Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hot Country Proto-Fascism


An odd thought of the sort that one typically doesn't write down: while I was in the car driving to and from Ohio for Thanksgiving, I did as I tend to do when permitted by my family, which is to sample a broad range of radio stations along the way. Oftentimes I prefer the radio to premixed music of one sort of another, for the illusion of connection to others. The magic of AM radio late at night is difficult to beat, when you pick up a station four states away. Very dreamy.

At any rate, I listened to about 15 minutes of country music (which is not really country, but "hot country," or pop music sung by people with Southern accents and silly names like names like Rascal and Faith). I am fond of actual country music, which celebrates adult ambiguities and engages moral questions without fully resolving them. But this junk comes as prepackaged sentiment, and worse it aligns itself with coarse woodgrained majoritarian impulses: religious faith is good; children are precious; rural people are more authentic than city people; love is forever; parents are wise; simplicity is noble; and a mishmash of stuff about flags and eagles. The producers and songwriters and performers self-consciously position the artwork in a cultural and political context. You could call it proto-fascist, what with all the God and country and family stuff. Too much. And then it occurred to me that I am annoyed by hot country music in exactly the same way I am annoyed by a great deal of contemporary art, insofar as much of it engages in positioning before the fact. You know how you're supposed to feel; you know what ideas have been approved.

For students of expository prose: please note that here is an excellent example of writing on a general topic without benefit of examples--common among lazy editorialists--which deservedly annoys alert readers. I will work on citing actual songs and objects another day. For now I'd like to thank the blog format for having midwifed enough irresponsible opinion to make this seem at the least typical if not egregious. For now anyway, I've articulated that modest notion that flowered briefly on Interstate 64 West of Louisville, Kentucky on Thanksgiving Day 2007.

Image: Uncredited cover illustration, Rangeland Romance, January 1948. A Popular Publication.

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