Cultural Meanderings: Racism, Control And Bob Hoskins

‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’, a film brilliant for three reasons: Bob ‘Oskins1018982.jpg (always drop the ‘h’), the excellent script and the piano duelling scene featuring both Daffy and Donald Duck. The scene has, however, recently become slightly controversial, as some claim that one point in the sequence Donald racially abuses Daffy (who is, of course, black – watch the clip here). I, for one, am not convinced – Donald’s speech impediment makes it almost impossible to tell, and although if I were to suspect any cartoon character of being a white supremacist it would be him, the slur does him a disservice.    It seems nowadays that everything has to have some kind of racist subtext. The most common targets seem to be novels about Africa written by westerners. According to Chinua Achebe (author of ‘Things Fall Apart’ and renowned poet), Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ has a racist agenda, even though it is widely considered to be one of the greatest works of fiction in the English language. Interestingly, English was actually Conrad’s third language, much like linguist, author and Harvard professor Vladimir Nabokov, who once said of his career writing in English: “My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody’s concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammelled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English.” While at Harvard, Nabokov taught Thomas Pynchon, who is such a recluse that there are only a couple of dated pictures of him circulating in the media (although he did appear in an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ with a paper bag over his head). He is such a hermit that some conspiracy theorists have claimed that he is in fact the ancient father of teen-angst, JD Salinger. Its rubbish, but it’s still out there. It’s believed that JD (Jerome David) Salinger, who is now in his eighties, is living somewhere in the Oregon hills, getting by on the royalties from his masterpiece, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. Tragically, the character of Holden Caulfield seems to have become some kind of cult hero to the hordes of emo-kids that plague our streets. Simply another thing to be reclaimed, along with some of my favourite bands, like The Smiths and Joy Division, who have, at times, both been branded as ‘emo’. Talking of Joy Division, a film, ‘Control’, is being released this year to cover the final few years of Ian Curtis’ life, up to the point of his suicide, with New Order re-recording several old songs for the soundtrack. It’s being filmed entirely in black and white to “reflect the atmosphere of Joy Division and the mood of the era”, so don’t expect anything cheerful. I am sure, even at this early juncture, that epilepsy, crazy dancing, suicide and trench coats will feature heavily. Oh, and the small matter of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (which, incidentally, it did – he had numerous affairs). Rock and roll suicides have always been rather too commonplace, yet they never go unnoticed. Apart, that is, from Elliott Smith; the singer-songwriter, who died a couple of years ago (police at the time suspected that it could have been murder) and produced some great material before his untimely death. Especially good is Either/Or. Of course, the best person to compare Elliott with would probably be Nick Drake – both Drake and Smith were talented, troubled singer-songwriters who never sold well and who eventually killed themselves. Nick Drake, in particular, achieved very little commercial success (during his lifetime at least). What is probably his best album, ‘Five Leaves Left’, sold less than five thousand copies (apparently, the name of the album comes from the message inside a pack of Rizlas reminding smokers to buy more); it was this lack of recognition that eventually led to his suicide. Since his death, however, he has become incredibly popular, and when VW used ‘Pink Moon’ for an advert, the album sold more copies in a month than it had done in the previous thirty years. Next week, I’m going to start with  the coolest man who ever lived, Steve McQueen.

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Filed under Books, Cultural Meanderings, Films, Hashmark Books, Hashmark Films, Hashmark Music, Music

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