I giggle a little bit every time I hear Lou Reed's A Walk On the Wild Side on in public. The last time I heard this song in public was while i was shopping in a grocery store with my mother. Now normally if I was listening to a song about blow jobs, transvestites, overdosing, and prostitution I would feel awkward, but somehow none of the adults in the grocery store acknowledged this. Half of them were even singing along with it and singing the chorus. The reason I giggle is because if there had been a rap song on the store radio then I am sure a lot of the shoppers would have raised a fuss, but Lou Reed nestled in between Jim Croce and Harry Chapin goes unnoticed.
I thought of this phenomenon in relation to Christopher Craig's Thoughts on Ideology. Craig says that "the ruling class appropriates those ideas which it finds most threatening. It commodifies them and mystifies their meaning, while also potentially taming the subversive behaviors that might result from them". This is especially applicable when it comes to rebellion in popular culture. Elvis is a household name, kids commonly go through a "punk rock phase", and Lou Reed is lost in the shuffle of a light rock station. Marxist theory points out how we turn ideologies into material things that can be bought and sold therefore losing its power. In this same way literature, whether it is known to the author or not, is judged by how well it can turn the ideologies of the ruling class into a nice little package that can be sold. Books are packages of ruling class capitalist ideology.
Returning to the popular culture it makes me think of rap. I am not 100% up to date on the state of rap music but I feel like in my lifetime it has already started to be turned into a commodity. When I was growing up, NWA had just broken up, Public Enemy was being banned from the state of Arizona, and Biggie and 2pac both died. But also within my lifetime Vanilla Ice, Kriss Kross, MC Hammer and Lil’ Bow Wow (now just Bow Wow) have all flourished. So is rap no longer dangerous? When I went to the observatory on the top of the prudential building this weekend there was a rap song explaining how you become a U.S. Citizen. Does that make rap safe? Are there book versions of rap? What books aren’t safe? Or are they all safe because even if they try to be subversive and have opposing voices are their existence just reinforcing the normal superstructure? These are the questions I still have.