Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: Pop-Culture and the Aestheticization of Violence

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pop-Culture and the Aestheticization of Violence

  Post-Grammy award question to all grad students and readers everywhere: is this video for "Try" by Pink ground-breaking and beautiful, or just plain disturbing?
I first saw this while on a treadmill at the gym, sans sound. And I was pretty disturbed. But then I plugged in headphones and realized what song it was, and I was kind of moved by it, although still viscerally affected, still pretty disturbed.
    The dance is, I think, artistically stunning, but the subject matter is dark. And I'm not sure what to take away from it.
    And yet, its ambiguity reflects this confusing and confused current cultural moment in which public sentiments about domestic violence seem to contradict and turn back on themselves. People are still outraged by Rihanna's resuscitated relationship with Chris Brown, her convicted abuser. Yet, the outgoing Congress  just recently let the Violence Against Women Act expire rather than allow the bill to extend protections to members of the LGBT communities, Native Americans, and immigrants. In this video, it seems like Pink's message is also a bit muddled. To me, the video seems a bit "off," as if it isn't getting the point across that it could, or should.
   On the other hand, if it opens up dialogue about the aestheticization of violence, it may be valuable, and significant. Maybe my ambivalence about the video has to do with my sense that the choreography and the lyrics of the song send messages that are difficult to swallow together in one gulp.  Pink sings, "Where there is desire/ there's gonna be a flame/ where there is a flame/ someone's bound to get burned/ but just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die/ gotta get up and try, try, try and try." What is the moral of the song? What does the video ask of us? What does it demand?
   One thought that occurred to me while teasing all of this out is that I think I'd feel a lot different about this choreography -- even this exact performance -- if I saw it on a modern dance stage at Lincoln Center rather than on VH1 Saturday morning countdown. But I can't pinpoint why I feel this way.  All my studies about embodiment, of representations of gender, rape, desire, the body, masculinity, femininity, and power -- all of my Advanced Gender Studies readings over the years about the woman's body in a culture of male domination -- are really not helping me formulate how I feel and what I think about this video. Comments? Thoughts? Watch the video and let me know what you think!

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