Monday, April 4, 2011

Friday: the end of history

As of this writing, 82,084,389 people have watched Rebecca Black's Friday. Approximately 82,084,388 of them thought that the joke was on Rebecca Black.

But the joke's on us, it seems. Because while we laugh and carouse, Rebecca Black's awful, awful song is slowly eroding everything we hold dear.

The thing about Rebecca Black that truly terrifies me -- besides her dead eyes and vaguely predatory smile -- is the rapidity with which her song has made the leap from something that was only supposed to be watched once, laughed at, and forgotten, to some sort of ironic cultural touchstone. That means -- and if you pay attention, it's already happening -- that soon, Friday will pass the irony threshold and become something that can be enjoyed straightforwardly.

It's coming. Our Pavlovian natures ensure it will come. Inexorably, the desire to seem hip and with-it and ironic and clever, which currently bridges the thought "this song is awful" to the thought "better sing along," will crumble away. In its place: pure conditioning. Friday plays; everyone dances. Endorphins flood the brain.

If you don't believe me, go ahead and check out the already-famous Stephen Colbert/Jimmy Fallon version of the song, which you've probably already seen and enjoyed. Sure, there are dancers and Stephen Colbert and general looniness. It's okay to like this, you think. But it isn't. Because all the pageantry only disguises the simple, terrible truth: it's still the same song. And like that, you're one step closer to the abyss.

Take a step back for a moment, and imagine a world where people can enjoy Friday unironically. Doesn't that raise so many questions? Like, for instance, if you can enjoy Friday, what can't you enjoy? Doesn't it make you wonder if you never truly enjoyed any music at all, and instead, only enjoy the package of mental associations you have with that music? It calls everything into question. It's total aesthetic relativism, if not outright aesthetic depravity.

Look, it's not like the Fallon performance it isn't fun or entertaining, because it is. That's not the point. The point is that there are some things we can't joke about. The Holocaust, for instance. Rwandan genocide. The earthquake in Haiti. Maybe you can devise a funny joke about one of these subjects; I'm sure it's possible. But when you tell it, the moral underpinnings of society begin to come undone. The tentpoles of decency over which civilization is draped are ripped out, and we're all left alone in the woods, unable to find our bearings. You can't tell the right way from the wrong way; every direction looks the same.

The only way to stop this creeping relativism is to refuse to take the first step towards it. Erect a simple, solid rule as a bulwark. Acknowledge that some subjects should only be spoken about with the gravitas they deserve.

Is what I'm proposing really so difficult? Keep things in perspective. Don't trivialize the Holocaust. Likewise, don't trivialize Rebecca Black's Friday.

I have a challenge for Friday's defenders. I know you're out there. If you enjoy this song -- oh, I don't care why you say you enjoy it; the important thing is that you do -- find me one truly awful song. A song nobody can enjoy. A song that is unquestionably bad beyond all belief. A song so risible that even ironic enjoyment is impossible, a song that casts off good associations through the sheer putrid power of its aural transgressions. A song that can sink into the depths as our moral anchor.

You see? There isn't one. There's nothin...

Oh, wait.

And that's the story of how, for the first and last time, Fred Durst saved Western civilization.


  1. I think you are missing the truly existential component to the hilarity that is "friday," and it's rocket trajectory within the pop-culture field. Thoughts?