Spy magazine had a very good article in the 90s called Everybody’s a Rebel by Paul Rudnick. It was all about the faux rebellion of Hollywood, and how we had actors and singers proclaim to be “rebels” even though they were the Establishment, and living it up in mansions.
There are fake rebels, but they are not rebels: they have a role in society that prevents actual rebellion. They placate people — allow them to release and live vicariously through these stand-ins: you can pretend you are standing up to the Man and be rich and famous — and mainstream. It is a safe Zero Risk fantasy.
There are many roles in society, but the the fake rebel looks somewhat different than the cornfed ones, and it is easy for the fake rebel to think they are rebels, which they are not. They are the psychic equivalent of the Amish’s rumspringa: it is pretending to allow the naive and life inexperienced youth into thinking they are “running loose”, but not really. The kids don’t know the difference, and stay within the in-group and abide by the rules.
Rock music is Western society’s version of rumspringa. It runs on the same principles, and also has the same misconceptions about it.
For decades, the mainstream music industry could keep this reality well-hidden because the gate-keepers could hide it. You had people such as Madonna reap the bountiful benefits of seeming like rebels because they were the vent built into the Machine. Hollywood also used the same logic with “bad boy” and “bad girls” becoming famous on the false pretence of being “rebels.”
That’s not being a rebel. That is playing a role.
Rebels shun a system. They are outsiders who do not get lucrative contracts or endorsement deals. Industry is about making money, not losing money. You have a certain overhead, and a break even point, and that requires a precise number of people paying for your product or service.
The point of profit means more people are buying it than the break-even point. The more profitable it is, the more people see it as a need, and/or want. Need trumps want, and want profits come from disposable income.
Big hits can come only from (a) pandering to the wealthy who are willing to overpay for it for status and prestige, or (b) pandering to the middle class who don’t have the same amount of money, but have the numbers for an item or service to be profitable. To pander to a mainstream audience is where most people in entertainment and communications (such as journalism) can make a decent living.
But there is a catch: the mainstream are Middle Class, and that means what they seek is Zero Risk. The rich take eccentric and Avant-garde risks all the time. They can like the obscure indulgences, and set trends — or keep them out of the hands of the plebs. The Middle Class follow rules and trends, not make them.
If cutting edge talent either play to the rich — or the poor. They either have a rich patron and do well — or they forever toil because the poor don’t have the disposable income to support those players. To be a ideological rebel is to be a true outsider who is beholden to no one.
To be seen as a rebel to the Middle Class is a different matter. It is all shallow things that do not actually threaten the structure of patriarchy. They can tweak its nose, but as it is the patriarchy the created the untrained audience and cuts the pay checks, they butter your bread, and you don’t get to go on stage unless you sing their tune.
But the fake rebel can never be acknowledged as a false one: there are pretences to keep up. The fake rebel is, in fact, the lynchpin, to keep a patriarchal system in place: if people discover that any true rebellion is punished, they will become afraid and upset. If they think that sometimes rebels can “win” and succeed, then they believe they have freedom and freedom of choice.
That’s why music and movies heavily hype fake rebels so much.
It is an escapist outlet.
But then the Internet came along, and as it blew into town, tore down the façade, and now the fake rebels are having a meltdown.
Fake rebels a valve or a vent to keep the machine from over-heating. In a machine, there are different parts that look different from each other. The different appearance is irrelevant: it is all part of the same machine that is used for the same function.
Madonna is having public tantrums because of it. She buys her own hype that she “unconventional” (not at all), and a “maverick” (keep on dreaming, fairy princess).
She is not a rebel. She was the Establishment’s vent to keep its machine running.
It’s like the Spice Girls: each had a different role to play, but none were the black sheep: Baby Spice was not the rebel. She was part of the band. Scary Spice was not the rebel, either. Neither was Ginger, Posh, or Sporty Spice. They were a package deal, and one Spice’s differences were cosmetic: they all wore costumes, danced and sang on cue, and worked on the same product.
Sure, there would be egos and arguments, but the product was the united front.
When you are in the mainstream entertainment industry, you are not an outsider. You are an insider. You may not get along with your co-stars, but that doesn’t make you an outsider. That makes you an asshole.
The Machine tries to get attention of people, turn them on, and then get them to buy their product for survival.
But getting attention in a Tower of Babel is extremely difficult. That’s why old country media, when they had control of the information stream, could have monster acts sell millions of records: the pickings were slim, and they could attract different sects within the Tower by appealing to different roles.
And there were those who wanted a safe rebel, and acts like Madonna directly appealed to them.
But when the Internet came, this system became hobbled because the old rigs were blown away. People didn’t need a stand-in: they could present themselves in that role, but then, as the old role-keepers faded and stop reinforcing the old sanctioned parts, people adopted new roles in order to fit in with their fantasies, confines, and strengths.
Suddenly, we had real racial diversity — and Hollywood’s Oscars were not seen as about talent, but its obnoxious whiteness.
Anorexic models were not seen as an ideal, but as a way to keep women confined — and then the girth of new players increased sharply.
The Internet is global, but it turned into thousands of ideologically villages: the scale is smaller with no room for the monster acts anymore.
The Babel part took over the Tower, and the chattering no longer was in sync.
And acts like Madonna became antiquated with modern sensibilities. She is incongruent with the zeitgeist. She wants to be a big act, but even if she were half her age, she wouldn’t be any more popular. She was a product of a more restricted time, and could never be as successful under any other circumstance.
She was just fortunate that the elements of that era aligned to her benefit. Those old tricks do not work in 2019.
True rebels, on the other hand, will always be outsiders, regardless if the focus is the Tower or the Babel.
There is no sect where they fit. There is no whole where they have a place.
That is why they are rebels. They are feral futurists whose instincts show them a path not yet paved.
And they break away from those towers to build new worlds without anyone’s permission or approval…