman law firm. The person who was censored then continued her comment, using the phrase "mentally challenged", which was not censored.

: : : : : : There was a little old man... sorry! There was a vertically challenged, chronologically advanced person... Political Correctness is everywhere!!

: : : : : I wonder if "retard" has become offensive because it has become a term of abuse? When you consider the etymology, it's almost PC. From M-W: "Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French retarder, from Latin retardare, from re- + tardus slow."
: : : : : I once had a friend - or so I thought (but that's long story...) - who used the expression a lot. Indeed, he would often say just 'tard, like this. "That 'tard, you mean? Oh, man, he's such a re-tard!" Although generally opposed to PC, I am in favour of it when it comes to euphemizing handicaps and the like.
: : : : : Anders

: : : : See my "people first" post above.

: : : : I think you're probably right about the use of "retard." Of course, kids now use the term "gay" to mean lame, dorky, whatever. "Do you want to go to the zoo?" "Oh, that's so gay."

: : : Hi ESC
: : : I did not know that "gay" was used in this way - to mean simply "lame," etc. As a Will & Grace addict, one would have thought I had encountered every trope on the word. Or maybe I have, without knowing it. It's hard to tell. Karen, you know, our girl in the PC-you-can-whistle-for-it department, may talk with contempt of things that are "so gay." If she refers to Jack's musical tastes, surely she is sticking to the original meaning of the word. The meaning you mention is an inflation of this sense, and hence to be discouraged. I'm not sure if one can speak in a non-offensive way of things being "gay" in the sense that they are - though not strictly homosexual - prone to appeal, or belong, to homosexuals. It makes sense to me to characterize music such as the Village People, Queen, and every boy band in town, as gay. That is, there is quite a specific sense of the word; the usage you mention is working towards corrupting this. Although it may make sense to characterize the aforementioned bands as gay, I hardly ever do it. I refrain from it because I respect the fact that other people's musical tastes and sexual orientation may differ from mine. Also, there's the consideration that Rob Halford, the original lead singer in Judas Priest, is gay. It was kept a secret for many years because it does not agree with the heavy metal image, cf. Robert Walser's scholarly book on Heavy Metal, Running With the Devil. There is hardly a type of music more straight than Judas Priest's breed of British working class Metal. Well, maybe AC/DC is: "Ruby, Ruby, where you been so long / Done took to drinkin' whiskey Baby since you been gone / Ain't no one I know do it as good as you / Lickin' on that lickin' stick the way you do." From "Go down." Okay, that's offensive :-) And yet even "AC/DC" may in another context have a connotation which is working against making AC/DC the ultimate straight band. Then again, the Young bros took their name from mom's vacuum cleaner, which may be their only claim to innocence ever.
: : : Best
: : : Anders

: : Ahh - my innocent - to quote Thin Lizzy "Don't believe a word" - considering the sexual content of AC/DCs music it hardly seems plausible that they did not know that "AC/DC" meant bi-sexual ("Oh my God - nobody's safe!" per Tom in "Gimme Gimme Gimme"). The level of truth spouted by musos is appallingly low.

: : After all, Queen were one of the greatest rock bands ever - so emulating them would hardly be a bad career choice. Even as a straight man, I cried when I heard Freddie Mercury had died.

: : The expression "that is so gay!" appears to have entered popular culture to mean that something is effete/camp or affected. It isn't really intended as a serious put-down. You could say that liking divas or musicals is "so gay!", even if it appeals to a wide audience. There are some interests that appear to be iconically "gay" - including having a tidy house/flat and being able to cook - hence the joke : How do you know if you've been burgled (titter ye not, I said 'burgled') by gays? They've taken your Shirley Bassey albums, the flat's tidy and there's a quiche in the oven.

: : I don't think the joke wouldn't work as well with AC/DC or Queen, because Shirley Bassey or Abba are more iconic than Queen, or even the Pet Shop Boys.

: : As an aside, I saw Culture Club at a festival (it appeared to be gay night, as Marc Almond etc were also on, as opposed to Motorhead and suchlike the day before). Boy George had the crowd in stiches when between songs he said "I'm disappointed - I thought Motorhead were my warm-up act and it seems I've missed them."
: : OK so you probably had to have been there, but that said so much about the tongue in cheek nature of being camp.

: : I'm ashamed to say that back in 1982, when I was a student and heard "Do you really want to hurt me" on the radio and on the Union juke box - I really liked the record, so as Culture Club were No.1 and yet had to play a Student Union gig I thought I'd like to see them. However, I pulled out of going to see them after I saw Boy George on Top of the Pops - as a sensitive 18 year old, I didn't think I could take the stick when my mates found out. Queen was one thing, Culture Club another.

: Thanks, Warthog, for revitalizing this comparatively old thread. There's no need to be ashamed of one's musical tastes whatever they may be. Let me tell you, Culture Club's "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" was the first reggae tune I ever kind of liked. I never came to like it much, though, but the song made me realize that the genre had its qualities. You know, those were the days when the Police and loads of other bands would do reggae-inspired stuff. For just about as long as I can remember, I've had very strong musical likes and dislikes, which is why I think the link to sexuality - something very obvious in popular music - is so interesting. Long before I was conscious of having a sexuality, I loved distorted guitars and the rock n roll drive. Robert Pattison, in his book, The Triumph of Vulgarity: Rock Music in the Mirror of Romanticism, was the first I saw to make a point of AC/DC's double entendre. In fact, he's the only one, as I haven't seen it since. However, I think this is misprision in the highest degree. From the very beginning through to the present day, AC/DC has been nothing but an impassioned ode to adolescent sexuality of the straightest kind. But as Robert Pattison despises rock music with a passion, of course he doesn't understand. The book, however, is interesting as it, in virtue of being consistently wrong - and persisting in its folly - somehow manages to get it right. That is, it offers, in spite of being deaf, dumb and blind, many very interesting and profound insights. "If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise," is one of Blake's oft-quoted proverbs of Hell. Hardly true as a general maxim, but the saying seems to hold as far as this book goes.
: Anders

"The Triumph of Vulgarity" sounds like a Hogarth sketch or Breugel painting. Interesting that such an odious and pompous title should immediately bring to mind high art in one who must surely be 'vulgar'. Oft is the time that I would wander round the Uffizzi, Louvre, National or Prado wearing, say, a Hendrix or other festival/tour T-shirt. Indeed, my wife wore a Newcastle Utd replica shirt the day we spent in the Louvre and had some younger Parisians (probably PSG fans) give her appreciative comments on her mode of dress. We all come from a diverse culture of many strands - as a graduate, I am supposed to form part of the intellectual elite of the country, but that does not impede feeling equally at home on a football terrace or in a box at the theatre. Admittedly, since adulthood, I have preferred theatre to be light relief from my daily work (which usually involves dealing with emotional or physical suffering), but I have too much seriousness to wish my entertainment to be full of it also.

My DVD collection has more 'Carry On' films than it does Kurosawa (or other treatments of Shakespeare) but it does have both. I have the right to appreciate what some would consider low-brow culture and like it for what it is, rather than what some culture-facist would prefer it was.

Some people are so used to their own pretentious farts that they do not recognise that their attitude stinks.

I guess that it would send shivers down the spine
of that cyclopic author to see me working on serious and complex matters at home with "Dirty deeds done dirt cheap" as my background music rather than a nice piece of Elgar or Puccini. It would further confuse the little monocular darling that I would similarly play computer games listening to mediaeval plain-song!

[However, there may be a case for soul being the only genre of popular music to accompany making love...(as opposed to simply having sex)]

and to end on a suitably vulgar note

If **** were wit, he'd be Oscar Wilde...