Monday, 24 March 2014

Week 7 Madonna & Pink


Madonna was one of the most popular singers of the 1980s and many of her singles made it into the US top 10 as well as several of her songs which reached number 1 on the charts. These songs are predominately in the last half of the decade; however Madonna’s singles and albums all did extremely well in this decade. Madonna became an icon for the way she looked and the songs she sung and she is still well known and an icon for many people today. She promoted the idea that “women should be as powerful and domineering as men and that a woman should be free to express her opinions and sexual desires as a man does, without the fear of a backlash” (Masuda, 2005)

Singles that made #1 on the US top 10 chart
Like a Virgin (1984)
Crazy for You (1985)
Live to Tell (1985)
Papa Don’t Preach (1985)
Open Your Heart (1986)
Who’s That Girl (1987)
Like a Prayer (1989)
Madonna- Papa Don't Preach

Similarly Pink, is a strong advocate for women, the LGBT community as well as for PETA. Four of Pink’s singles made it to number 1 of the US top 10 chart as well as her latest album ‘The Truth About Love’. I do think that in 30 years’ time, Pink will remain well known and admired for her music as well as her positions supporting equal rights.

Singles that made #1 on the US top 10 chart
Lady Marmalade (2001)
So What (2008)
Raise Your Glass (2010)
Just Give Me A Reason (2013)





Pink- So What



Week 6 Vietnam Memorials




In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington D.C. The memorial lists the names of around 58,000 Americans who lost their lives or went missing in the Vietnam War. “The memorial itself is dedicated to honor

 the ‘courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country’ all of who answered the call to serve during the longest war in U.S history” (Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund). After the memorial wall was completed, another statue honoring the dead was unveiled in 1984. 

The wall was viewed by some as a ‘giant tombstone’; people felt the need to create a statue which depicted the soldiers as heroic.




The wall’s first unveiling revealed the names of 57,939 names, however over the decades that number has been raised to 58,282. These names are a reminder for Americans each day that they walk past how devastating the Vietnam War was. 





http://www.vvmf.org/memorial 
http://www.aviewoncities.com/washington/vietnammemorial.htm 

Week 4 Race in Politics


The 1980s showed a decade of ‘firsts’ for African Americans’ within politics. Over the decade African American men made an impact in American politics as two states elected African American mayors. In 1983, Harold Washington was elected Mayor of Chicago after representing Illinois in the U.S House of Representatives 1981-1983. Washington struggled with his election to Mayor but as the Chicago Tribune pointed out,

“Black community leaders and politicians sensed that the combination of dissatisfaction with Mayor Jane Byrne and unusually high numbers of newly registered black voters had made the time right for a major campaign for the mayor’s office in a city that was about evenly divided between black and white” (Davis, 2008).













New York City elected David Dinkins to become mayor in 1989, he was known as a nice guy who wouldn’t be able to keep up with the struggles of New York’s problems. While he was in office, he “instituted ‘Safe Streets, Safe City: Cops and Kids’ to lower crime in the city.  














Other notable African American’s in politics are mentioned in PBS African American World:



1984- Jesse Jackson is the first African American man to make a serious bid for the U.S presidency, vying for the Democratic Party nomination. He will try again in 1988 but lose to Michael Dukakis













1989- General Colin L. Powell is the first African American to be named chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S military













1989- Ron Brown becomes the first African American person to head a major political party, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (Bill Clinton later makes him Secretary of Commerce)












Thursday, 6 March 2014

Less than Zero

 Less Than Zero
http://ambersatlantic.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/individualism-and-postmodernism-in-bret-easton-elliss-less-than-zero-and-chuck-palahniuks-invisible-monsters-2012-part-2-fiction-br/

   "Generation X nakedly admits that it purchases its pleasures […] and thus highlights the inescapably commercial nature of the experiences it describes. […] [P]leasures and commodities are experienced as one and the same thing"
 

I have chosen to post the link to the essay 'Individualism and Postmodernism in Bret Easton Ellis’s “Less Than Zero” and Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters” (2012) – Part 2: Fiction – Bret Easton Ellis' by Hannah Brosch. It was a really interesting read about how and why Clay ended up in the situations he found himself in. The essay talks about several main points including Clay's relationship with his family, the strong featuring of music throughout the novel through media such as MTV and what I find most interesting is Clay's personality ' Clay is extremely passive, which grows progressively worse in the course of the novel. While, for example, at the beginning, he insists on leaving a club where he feels uncomfortable (cf. 13-14), later on he just allows himself to be picked up by anyone (cf. 29; 109-110), hoping to “[d]isappear here'. 
I found myself comparing this book with that of Push by Sapphire for the reason that for precious the abuses she suffered were a consequence of her poverty. However the characters in Less Than Zero do not have financial issues and should therefore in theory have a successful and happy life.  This generation of rich kids as Hannah Brosch puts it are 'Too rich and too young to work, the teenagers in Less Than Zero are neither citizens nor creators, but full-time consumers, never even going as far as cooking their own meals'. It is apparent that this 'blank generation' were suffering from boredom; they pushed the boundaries because they had disposable income and no actual commitments. This book reminded my of the film we discussed in a previous lecture 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'. Except the book of course if much more brutal however it does appear to be the same concept, that the children of rich parents being left to their own devices and with the amount of money they had these kids could get away with so much.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Youth Culture in Less Than Zero and Imperial Bedrooms | Village Voice












Link: http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-06-08/books/bret-easton-ellis-writes-his-less-than-zero-sequel-imperial-bedrooms/full/

"Zero's weakness—a meandering plot where we wait for the characters to motivate themselves into caring about something—is forgivable. In 2010, its chronicling of rich and fabulous teen life makes Gossip Girl look like an after-school special. It now reads less like a coming-of-age story and more like an existential fairy tale explaining what happens when parents have everything but the capacity to love their children."
Though a lot of this article by Foster Kamer is about Ellis' Less Than Zero sequel, Imperial Bedroom, I found this paragraph particularly interesting. Here, Kamer is addressing a weakness and a change that Less Than Zero has shown in modern days. In the 80's, the story was shocking to the reader, particularly ones of an older generation as they struggled to believe that the youth of L.A. were actually living like this: Teenagers drinking, snorting, smoking, having sex and some even participating in prostitution. What Kamer also implies here in the extract above is that once upon a time, this kind of story would have been seen as a coming of age story which ties in with the notion of Less Than Zero being an example of Blank Literature.
         However, going back to what I was saying - I find it hard to believe that people were shocked by this kind of behaviour. As a teenager, you go through changes and change your views and you request freedom to do so. This would be quite typical of teenagers as a form of rebellion. As they are the future leading generation, teenagers tend to believe that they are more "aware" of the flaws of society and refuse to obey the rules as they don't want to live their life that way in the future. Putting it in this perspective, perhaps the manner and style in which Ellis wrote about things such as sex and so on may have been the shock, not the act themselves.

                                                    'Less Than Zero' Trailer (1987)

Blank fiction

Blank fiction
Through reading a section of “Blank Fictions: Consumerism, Culture, and the Contemporary American Novel,” by James Annesley.  Annesley concludes that “Black Fiction does not just depict its own period; it speaks in the commodified language of its own period.” This defines that the context the text is written in doesn’t represent its period but portrays what was contemporary happening during the time.  As it is acknowledgeable that Ellis belongs to a generation of writer that have adapted the term “Black Fiction” introduced by Elizabeth Young and Graham Caveney, where the subject matter within the novel consists usually of violence, indulgence, sex, drugs and consumerism. 



The definition that Annesley provides helps to understand how the novel could be seen as a representation of the 1980's. The  comments  on the themes continuously portrayed throughout the book, but one identity that has been shown to be consistence within that decade, that are linked within the concept of “Yuppies” Fashion, the objectification of materialistic items. “Black fiction constant allusions to retail outlets, brand names and styles”. In which throughout the text the characters are identified first through name then through the name brands and clothing they are wearing depending on their social status.

Annesley comments on Ellis approach within his previous novels, taking into consideration the approach and similarities displayed within his novels that represents the mind-set of these types of people at the time. Outlining that “His characters don’t drive cars, they drive “BMWs”, they don’t eat in restaurants, they eat in “Spago’s”, they don’t wear sunglasses, they wear “Raybans”.  The range of mass culture that is reference within “Less than Zero” characterises blank fiction but also positions it very precisely in a particular time and place.

I would say the representation within the Novel that defines the period or show what existed within that period that it’s still identified today is the constant reference to MTV , Elvis Costello associated with the first wave of the British Punk & New Wave movement. Below is a list of every song that is mentioned within the book as the songs itself represents the music that was either popular or noticeable within the 1980's.

1. New Kid In Town - The Eagles (12)
2. Crimson & Clover - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (20)
3. Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage - Killer Pussy (25)
4. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? - Culture Club (30)
5. Artificial Insemination - Elton Motello (40)
6. The Earthquake Song - The Little Girls (45)
7. Straight Into Darkness - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (48)
8. September Song - Sara Vaughan (67)
9. In The Sun - Blondie (74)
10. Hungry Like A Wolf - Duran Duran (120)
11. L.A. Woman - The Doors (147)
12. On The Sunny Side of the Street - Judy Garland (164)



Reference: Blank Fictions: Consumerism, Culture, and the Contemporary American Novel  By James Annesley,

http://themusicalmenagerie.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/less-than-zero-playlist.html 

Less Than Zero


http://bengraves.hubpages.com/hub/Less-Than-Zero-A-Look-into-the-Depths-of-Depravity#

"He writes it in eight weeks while, according to him in a 1991 Rolling Stone article, on a crystal meth binge," states Ben Graves about Bret Easton Ellis and the writing process for Less Than Zero and while I wasn't actually able to find the actual 1991 article online if this statement is true it provides a fascinating insight into the novel, and how much of an important part drug use was to the 'Blank Generation,' since crystal meth isn't a casual drug like marijuana, its a very hard drug, they were slipping further and further into drug abuse. However Bret Easton Ellis is notoriously unreliable, and enjoys playing persona's, having previously identified himself as heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual sporadically, this could just be yet another persona. If Ellis was indeed on a crystal meth binge at the time could explain the writing style of the novel, which Graves describes as "flat, and in a way distant from what is happening," because like Clay, Ellis through his drug use was detached from the real world. 

Graves defines the novel as an immorality tale, "passively displaying the plain indifference of the world," without providing any form of judgement, whether this comes as condemnation or justification, on the actions of the characters. But this indifference does speak to the apathy associated with the 'Blank Generation,' those who'd become lost to the world, sucked into a spiral of drugs, sex and disinterest, for example while Clay does nothing to help Julian out, he doesn't really accept what is happening to his friend either.   

Less Than Zero (NYTimes)

http://www.nytimes.com/1985/06/08/books/books-of-the-times-the-young-and-ugly.html

NEW YORK TIMES           
Michiko Kakutani
June 8, 1985

‘This is one of the most disturbing novels I've read in a long time. It's disturbing because the 20-year-old author draws a knowing portrait of adolescence that is almost entirely defined by hard drugs, kinky sex and expensive clothes. And it's disturbing because these kids - who are as young as 13 and 14 - are not only living a life out of a Harold Robbins novel, but have also acquired, at their brief age, a cynicism that makes, say, James Dean in ''Rebel Without a Cause'' seem like a Pollyanna.

According to the book jacket, Bret Easton Ellis is a student at Bennington College who grew up in Los Angeles, and his slick, first-person narrative encourages one to read the novel as a largely autobiographical account of what it's like to grow up, rich and jaded, in Beverly Hills today. If Mr. Ellis's story seems grossly sensationalistic at times -among the events described are a gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl - it also possesses an unnerving air of documentary reality, underlined by the author's cool, deadpan prose.
The narrator, Clay, and his friends - who have names like Rip, Blair, Kim, Cliff, Trent and Alana - all drive BMW's and Porsches, hang out at the Polo Lounge and Spago, and spend their trust funds on designer clothing, porno films and, of course, liquor and drugs. None of them, so far as the reader can tell, has any ambitions, aspirations, or interest in the world at large. And their philosophy, if they have any at all, represents a particularly nasty combination of EST and Machiavelli: ''If you want something, you have the right to take it. If you want to do something, you have the right to do it.''

The parents of these kids are mostly successful Hollywood types -cliches of all the worst aspects of L.A., they have capped teeth, lifted faces and vacant souls. They consult astrologers, gulp down pills, swig white wine, and carry on sordid little affairs - thoroughly oblivious, as Mr. Ellis makes clear, to their children's unraveling lives.
Instead of questioning or rebelling against their parents' values, however, the kids in ''Less Than Zero'' seem to have adopted them in spades: They, too, are thoroughly narcissistic - they spend a truly astonishing amount of time shopping, going to the hairdresser and worrying about such pressing questions as ''are my sunglasses crooked?'' And they, too, are willfully intent on numbing themselves to life - Valium, Thorazine, downers and heroin are their favorite drugs; soap operas, MTV, and video games, their idea of recreation. Most of the time, they are too stoned - wasted or strung out - to remember whom they slept with the night before; too out of it to even get to the right restaurant or right party on the right day.

''Rip does three more lines,'' reads a fairly representative passage, ''Rip throws his head back and shakes it and sniffs loudly. He then looks at me and wants to know what I was doing at the Cafe Casino in Westwood when he clearly remembers telling me to meet him at the Cafe Casino in Beverly Hills. I tell him that I'm pretty sure he said to meet at the Cafe Casino in Westwood. Rip says, 'No, not quite,' and then, 'Anyway it doesn't matter.' ''
Mr. Ellis has a good ear for the sort of dumb exchange of non sequiturs, bad jokes and half-hearted shrugs that pass for conversation between Clay and his friends; and while his descriptions of Los Angeles carry a few too many echoes of Raymond Chandler, Joan Didion and Nathanael West - his novel contains all the requisite references to driving the highways, listening to the desert wind and watching beach houses slide into the sea - they nonetheless demonstrate a keen eye for grim details (the dead fish in the Jacuzzi, the cigarette butt stubbed out on the kitchen floor, and so on) and a sure sense of the absurd.
Still, ''Less Than Zero'' ends up feeling more like a ''60 Minutes'' documentary on desperate youth than a full-fledged novel. Its narrative, told in fast-paced, video-like clips, devolves into a litany of predictable scenes involving sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. And the characters remain so alike in their aimlessness and disaffection that the reader has a pretty hard time of it telling them apart.

Even Clay is something of a cipher - presumably we are meant to think that he's more sensitive and well-meaning than his friends because he abstains from raping a young girl, turns down an offer of heroin, and has crying jags in his psychiatrist's office. But such gestures are hardly sufficient to establish him as a sympathetic hero, and in the end, his alienation remains undifferentiated from that of his fellow nihilists.
Unlike Clay, Mr. Ellis clearly possesses talent - and the drive to do something with his gifts. Perhaps in his next novel, he will bring them to real fruition - and write a story that doesn't merely depress us with sociological reports, but also moves us with the force of its imaginative transactions.’

Less Than Zero




”Until that movie I took my drugs after work and on the weekends. That changed on Less Than Zero. The role was like the ghost of Christmas Future. I became an exaggeration of the character.” - Robert Downey Jr.

“Former troubled actor Robert Downey, Jr., 43, blames his role in 1980s cult film Less Than Zero for fueling his drug addiction.  He claims he only took drugs recreationally before he was cast as a cocaine addict in the film. Soon after completing the movie, Downey Jr’s substance abuse worsened and he was jailed at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran for a year for missing mandatory court-imposed drug tests.”


The 1980’s have always had a reputation for being an era filled with drugs, sex and rock and roll, and many films made about that time period highlight the issues it can cause. Robert Downey Jr. was making a name for himself in the acting world during the era of the ‘Blank Generation’ and truly embodied the stereotypical lifestyle that accompanied this term. Like many other wealthy white Americans during this time he regularly used drugs, however, his involvement with the film adaptation of the novel “Less Than Zero” caused his drug use to spiral out of control and affect both his personal life and career. This is a prime example of an individual in the 1980’s that became addicted to drugs and lost out on a lot of potential career opportunities and was not taken very seriously because of his obnoxious addiction. The effects of the 1980’s for Downey Jr. still exist today and his past will haunt him, like it will do for many others who became so engrossed with the 1980’s lifestyle that it totally consumed them.
The novel by Bret Easton Ellis is highly regarded in the “Blank Fiction” genre.
“Powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money a place devoid of feeling or hope.  Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college and re-enters a landscape of limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porches, dines at Spago, and snorts mountains of cocaine. He tries to renew feelings for his girlfriend, Blair, and for his best friend from high school, Julian, who is careering into hustling and heroin. Clay's holiday turns into a dizzying spiral of desperation that takes him through the relentless parties in glitzy mansions, seedy bars, and underground rock clubs and also into the seamy world of L.A. after dark.”

 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Blank Literature

Blank Literature

Blank fiction and the blank generation, terms that describe a society milieu that become a cult symbol of the 1980's. The term itself comes from the title of Richard Hell's album Blank Generation. Writers like Bret Easton Ellis exemplified this transgressive genre that saw society as a constrictive and binding construct, as a consequence a feature that defined the genre, was that the narrative saw its protagonists breaking free from conformity. However this social rebellion was primarily linked to the more self destructive and self motivated forms of rebellion. Sex, drugs and violence became a key component, the characters themselves, narcissistic, vacant and nihilistic. As such it can be seen that these attributes are connected to their need for a sub culture of society. Mental illness, addiction and more sinister issues such as incest, pedophilia and sadistic violence make existing in society impossible. Blank fiction then can be seen as a place where the blank generation could exist outside society but still in some way connected too it. 
For example, Bret Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho features a wealthy, attractive and powerful young man, a yuppie, going about his life in a way that is seemingly in simpatico with mainstream society. This is however a facade for his depraved and increasingly powerful obsession with murder and mutilation. This theme of internal revolt is evident in much of Ellis' work that becomes in itself a key symbol for blank literature. The novel Less Than Zero uses a different angle to explore the literature of the blank generation, in the novel the protagonists Clay, rather than being a key participant in the actions and motivations of blank literature, takes the place of voyeur, he witnesses the apathy and amorality of the blank generation. Less Than Zero focuses more on the blank generation and its presence within youth culture, as the novel explores a group of young people motivation almost solely by the their illicit needs and desires wherein drugs and sexual acts become entertainment and the more sadistic and perverted the better. 

It can be seen that blank literature questions the 1980's youth cultures sense of self, the consumer culture and financial boom have created a sense of loss and meaninglessness. It could be said that the relevance of it being a time of Post Cold and Vietnam War is crucial to the significance and creation of the blank generation, in that, there is no war, no purpose, no victory. America during the 1980's and leading out of the 1970's was dealing with a national shame in regards to Vietnam, they needed to reinvent and in the vacuum the blank generation formed. 





Blank Fiction and the Blank Generation | Less Than Zero

Blank Fiction and the Blank Generation - Less Than Zero

From the book Historical Dictionary of Postmodernist Literature and Theater, the term ‘Blank Fiction’ is “a name given to a form of fiction that developed in the United States in the 1980s that charted the experiences of the “blank generation”, a term used to refer to a group of young people, predominantly from wealthy white families, whose life of privilege seemed to lead to affectless behaviour and cultural alienation” (Mason, 42).

As follows, this theology is echoed in Bret Easton Ellis’ work Less Than Zero as Mason points out, is the paradigmatic text of blank fiction. For the protagonist, Clay is from that definitive wealthy white [but ‘must-be’ tanned] family and in so much live a relatively privileged lifestyle; “I walk upstairs, past the new maid” (Easton Ellis, 10). Continuously, blank fiction centres on the blank generation and for the most part presents their life “as an endless cycle of consumption (of commodities and experiences) that is made possible by extreme wealth” (Mason, 42). Clay and his friends are living just as this; they drive around in their expensive cars, go to boozy, sex and drug fuelled parties that seem to only encourage their lavish and sumptuous lifestyles.

But with this comes disastrous consequences that threaten their normality and more often than not their livelihood. For as we see death and tragedy catches up with those who underestimate the addiction that comes with keeping up the extravagant routines; “Muriel holds the syringe and Kim whispers, “Don’t do it”, …..I can make out the beginning of a smile…and as the needle sticks into Muriel’s arm, Blair gets up and says, “I’m leaving,”…Muriel closes her eyes and the syringe slowly fills with blood” (Easton Ellis, 86) And likewise “Two girls come out of the darkness of the alley, giggling and holding onto each other… “What happened to him?” “O.D.’d, I guess.”…He’s lying against the back wall, propped up. The face belongs to some young eighteen-, nineteen- year old boy…Spin kneels down and looks into the boy’s face and studies it earnestly. Trent starts to laugh and lights up a joint” (Easton Ellis, 186/7).

As the book describes, the reaction to the death of someone they do not know, is that of laughter. This shows just how lenient and unfased some of the characters have become to class A drugs; an overdose happens to be a commonality, so much so that it becomes a source of entertainment.

Original book cover of Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero

...........................................................................................
Sources:
Mason, F. (2007). Historical Dictionary of Postmodernist Literature and Theater. Maryland; USA:  Scarecrow Press.
Easton Ellis, B. (1985). Less Than Zero. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc.

Less Than Zero and the youth of the 1980's

In this blog post I will attempt to convey the representation of youth  in 1980's America portrayed in the novel: 'Less Than Zero'.

Less Than Zero novel cover.
Less Than Zero, published in 1985 is littered with references to the youth 1980's in America. These references come in many forms, some which will be explained in this post.

First of all, the fact that the book was published by Ellis in 1985 meant he was only 21 when it came out (his debut novel) which gives the impression that as a member of the younger generation he was more honest and trustworthy when it came to giving an accurate description of American youth during the 1980's, as it had come from a 'reliable' and 'first hand source'. The youth of the day are portrayed by describing the moral and psychological aspects of a generation lost in drugs and sex. The youth (all main characters) are portrayed as lethargic, narcissistic and spoiled, growing up in the Reagan administration.

Drugs are a consistent topic during the novel, taken by Clay, Trent, Julian and almost everybody else that is described in the book. Drugs associated with the 'Yuppie' era, ensuring concentration levels are at their peak (cocaine) and parties are as enjoyable (and out of control) as they can be (marijuana, alcohol, heroin, qualudes, benzodiazapenes. These drugs are readily sniffed, smoked, imbibed, injected, and swallowed by the characters in the novel, showing the ease in which these narcotics could be obtained and how popular they were during this period. The use of heroin and blood tainted needles also dramatically increased the spread of HIV during the 1980's, with the novel showcasing just how easy this disease could have been spread between the younger generation. The spread of HIV can also be seen with the frequency of homosexual sex performed by several of the characters in the book, as a way to either earn money, or as a currency for drugs and/or excitement. This 'hedonistic' (as expressed through excessive drug taking and promiscuity) way of living, takes it's toll on the body, which in turn leads to higher chances of catching this deadly disease.

The descriptions of Clay's psychiatrist show the the fact that Clay is attempting to develop his mind into that of an adult, but is obviously not working, it shows an immaturity, that although noticeable, cannot be rectified.

Throughout the novel, 'generation X' (youths) continue to experience thrills in darker and darker ways, often more dangerous. This is shown through excessive drug use and sexual encounters, both heterosexual and homosexual, with references to rape, and underage sex too. An interesting element described about the 1980's in reference to youth was the introduction of the characters watching music videos on MTV and playing early video games, which begins to show the gradual immersion in technology that would develop into the main stereotype for youths for the next 20+ years.







Monday, 3 March 2014

Less Than Zero - Los Angeles (theguardian)




http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/dec/29/winter-reads-bret-easton-ellis

The above article was written for guardian.com by Dan Holloway in December 2011. Holloway comments on characters, setting and narrative to reflect the representation of Los Angeles in the 1980s.

The only real development in the book is Clay's gradually evolving disgust as he moves like a wraith through an endless round of casual sex, drugs, and violence that changes nothing about the world in which, and the people to whom, they occur. And every surface is so shiny that it slips through the world without leaving a trace.

This idea is important because it shows how Los Angeles is a completely different place to anywhere else on the planet. Clay experiences the extremes of the wealthy youth living in LA but it is evident to the reader that even the extremes of this lifestyle do not leave any lasting impression on the world. As if casual sex, drugs and violence are expected of LA and those who experience it do not matter. As Clay repeats numerous times in the book, "Disappear Here". This is shown on page 144 when Clay is told that 'Sylvan, from France, O.D'd on Friday' (references to people who overdose occurs numerous times in the book). When Clay says he doesn't know who Sylvan is Trent shrugs and changes the subject. It seems as though you could replace Sylvan with any other person and it wouldn't make a difference because drug abuse is "normal" in the wealthy LA lifestyle.


Less Than Zero is as slippery as the characters that haunt it. It draws us in only and precisely to the extent that we share its inability to care about anyone within its pages. We both identify with Clay's disgust and find ourselves disgusted by him in turn. But maybe his slow realisation is one of self-loathing? No, there is nothing noble, no sense of discovery, about Clay's repulsion. It is purely the product of an existential laziness; an accumulation of holographic detritus that results from not being bothered to dial out.

The interesting thing about Clay is that, as Holloway states, we 'identify' with him but also are 'disgusted by him in turn'. He is shown as someone returning from the outside but also being rooted to LA and this lifestyle. Throughout the entire novel Clay seems annoyed and judgemental toward his 'peers' but is also a contradiction of his own thoughts. He gradually moves towards what he dislikes by returning to LA. Clay's drug use increases, "I get into the car and open the glove compartment and cut a line, just to make it home" (page 30). Almost every page of the book has a reference to some sort of drug use whether it's cocaine, weed, valium, sppeed, desoxyn, meth, animal tranquilisers etc. Clay's drug use shows the reader that he is hardly better than the people he is judgemental of.

And while Clay slips away into who knows with those echoes playing like the last tracking glitches slowly tuning themselves out of his head, we know that both he and Los Angeles remain fundamentally the same.

The longer Clay stays in LA the futher he loses any morals that he once had. When Clay goes with Julian to the Saint Marquis he thinks, "I realize that the money doesn't matter. That all that does is that I want to see the worst" (page 160). Holloway is creating a link between Los Angeles and Clay and how they are the same. Clay will use Julian's misfortune to his advantage, to feel something or to 'see the worst', just as Los Angeles is filled with people and industries that use people the same way.

Because Less Than Zero is not about Los Angeles, or the 80s, or drugs, or hipsters. It is fundamentally true...Maybe that's Less Than Zero's redeeming feature. As the shard of ice, the frozen mirror that embeds itself inside us and pricks our conscience with our blank reflection at each of these moments, maybe it is a bud of hope, of change, of spring. But I can't help thinking, I hope it isn't.

Holloways final comments could be read in many ways but I think an important element of this article is the idea that Less Than Zero is not just about any topic of the 1980s, it is about the truth and a reflection of real life and the fact that these issues are actually happening. The final words of the novel, "Images so violent and malicious that they seemed to be my only point of reference for a long time afterwards. After I left." It suggests that the things that Clay saw and experienced stay with him for a long time after he leaves LA but the point is that Los Angeles will be unchanged after he's gone. The article helps us to understand these issues of the 1980s by highlighting how Los Angeles and those that live in it, particular the blank generation and the wealthy youth, make Los Angeles in the 1980s the cold place it is represented as by Bret Easton Ellis.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Billie Jean/Gangnam Style - Music Video's that represents 80's and contemporary America


'Billie Jean' - 1983

Michael Jackson often referred to as ‘the king of pop’ was a major influence within 1980’s America and across the globe. His contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicised personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.

"Billie Jean" is a song by the American recording artist Michael Jackson. It is the second single from the singer's sixth solo album, Thriller (1982). It was written and composed by Michael Jackson and produced by him and Quincy Jones. "Billie Jean" became a worldwide commercial and critical success; "Billie Jean" was one of the best-selling singles of 1983 and is one of the best-selling singles worldwide. The song topped both the US and UK charts simultaneously. In ‘Billie Jean’ Michael's black leather suit, pink shirt and red bowtie were imitated around the world. The popularity of the video helped push Thriller towards becoming the top-selling album of all time and eventually garnered Jackson induction into the Music Video Producers Hall of Fame in 1992.

Choosing the landmark "Thriller" the No. 1 video of the 1980s would be obvious. However, it was the video "Billie Jean" that put Michael Jackson on the map along with the MTV the emerging television channel, two major popular culture icons that represented the 80’s.

The reason why I chose Billie Jean to represent the 1980’s is because it was this music video that significantly changed the music industry in America and many other countries (mainly western).

 Hard to believe today, given the pervasiveness of Black culture in contemporary’s music industry, but back in 1983 no Black artists were played on MTV. "Billie Jean" broke the colour barrier not just in music videos but for the music industry in general. This is further reinforced with Micheal Jackson meeting Ronald Reagan in the White House on 14t May 1984. It was also this music video that triggered the usage of music videos as originally MJ used the video to present his dancing moves to his own songs. But ever since Billie Jean the video footage in music videos play a huge part in the individual songs, the artists  and the music industry as it strongly portrays the representation of the respective artist.

Therefore Billie Jean remains a seminal moment in music video history, as well as its respective album Thriller being one of the first albums to use music videos to as successful promotional tools.

'Gangnam Style'- 2012



On December 21, 2012, "Gangnam Style" became the first YouTube video to reach a billion views As of February 8, 2014, the music video has been viewed over 1.9 billion times on YouTube. By the end of 2012, Gangnam Style had topped the music charts of more than 30 countries. The song and its accompanying music video went viral in August 2012 and have influenced popular culture worldwide since then.

As the song continued to rapidly gain popularity and ubiquity, its signature dance moves were attempted by many powerful political leaders such as the British Prime Minister David Cameron and Barack Obama, the  President of the United States. Gangnam Style also became a source of parodies and reaction videos by many different individuals, groups and organizations.

Through social networks like Facebook, many small, unofficial fan-organized flash mobs have been held in universities and colleges throughout the world. The earliest flash mobs were held in Pasadena, California,12th September 2012 Times Square in Manhattan was filled with a dance mob dancing to the music of "Gangnam Style" during ABC's Good Morning America.Major flash mobs (those with more than 1,000 participants) were also held in Seoul (South Korea),Sicily, (Italy) and Milan (Italy),and Paris (France).

The reason why I think ‘Gangnam Style’ represents the contemporary is because of several reasons. First It represents the growing globalisation of the world as a song of non-Western origin could top the charts in its own region and many other countries around the globe. Second it represents the contemporary’s usage and reliance on the internet, hence the reason to its ‘discovery’ and its influence upon popular culture (flash mobs, parodies and internet meme). Finally due to the internet Gangnam Style represents the contmeprary change in the music industry. Looking back upon the 1980’s music videos were accessed on TV leading the songs to sell well on the charts. However Gangnam Style ‘changed the music industry’s Billboards ranking methodology’ as argued in The Harvard Business review (Kevin Evers). Instead of relying solely on radio plays and paid purchases, Billboard started to place a heavier emphasis on digital sales and YouTube views As a result of the change, Gangnam Style moved up to the top position in music charts in many countries

Music in the 1980s Whitney Houston vs Beyoncé

Whitney Houston vs Beyoncé
Her debut album Whitney Houston released in 1985 became the first ever album by a female artist to have 3 no 1 selling singles, it also spent 14 weeks at the top of the charts. With hits such as 'how will I know' 'greatest love of all' and saving all my love for you' Houston became a international superstar with a career of no 1 hits well into the 1990s and 2000's.  Her performances earn't her the title of diva something which she arguably embraced. Her success on the industry inspired a generation of African American women to follow in her footsteps and I feel Whitney Houston put African American female artists on the map! The soulful diva performances from Whitney Houston can be traced back to legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin and also seen today through the Artist Beyoncé.

Beyoncé is an artist I feel pushes the boundaries in terms of music and has embraced the image of the diva and gone further than any previous African American female artist in terms of success. I think Beyoncé with be remembered in 30 years for her amazing talent. I think that is what is key about Whitney Houston despite her personal drug problems and her untimely death her music is what is remembered and still enjoyed by many today. Beyoncé's music has the same appeal; people pay less attention to her personal life and focus on her music I think that is what makes and artists work stand the test of time.

Cyndi Lauper VS Taylor Swift

At 22, All Girls Just Wanna Have Fun


Cyndi Lauper is one of the most famous female singer/songwriters from the 1980's with hits such a 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun', 'Time After Time' and 'True Colors'. Her debut album 'She's So Unusual' was released in 1983 and became an instant commercial success. Even today I still hear her songs on the radio and her name
is known by so many people, even those who, like me, were not born or alive during the 80's. I chose Cyndi Lauper because I feel like she represents the bouncy, energetic and fun-loving side of music in the 80's as well as the vibe it brought out in youth culture during that decade. Her music is harmless as in, she presents the choice of having fun, without getting drunk or doing drugs or god knows what else, something that is often referred to in music, particularly today. Because of this, she and her music have a positive infliction on the younger generation of which her music seems to be aimed at around this time.



In this respect, I feel that Cyndi Lauper and Taylor Swift have this representation of innocence in common with each other. Taylor Swift, at only 24 is a 7 times Grammy Award winner, last year she was honoured with The Pinnacle Award at the 2013 CMAs (Country Music Awards). In total, she has won an amazing 221 awards for various singles and albums, as well as Entertainer of the Year and Female Vocalist awards. Going back to what I was saying before, Taylor Swift doesn't sing or write about going out and having sex or
doing drugs and so on. Each song she writes tells a story, a proper, comprehensible story and that is something that is rare in today's music industry. She has been an incredible inspiration for people across the world and will continue to for years to come. She is simple, down to earth and friendly. Swift has become EXCESSIVELY rich from her career so far and she doesn't misuse the money. She is one of the most charitable of celebrities. I think her ability to keep her cool whilst still being so down to earth will be something that will be remembered in years to come.

"Long live the look on your face and bring on all the pretenders, one day,
                                                  We will be remembered..."
                                                                   - 'Long Live' by Taylor Swift, Speak Now





"Purple Rain" - "Niggas in Paris"

 Prince - "Purple Rain" 1984 

Purple Rain is a music video, album and movie released by Warner Bros. Records on June 25, 1984, by titan of the 1980’s Prince.” Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the second-best album of the 1980s and 76th on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Zounds magazine ranked it the 18th greatest album of all time.  The two main songs from Purple Rain, "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy", would top the US singles charts and were hits around the world, while the title track would go to number two on the Billboard Hot 100.”Prince’s style and music alone represents the 1980's through his take on of hard rock and new wave to his continuous creativity of moving on and trying new things. From embracing everything from hip-hop to Velvet underground, whilst having hits from “When doves cry” to “Purple rain.”  Purple Rain is an eight minute video filled with slow burning- red hot emo joy. It’s noted that within the each verse of “Purple Rain” is about a group of people in his life. For instance his parents, Appolonia (A Gangster Girl, who doesn't chill with a huge group,) and his Band mates. There has been loads of controversial regarding the meaning of “Purple Rain” some has said it’s something to with the end of the world as prince was very interested within that concept of the 1980’s and suggested that the apocalypse wasn't Far from his mind. But what makes “Purple rain” by Prince a representation of the 1980's? The context of purple rain represents the views Prince shared within that period in which reflected the song as well as in the movie. Stan Hawkins who wrote the book “Prince: The Making of a Pop Music Phenomenon” states that “The site of horror or monstrosity in purple rain is not within women and their sexuality but rather with their repression in the mid-1980's and how that power relationship was manifested in the cultural sphere.” In which defines the repression women was facing within the 1980's. Purple Rain is a song that still survives 30 years later after being released and will survive/ be a representation of the 1980's and classics of all time. 


 Jay Z ft Kanye West - "Niggas in Paris" 2014 


I feel the period I live in today will be represented as the era of provocative music. Especially the take on Hip hop music and some R&B the music is so provocative and that’s what people want to listen to and watch.  I feel this era is a contemporary and knew type of hip hop music compared to music within the 80s/90s that mostly related to political statements, poverty and real life issues that they witness or struggled and know in which made hip hop unknown outside of the United States in the 1980's. And today hip hop is recognized globally as its more focused on things artist have what they want e.g. money, fame and “Bitches” notice the plural in bitch. In which today whether you famous or not men need more than women to be complete noticeable within the marriage and divorce rates in contemporary society today. However I feel this music video is a representation of the 21st century and will be many years to come as it embodies the provocative nature of today through the use of language, visual sexual images and the change of  hip hop that’s reflects the next generation and current. It is a song by American rappers Kanye West who is known for his album college dropout which loads of college dropout students can relate to as well as Jay Z who is one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs in America deputed the song  “Niggas in Paris” September 13, 2011. It debuted at number 75 on the US Billboard Hot 100 on the week of the album's release the song won for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the 55th Grammy Awards. In an interview, Kanye West revealed that the song was inspired by his travels in Paris. 



Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Week 7 - Madonna and Rihanna


Madonna was not only an important musical figure of the 1980s but her music videos helped her to become the established icon that she became recognized as. I chose the song 'Material Girl' released in November 1984 because of the impact it had on her image as an artist. The video revolves around Madonna's character, which links to Marilyn Monroe's performance in "Diamond's are a Girl's Best Friend". Madonna is shown ignoring and pushing away the several men that surround her while singing about living in a 'material world' and that she is a 'material girl'.

The reason this video played an important role in the 1980s is because it created a different image for women, through Madonna, by her making the decision to choose money and material goods over romance and relationships. It shows that female roles were changing during the 1980s and Madonna was a feminist icon of this movement. Although there has been some confusion about the exact meaning of the lyrics in relation to the video it is clear that the message that Madonna was trying to create was about female choice, whether the choice was being materialistic or choosing to reject the diamonds in the video. The legacy of the nickname "material girl" that surrounds Madonna's persona shows the cultural impact that the song has had. The phrase is still relevant today as Madonna has named her clothing line "material girl".





Similarly to Madonna, Rihanna's career is surrounded by the way she presents herself as a female. Rihanna is known for her provocative image and songs and the above song is a perfect example of this. 'Rude Boy' was released in February 2010 and has left a lasting memory of what kind of performer and artist Rihanna is. The song immediately caused attention because of it's explicit nature and in some ways creates a new meaning to phrase "sex sells" in music. The song was very popular because of it's musical style but it was clear that much of the attention was brought about by the image that Rihanna was creating.

The reason i believe that this song will be remembered in 30+ years from now is because it not only caused popularity and attention but it helped mold the persona and style that Rihanna has and it foreshadows the numerous similarly provocative videos that followed. I believe it will be looked back on as one of Rihanna's most iconic songs because of the influence she has in the music industry and how this song and this video helped shape the person she is perceived as.

Then and Now: The Boss and Hoodie Allen


In 1984 Bruce Springsteen released "Born in the U.S.A" which would go on to become one of the best selling albums not only of the 80s but of all time as well, selling well over 30 million copies world wide, and upwards of 15 million albums in the U.S. alone. The album also produced a string of 7 Top 10 singles, which ties the record with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation 1814," with the lead single being Dancing in the Dark. The accompanying music video for the song (see above) was the first music video in which The Boss actually appeared, since the 1982 video for Atlantic City didn't actually feature Springsteen, it was in a non-representational form, just showing stark blank and white images of Atlantic City. The massive sales of "Born in the U.S.A" as well as other albums from the 1980's demonstrate the rampant consumerism that was beginning to come into existence, from Nike shoes to CD's people were eager to consume more and more.  

The music video features The Boss and the E Street Band simply performing the song on a stage during a concert, making his showmanship and stage presence the focus of the video. While the Thriller music video had been released a year early, demonstrating just how far the medium could be taken, the simplicity of the Dancing in the Dark video seems to be another form of experimenting, figuring out how best to sell a less theatrical non-nonsense musician to a wide mainstream audience. The music video flaunts Springsteen's new ripped physique, in the lead up to the albums release he'd been through a rigorous fitness regime in order to reinvent himself as a masculine and sexualised rock star, an image which would be easier to sell to the general public in an increasingly commercialised 1980's America. Tight blue jeans were used to highlight this new image, with The Boss wearing them in the Dancing in the Dark music video and more famously on the cover of "Born in the U.S.A."



However the realist lyrical themes of the album as a whole, and Dancing in the Dark specifically, dealing with the hardships and harshness of every day life, particularly for working class America, seen in lyrics such as "Man I ain't getting nowhere, I'm just living in a dump like this," clash with the success and prosperity of the era as portrayed by the Reagan administration in "Morning in America." In a 1984 interview with Rolling Stone magazine Bruce Springsteen stated "well, it's not morning in Pittsburgh," as the city was going through a process of industrialization, making thousands of people unemployed. 


Hoodie Allen (stage name of Steven Markowitz) is an American hip-hop artist from New York City. Hailing from a middle class upbringing on Long Island, his music, like other White Boy Rappers such as Sammy Adams, Asher Roth, Mac Miller, and Timeflies, fuses rapping with pop sensibilities, electronic music and lyrics not about life on the streets and gang culture, but about college, partying, broken hearts and references to pop culture, all influenced by their middle class backgrounds. A legacy of the birth of rap music during the 1980s, with the white kids who grew up listening to Public Enemy, Beastie Boys and Run DMC wanting to emulate them.  

http://www.hoodieallen.com/

Now I'm guessing most of you haven't heard of Hoodie Allen before, until I went on the American Exchange I'd never heard of him either, he is however pretty popular in America, his music videos do have millions of views on YouTube, and his 2012 EP "All American" reached number 10 in the US charts, as well as number 1 on iTunes chart. While he isn't a massively successful artist, the reason I picked him as a representation of contemporary culture is because he's a very modern artist; he isn't signed to a label and self-releases all his music, you can download all his albums and mixtapes from his website for free (see above) and uses his fans to promote his shows in their cities, with Hoodie Mob offering rewards for fans who put up posters, hand out flyers, invite people to the event on Facebook. As a totally self-reliant artist he is the example of how the music industry is being evolved and revolutionised by the internet, partly out of necessity because of illegal downloads, and when people in thirty years look back trying to find why the music industry is the way it is, Hoodie Allen's success will surely be a turning point, perhaps paving the way for a world where without records labels. 

The hyper-sexualised nature of the Cake Boy music video, with the two women in the video wearing very short shorts and dancing provocatively, seems to be done with a tongue in cheek tone like its parodying a culture where sex is used to sell everything, even baked goods. 



Finally when people in thirty years look back on our culture the evolution of lyric videos, which are used to promote a single in the lead up to the release of the music video and often times weeks before it becomes available to buy as an extra way to hype up a song, as evidence of a culture addicted to consumption and companies finding more and more ways to sell their products to the mass public. The glossy high quality nature of these lyric videos, which have almost become music videos themselves these days, are designed to be eye catching and attention grabbing just like music video are supposed to be, but instead of being produced for circulation on MTV they are purpose built for the internet, often being used as adverts before other videos on YouTube.