Monday, May 07, 2007

Sad bastard songs

AS JOHN CUSACK'S character Rob Gordon muses, pop music really has screwed up entire generations with its pictures of "heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss."

As I listened to a local oldies station recently, I realized even the "innocent," saccharine teen love songs of yesteryear were completely disempowering to boys trying to become men. Just when they need to be developing confidence and strength in themselves and toward women, what did popular music give them? Emotionalism, heartbreak, desperation. Begging, pining, weeping, whining. Promises to do anything to win her heart or get her back, up to and including cutting off their genitals and handing them to her on a silver platter. The message to would-be men: you get the girl by acting like a girl.

But of course, as most of us discover sooner or later -- usually way later than we'd have wished -- acting like a girl does not get the girl. (Well, okay, some are into role reversal, but I'm not talking about those.) Nor do pop stars practice what they sing. In real life, they're nothing like the sad-sack, pitiful, whining, pleading protagonists of their songs: they're straight pimps, charismatic and self-assured to the point of absolute arrogance, because they know they may see more drawers come off in one night than many guys will in a lifetime.

Then they get on the mic and whine again. And because these singers are cute (and they're performing for teenage girls -- who, let's face it, are not hard to impress), they can pull it off. And because the teenage girls are going nuts over it, teenage boys listen to it and take it seriously. And that all makes me one sad bastard.

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