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September 10, 2008
If Russell Brand is the
Counterculture’s Best, It’s All Over
Russell Brand was last seen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall,
possibly the worst movie ever made. Not content to merely grace us with
cinematic vomit, Mr. Brand returned recently to host the MTV Video
You know about some of this, in all likelihood. You probably saw the
video clips, on TV or on YouTube, of the esteemed Mr. Brand making fun
of a certain 17-year-old girl from Alaska while begging the United
States, “as a representative of the global community,” to elect a
certain Illinois senator to something or other.
From there we moved on to a discussion of masturbation, a “retarded
cowboy” and whatever else Mr. Brand had to say. It’s not important. This
column is not really about Russell Brand.
It’s not even really about MTV, which you probably didn’t know is
supposed to stand for Music Television – because long about, oh, say,
1982, it actually used to show the occasional music video.
would simply like to know: When did the entertainment industry decide
that its best possible method for continuing to secure access to our
money was to say and do things that make us cringe? Where did they get
the idea that this is a good business strategy?
it wasn’t Russell Brand, it would have been someone else. They actually
gave Britney Spears three awards, and if you’ve seen any of Britney
Spears’s videos, you’re probably getting the idea right about now that
MTV rewards raunch and musical debauchery at the expense of actual
It’s almost as if they give out these awards to these people because
they enjoy shoving it in our faces and saying, “Whaddaya gonna do about
it?” It’s almost as if they put idiots like Russell Brand in front of us
because it’s fun to invite, then revel in, the outrage.
OK. I understand that rock music is synonymous with the counterculture.
I am not young. I know that all those long-haired, walking stink bombs
took to the stage at Woodstock and denounced the establishment and The
Man. I know what Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin celebrated. I know about
Ozzy and the bat. I know about the Chili Peppers taking the stage naked
(although I’m very glad I wasn’t there to see it).
Yes, rock music has always tweaked the establishment. That’s fine.
That’s part of what gives it its edge. A lot of what the rock community
has advocated over the years has been silly, but that’s OK. It’s borne
of youth. A lot of the musicians who have toured the world in recent
years having reached their 50s and 60s have grown out of that sort of
thing – but even if they haven’t, it’s still OK. Peter Gabriel is
running around trying to establish a council of “global elders” who will
solve problems. Apparently Jimmy Carter is aboard. Problems can be
expected to continue. But you have to give Gabriel, naďveté and all,
credit for trying.
What, however, is the point of putting a foul-mouthed, bed-headed,
out-and-out stupid idiot like Russell Brand on MTV to prance around a
stage and basically just insult the intelligence of every man, woman and
child on Earth? He was that bad. He is that stupid.
can only be that somewhere along the way, the counterculture, as
exemplified by MTV, lost touch with the idea that rebellion has to be
about something worthwhile. Even if every idea you have is wrong (think
John Lennon’s “Imagine”), at least you’re looking for something good.
That’s what the counterculture used to be like. Today, apparently, it
feels it’s sufficient simply to anger, upset and enrage you.
this is the best the counterculture has to offer anymore – and I fear
that it is – it might as well just fold up shop. It had a good run. It
took down Nixon. It lived to see Birkenstocks become practically
mainstream. Many movements have accomplished less.
But it’s 2008. Revenues from music sales plummet as the industry tries
to cope with the new reality of digital downloads. So of course, when
times are tough, who wouldn’t try insulting your audience at every turn?
friends, you’ve stayed too long. Don’t be sad. We’ll find another video
channel – perhaps one that actually shows videos – and we’ll always
think of you for your worthier moments. Russell Brand doesn’t deserve to
be remembered anyway, so . . . wait, I’ve forgotten him already.
© 2008 North Star Writers
Group. May not be republished without permission.
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