Monday, April 27, 2009

You're no mystery to me, Miss California.

On occasion, "Music Monday" requires a bit of setup.

Sometimes it feels like we meet someone loathsome every week. Last week, it was Miss California, Carrie Prejean. Prejean, who looks like nothing so much as a vinyl effigy of Elizabeth Berkley, was the frontrunner in last week's Miss USA Pageant--until, as you know, she was asked about her position on same-sex marriage. Her answer has become famous by now, especially in courses on how NOT to win Miss USA.

Indeed, Carrie's plea for "opposite marriage" (only, of course, in "[her] country"--wherever that is...) seems to have cost her the crown. Instead, our bronzed rack of lamb had to settle for First Runner-Up. Unfortunately, her consolation prize was merely to co-host the "Today" show for a couple of days. This is particularly sad as, if she had won the crown, she would gotten a much better gig. Like, um, cutting the ribbon at the new Food Lion in Greensboro, NC. Hang in there, Carrie--you'll make it someday!

Naturally, she immediately became a political figure. Insane people loved her "courage." Equally insane people hated her. Prejean herself attempted to crazy up her image a little, blathering about being "biblically correct." Eventually, someone finally noted that she had her facts wrong anyway. And somehow, we all cringed to discover that she casually dates Michael Phelps (has he made one good decision outside of a swimming pool?).

Now Fosco doesn't want to hate on Miss California too much. After all, asking beauty queens about politics is a recipe for disaster--as far as I'm concerned, she just mostly made herself look bigoted and stupid for posterity. (Although, whether we should be taking her "opinion" seriously for the rest of the week is a different question altogether.) And besides, no one has been able to adequately explain to me why two infinitely more loathsome people were on stage with her that evening (that would be Perez Hilton and Billy Bush). Carrie's clearly the distant third in that trio of repulsiveness.

What the hell does any of this have to do with music? I am pleased that you asked. Fosco's annoyance with Miss California last week was decidedly attenuated by his discovery of the song "Miss California" by his beloved Jack's Mannequin. Somehow, Fosco had managed to overlook this song (which is a bonus track on The Glass Passenger) until last week. For some reason, imagining Carrie Prejean as the Miss California named in the song makes Fosco laugh--a lot. Perhaps it has something to do with the lyrics:

But I'm gonna take you to my boxcar on the beach
And I'm gonna hang the sun above your bed
And soak your hair in bleach

You'll be missed Miss California
You'll be kissed by only me
When they can't find you, you'll turn into a mystery
but you're no mystery to me, Miss California.
Yes, these lyrics are a little creepy (or, as Oz suggested, a little "kidnap-ey"), but the song itself is really a great sing-a-long pop jewel. And of course, I'm not advocating the abduction of Carrie Prejean; however, these are the kinds of silly fantasies that stupid people have about beauty queens (and that Jack's Mannequin is clearly mocking in this song). It's just a funny song that is made funnier when you imagine Prejean's semisynthetic face in the middle of the narrative.

Sadly, the best version that I've been able to find online is this live video from YouTube. It's not a terrible performance (the energy is high), but you should probably find a way to listen to the studio version.

Also, why does he keep trying to stand up? Sit down!

Oh, and if you'd like a "bonus track" from Jack's Mannequin, listen to this excellent cover of MGMT's "Kids"--good stuff.


Anonymous said...

Imagine The Heritage Foundation holding a beauty pageant. And Sean Hannity asks her:

"Thirty-one states, including yours, have banned same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?"

MISS CALIFORNIA: "I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between any two people that love each other. No offense to anyone out there but that's how I was raised and that's how I think -- it should be about equality, and shouldn't be about gender."
Then, as a result, she loses the Miss USA crown. Hannity calls her "half brained" and a "stupid bitch" and claims, had she won, he would have ripped off her crown and run from the building. Conservative blogger The BeeMaster calls her "loathsome" and "stupid." Your reaction:

A) She is stupid. She should have considered her audience and the state she represents and told them what they wanted to hear, regardless of her personal opinion.

B) She's brave, she stood by her beliefs, she lost. Them's the breaks.

C) This is an outrage! She shouldn't be persecuted for her beliefs! Where's the TOLERANCE?

D) Sherry is a whore.

Back to reality. Miss California, at great risk to her pageantry "career," stuck to her faith and answered the question honestly. Can't you admire her for that and disagree at the same time? I admire your post for being mostly evenhanded. But must she be "loathesome" and "stupid" just because you disagree with her?

I have a friend, who happens to be gay, who once told me he didn't think gays should marry. Is he a stupid loathsome bigot?

The BeeMaster

Jeremy said...

I didn't have the impression that Fosco described Prejean as loathsome or stupid just because he disagreed with her.

Disagreement would imply, say, the possibility of holding a discussion and (just possibly, in the limit case) reaching some kind of shared understanding.

On the other hand, 'disagreement' and 'opinion' are the great leveling terms beloved by the television media. The effect is to imply that thought consists only of opinion, that everybody has an opinion, that all opinions are somehow equal... and also that objectivity in reporting means "break[ing] a window ... on both sides of the street" (Dan Rather) or letting both "sides" of the "issue" state their "opinion."

What I mean to say is that, while the BeeMaster's friend (who happens to be gay, a phrase I won't dwell on) might of course be a stupid loathsome bigot -- only the BeeMaster knows -- it's also possible that there's more to the friend than just an opinion. The friend might, at a minimum, be able to talk in a reasonable way about gay marriage.

That said, I admit that the question is murkier than this. Assertions about what other people should be permitted to do frequently seem to me to be underpinned by ideological orientations that can't be shared easily, and that Fosco might fundamentally reject. So he might find the friend to be a bigot, if not necessarily stupid or loathsome. But since all Fosco knows about the friend is his opinion concerning gay marriage, the BeeMaster's final question belongs to a species of disingenuous rhetoric just a little to blatant in its intent.

(Beside forcing the question on Fosco and perhaps wanting to appear offended by the implied answer, the BeeMaster also seems to be suggesting that a gay person couldn't possibly be a bigot in Fosco's terms, at least where gay marriage is concerned. I would have to disagree.)

Obviously I don't claim to speak for Fosco; and I'm sorry if the above sounds pedantic. But I was bothered by what seemed to me like a false alternative, and one that ignored what Prejean actually said at the competition and after. Having read some of the BeeMaster's other notes, I suspect he's not usually given to this kind of radio-show rhetoric.

The BeeMaster's message raises the question of how far anyone can share a political discourse with people of a fundamentally different orientation in politics -- certainly an important question for the present. But as a ground for attacks, it's old hat.

Anonymous said...

Your most excellent comment brings to mind a very cool article "Wronger Than Wrong" that states a belief can be so wrong ("The earth is flat") that it doesn't even qualify to be an opinion. You are suggesting that opposition to same sex marriage is wronger than wrong. I understand your point, and I disagree. Most do.

My comment was an attempt at a faux deconstruction of Fosco's post. It would have been easier had he said "Miss California is a stupid, loathsome bigot because... and then gave exact reasons for his opinion. As you stated, he may have come to that conclusion because of information not included in his post which would make deconstruction impossible. But on a lark I am assuming it is based upon something in the post and not, say, something dumb she said in an interview of which I am not aware.

With that said, I'm trying to get to the essence of Miss California's stupidity and loathsomeness. I left out bigotry in a few places because I consider the question of whether someone who opposes same sex marriage is a bigot as a debatable point (meaning, it is worthy of debate).

Take the Miss USA situation, change Perez Hilton to Sean Hannity, invert the question, invert the answer. Is Miss California still stupid and loathsome in your opinion? If not, then one or more of the elements I changed would reveal what it is about her that Fosco (or anyone else, for that matter) finds stupid and/or loathsome. Would it have been wrong for my imaginary Miss California to lose the pageant due to her support of same sex marriage? If so, then what about the real one who opposes it? Why or why not?

Your answer might be "because she is wronger than wrong."

Take Miss California, change her into a friend of mine. Is she (he) stupid, loathsome, a bigot? Does it matter if he is gay? Is his opinion wronger than wrong? Does it matter that he has since changed his mind? Does he now have a valid opinion, where before he didn't? What if it isn't my friend who has that opinion; it is me. Am I a stupid, loathsome bigot?

As for referring to him as a "friend, who happens to be gay" I was trying to avoid calling him "my gay friend." I don't have gay friends, or straight friends. I have friends, some of which are gay.

The BeeMaster

Jeremy said...

Hello, BeeMaster!

Having just noticed your response -- I really should let Google email me so I don't miss things -- I just want to say that maybe I left myself open to a little misunderstanding.

You wrote, "You are suggesting that opposition to same sex marriage is wronger than wrong. I understand your point, and I disagree. Most do." This isn't really what I was trying to say, though.

It does resemble the possibility that I wanted to leave open, namely that opposition to same-sex marriage often involves something (like a particular variety of religious conviction, or ideological orientation, or perhaps in some cases sheer bigotry) that marks an irreducible difference, which perhaps no common culture and no amount of conversation might overcome.

I wanted to admit this possibility (without claiming that it's always the case) since it seemed to me to be the salient question raised by your original comment. I think it's still not quite the same as the "Wronger than Wrong" idea, but there's certainly a connection; thanks for the link.

But with this admission made, my fundamental objection was that your inversion of Prejean's remarks didn't do justice to the qualities that I would guess Fosco found so loathsome -- qualities that exceed the simple fact that she's opposed to gay marriage. And the responses you outlined didn't do justice to Fosco's response; they cast it as a question of whether Prejean stood by her beliefs in the face of some kind of liberal persecution. The question about your friend seemed to repeat this move. Because of this, the argument struck me as misleading.

This reminds me of a little discussion I was having a while ago, in which someone pointed out that much of contemporary comedy reinforces membership in groups based on monolithic world-views. I don't fault Fosco for this at all (and I doubt he strongly identifies with the aforementioned monolithic world-views), and I can't see any reason to avoid the occasional joke delivered with a wink. But of course this means that not every judgment will be explained, and who knows whether your guess or mine is closer to the mark.

Cheers, and thanks for your comment.