Minstrelsy Now

Radio City Music Hall






If I had to pick one feature of the development of minstrel-type performance from the past 30 years as the most pivotal, it would have to be the spectacularization of their audience. The white working-class demographic of original minstrelsy served as the basis for an entertainment that simultaneously redirected proletarian ressentiment toward racial stereotypes and appropriated/celebrated the racial other’s folk culture. The minstrel performer produced a fraudulent image of the black, Chinaman, etc. as a fraudulent citizen. The effect was the same regardless of whether the performer was racially black, Asian, etc. or not, though this of course did not negate whatever power was gained for individuals within these racial groups (or the group as a whole) by exploiting the minstrel images.

Today the screen includes the stage along with the whole theatre; and on to the town, state, and region. This allows the middle to upper middle class to join in the fun, albeit on different terms. Only natural that they consist of ways to avoid getting one’s hands dirty, of establishing proper distances. We’re seeing the gradual decline of the paternalistic standpoint of ‘learning about the other’s authentic culture’ (already a form of detachment from supposedly ‘direct’ or obscene pleasure) that was still present in the early years of gangsta rap. The last vestiges of those expectations are now reserved for representations of poor brown people and ‘the (vanishing, white) working class,’ and are more often the province of the documentary than entertainment. It is poverty and suffering, not culture, that truly authenticates today. Borat, for example, proved that 300 million dollars worth of Western audiences don’t give a shit about the indigenous culture of Kazakhstan. As soon as we know it’s poor, white, and backwater, we think we know all we need to.

Today, middle class liberals are not after authenticity from the minstrel show, but the patina of sophistication that comes from being in on every joke. The appreciation of skill is wholly concentrated on the performer, and wholly disassociated from the role. The minstrel character is talentless, whereas the performer’s skill is displayed by drawing out reactions from rubes which confirm that they are in fact rubes, and by transgressing (thereby reproducing) the laws of ‘political correctness.’ With Borat/Bruno/Zizek, the central minstrel figure is an obvious cliche — the joke the knowing audience is supposed to ‘get’ — even as it is the one we have to be taught: we are presumed to know nothing about Kazakhstan or Slovenia; we are presumed to find Bruno’s queer diva shtick outdated; we’re told how to find them funny. The on-screen targets of the ‘satire’ (various species of dumb whites, usually, though in Bruno there’s an episode with overly-sensitive blacks) are also reduced to stereotypes: these are the ones we are presumed to accept. A vision of a ‘real America’ is assembled via these performances. It is just as dumb, ugly, racist, arrogant, and fradulent as anyone else who aspires to what we’ve rather arrogantly branded The American Dream, and inferior to anyone who happens to be watching.


12 Responses to “Minstrelsy Now”

  1. You were on a roll and all of a sudden the post is over. Part 2?

  2. traxus4420 Says:

    i thought i’d finished!

    not sure what else to say about this.

  3. Yorki Land Says:

    Hi traxus, sorry to be OT here, but this was the appropriate place to put the info, now that my 8 months stalking by Nick Land is finally at a crucial juncture–which is to say I’m finally unseducible. He was Martin with you and Arpege back in the winter of 2008, of course, and has been torturing me at Dejan’s since before Xmas. YOu once told me “i think you ‘got Nick the best of anybody’, Man, did I EVER get him, in one crackers scene after another. He’s also the one at leninino that Arpege said ‘someday somebody is really going to fuck you up’. You may already know this, but this was the place to put the epilogue. He let us think ‘Martin’ was Robin, but it was Olc Nick all along. And after he pushed it to a kind of climax in late May, impersonating Robin again, along with many supporting characters he wrote very cleverly, it was only Robin himself, the real one, who, with great reluctance, made the whole stalking unravel. Nick hadn’t counted on that. Some of your tips helped to, at least for saving my life. As this is most dangerous what I’ve been through. The worst part is that I thought I was crazy about him, but he is a real sadist, and Robin had warned me years ago that he was dangerous. I’ve gone as far with this as I can, and you’ll see I even invented a ‘chic ‘name’ ouf of his last name, when he was flirting with me and telling me he wanted me to fuck him, etc., a kind of porno name, ah well, good pulp fiction all this, but pretty sad to me. I guess I’m happy I was capable of love even if he is primarily a reptile, and that ‘guardian’ shit is really small-time. He didn’t really care that I loved his writing. He’s frankly just MEAN. Whether I can stop him stalking me is really unknown yet, probably not, he likes to be threatening.

  4. Yorki Land Says:

    I had both an email relationship and a relatiohship on the blog at the same time, this was part of his technique. He wants any kind of vain attention he can get, and yet he’ll leave me alone finally, because I’ve notified a couple of lawyers. Claims I refused to acknowledge his homosexuality, as if that was something most married men wanted you to do! You have to RESPECT their marriage, not tell them their faggots. I was charmed by his old mystique, more impressed with it that others, I think you picked up how fond I was of his strange exoticism…Anyway, I wrote this second post here, because I knew you wouldn’t answer my email. He nearly destroyed me, I can tell you that.

  5. Yorki Land Says:

    Oh, btw, Nick joined the ballet board as well, so that you see things are as wacko as possible. Naturally, in my naivete despite my foul mouth, I thought he was sincere, even though he joined as MARTIN, and wrote about the Lithuanian Ballet, claiming to be a resident of Lithuania. i guess this is what CCRU (which still exists obviously, once you’ve got that kind of addiction, what’s there to do, it doesn’t matter that Hyperstition is dead) makes you do–and it’s quite rabid, it’s clear, much like Scientology. Nobody but me welcomed him there, but his arrogance is of a sort that he only wants to do the book recommending, the music and movie choices, etc., this is all right up to a point only. There’s a striking ineptitude and lack of sophisitcation in much of it. His interest is to ‘get Patrick’, of course, because when you said ‘you GOT Nick’, I think he thought that I had ‘gotten’ him a little too much, and so has been following me around the blogs for a year and a half now, only ‘coming out’ both as a faggot (or claiming to, he’s so full of fictions he even accused me of DENYING his homosexuality and overly protecting his ‘heterosexuality’, his wife and kids. Now THAT was new. But he’s vile, by now I just hate him and if he tries anything on the ballet board, I’ve got the proper family emails and blogs on which to post all his emails of devotion (not that any of them were heartfelt, of course,) What an evil man.

  6. Even more contemptible is how media pundits (and by implication, their audiences) celebrate their own minstrels – Bruno on cover of all the gay mags, Zizek beloved by marxist academics, The Wire beloved by the same black audience it demonises etc.

    Speaking of the Wire – can you point me to any links dealing with it’s D.W. Griffith-esque treatment of black politicians and officials?

  7. traxus–do go ahead and delete those posts I wrote above if you want. It serves no purpose. I know nobody will answer emails from me by now, and I wanted you to know something. It’s been pretty hard on me, but then a lot of people have suffered, and I don’t want to hurt Nick despite all. i should have realized it was hopeless long ago, and now I’m just very well all of a sudden. Take care.

  8. and now I’m just very well all of a sudden. Take care.

    I meant ‘not very well’ all of a sudden. I think you knew how i felt when we talked back in 2007, so you’ve always helped, but why these things happen is anyone’s guess.

  9. Where’d you go?

  10. traxus4420 Says:

    i’m back!

    just posted again.

  11. Bruno taunts terrorists, homophobes and religious zealots in this movie in such a clever way that they do not even realise they are being mocked!

  12. Bruno taunts terrorists, homophobes and religious zealots in this movie in such a clever way that they do not even realise they are being mocked!

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