A little change of pace from me over at PJ Media today. Two pop culture icons — one falling, the other rising — demonstrate a capacity for mocking the culture that created them.
A sample; first, on Bauer:
The sense of duty is still there, but to what? All Bauer seems to have left is a personal code of honor to which he is loyal. Gone is the clear notion that Jack was fighting for America, replaced by a much more individualistic sense of “me vs. them.” Bauer fights a private war now, for his own goals and his own reasons. It diminishes him in ways that reduces his impact on the culture. It’s like Bauer has gone from Captain America to Captain Crunch.
It isn’t so much that Bauer has become a liberal, or now reflects liberal sensibilities about the war on terror. That’s not entirely accurate. Instead, the character is now a parody of the old Jack, a notion reinforced by the writers deliberately eschewing the tactics used by the old Bauer, while steering the new Jack away from almost all controversy. The old Jack not only tortured suspects; he routinely thumbed his nose at the bureaucrats and his superiors. He seemed to have adopted the old Davy Crockett motto: “Be sure you’re right — then go ahead.”
Now, Jack Bauer defers to authority in ways he never would have in the first years of the show. He has been defanged in an effort perhaps to widen his appeal. Instead, the effect is to parody what made Bauer such a powerful image of American strength and determination to take the fight directly to the terrorists. The old Jack Bauer probably belonged in a cage. The new Bauer only needs a leash. And the difference is a reflection of how pop culture has changed the last decade. Cynicism and a general malaise have overtaken the explosive and often over-the-top exuberance that was once the hallmark of the American pop scene.
And I am goo-goo for Gaga:
Gaga disassociates her music from the images because she is using the video as a vehicle to send up iconic pop culture images and hence, pop culture itself. It is one gigantic inside joke that almost everyone is in on.
Her send-ups are not performed with any reverence or sense of homage, but with a desire to impose an ironic juxtaposition between the pop culture images she mocks and her own over-the-top personae. And in so doing, she consciously brings herself full circle from pop icon to a self-mocking caricature of a pop artist — a cardboard cutout so depthless and shallow, so deliberately provocative and outrageous, that the creative product — her music — actually aids in the parody by standing at arms length from the “art” of the delivery system. The art ignores the reality Gaga has created onscreen, imposing its own pleasant association with another world.
In the “Telephone” video, for instance, she is bailed out of the “Prison for Bitches” (following some rank lesbian and fetish images both designed to shock and evoke amusement) by formerly squeaky clean Beyonce. The two then take off in a Thelma and Louise adventure, parodying Quentin Tarantino’s epic Kill Bill films as well as Pulp Fiction by driving in a vehicle named “The Pussywagon” (Kill Bill) and stopping at a diner (Pulp Fiction) just long enough to poison the patrons by slipping a toxin into their food. They then drive off, the sound of police cars pursuing in the distance, and the imitation of the iconic raised handclasp of Thelma and Louise right before they drove over the cliff is used as a parody of solidarity between the two mega-stars.
Read the whole thing.