Mailvox: DISCO SUCKS and the Evil League of Evil

I was less interested in the analogy drawn here than the important conclusion drawn by the emailer:

I mentioned that we were now in the “riot grrl” phase of SFF. Today, after reading the following link, I came to more conclusions:  1) The Evil League of Evil is the “Disco Sucks” of SFF, and 2) NEVER let your opponent have the opportunity to speak on your own behalf and not answer in kind:

“So how did racism and homophobia get attached to Disco Demolition?

In 1996, VH1 was attempting to expand from the music video template of MTV by creating documentaries and original programming. One of their first was “The Seventies,” a look at the decade in popular culture. A producer asked me to contribute a commentary about Disco Demolition. I saw the event as a romp, not of major cultural significance. I had no interest in claiming responsibility for killing disco. My target was Disco DAI, which was smothered in spring of 1980. The interview coincided with my quitting WMVP (a story for another day). I missed it.

Blowing off that interview was a mistake. The producers reframed the event through the lens of 1996 sensibilities. For the first time, the event was labeled racist and homophobic. It was a cheap shot, made without exploration, and it served as a pivot point for their documentary. It has lived on, thanks to Google….We were a bunch of disenfranchised 20-something rockers having some laughs at the expense of older brothers who had the capital and the clothing to hang with the trendy social elite. We were letting off a little steam. Any statement to the contrary is just plain wrong.”

I remember the VH1 documentary he’s writing about, and I remember the saddened, wistful, “knowing” looks of the disco artists bemoaning the “Disco Demolition” and the “Disco sucks” movement in general, and yes, I specifically remember the charges of racism and homosexual backlash they labeled it with, completely unchallenged.  I even remember a cutscene of Tom Petty smashing the shit out of a drum machine around 1979 or so.  Funny how no one ever accuses HIM of being racist or homophobic.

My parents both grew up in Philadelphia in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.  That means American Band Stand when it was still broadcast in Philly, there were such things as “regional sounds” regional hits and scenes, records you might NEVER hear again if you ventured 2 or 3 hours away.  In the ’70s, they were into disco (they married in ’75, I came along in ’77).  Everybody was into disco, for the simple reason, it was fun and it was a party scene, especially for guidos growing up in Northeastern cities.

My parent’s reaction to the “Disco Sucks” thing?  Well, they thought it was a little mean spirited, at worst, and maybe, maybe, there was an element of anti-black or anti-gay bias in it, but they were the first to admit that by 1979 it was pretty much over.  They didn’t attach too much cultural significance to disco itself, It was a fad, and like all fads, it was time to move on to the next one.  Incidentally 1979 is about the time they both jumped off the pop culture wagon – they didn’t care for punk or New Wave, and I think, other than oldies collections, the last NEW record my Dad bought was Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall.”  As time went on, they went further back into soul, R&B, doo wop, and classic rock. 

They were more Philly Soul and Motown fans than anything else, so they also readily admitting to realizing just how limiting a musical form disco was.  Sure there are some tremendous records, but if you wanted something that was actually PLAYED by musicians, you were looking for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and Chic, NOT the very first names that come to mind when someone says “Disco.”  I mean, Kiss went disco, Blondie went disco, Star Wars went disco.  It was simply,  played,  out.  It did NOT speak to rock fans.  There was only so much you could do with “four on the floor” and “burn baby burn.”

Funny though, the VH1 “rockumentary” made ZERO mention about the 9 million pound asteroid in the room:  did disco, in fact, SUCK?  No one of course would actually go near the idea that maybe, just maybe the music wasn’t really all that good – now it’s looked at as kitsch, nostalgia fodder.

The interviewees they had, that I remember, included Donna Summer and Nile Rodgers of Chic – that’s bringing in the ringers – that is a convenient way of saying “you can’t say it sucked!!!”  They sure as hell didn’t interview the Bee Gees, or Abba, or Tavares.  No one actually did much criticizing of the obvious, the central point, the music, other than to say a little “yeah maybe it was a bit manufactured and faddish, I mean, c’mon, Kiss” but YOU’RE ALL REYCISSS!!!!!  It’s like how you simply CANNOT criticize Pink SFf for its actuall literary merits or lack thereof – the SKILL of the writer – all that’s important is the feels and  the politics, it doesn’t matter if it’s actually good or not.  It’s art as participation trophy for the oppressed, and this documentary, I think, KICKSTARTED that idea into the stratosphere.

But, here’s the point, the original instigator, Steve Dahl, passed on a chance to have his say in court.  Would it have made a difference? I don’t know.  And I also don’t know why he waited until now to make his point, but the fact is this, this rock-hard meme that’s it going to be damn near impossible to ever refute is stuck in the popular consciousness, just about the time when PC bullshit and the war on language really took off, the 1990s.

So, why say that ELoE is the “disco sucks” movement of SFF?  Because you’re the only ones calling out Pink SFF on its overuse of drum machines, recycled beats, empty lyrics, and celebration of shallow excess – Pink SFF happens to be the current ever-declining sales posting radio friendly unit shifters of the moment, but you’re basically saying that what came along with “New Wave” sci-fi in the ’60s and ’70s, which was pretty damn disco sci-fi if you ask me (Jerry Cornelius anyone?), also begat cynical punk rock (cyberpunk), industrial (gray goo), and other fads that have had their time, and are fading. You could call some of Pink SFF “hip hop” but unlike real-life hip hop, it also doesn’t sell, and I think that’s more apparent in comics and graphic novels and movies than books. 

He’s correct. The pinkshirts are DESPERATE to avoid the discussion that the Evil League of Evil has collectively initiated about science fiction and fantasy, and they are constantly trying to summarize and explain and interpret and spin what we are saying rather than simply quoting us. In many cases, they don’t even refer directly to us by name, but instead provide in-group indicators so that their fellow pinkshirts will know to whom they are referring and bark on request while moderates and neutrals more capable of being swayed will be left in the dark.

They are attempting to control the narrative rather than engage in discourse, for the obvious reason that they know as well as we do that we are absolutely correct. They claim we are bad writers while readily admitting to never having read our books. We claim they are inept storytellers pushing left-wing propaganda on the basis of being intimately familiar with the very best they have to offer. Hence we can identify them, quote them at length, and directly engage because we have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. They, on the contrary, are correctly fearful of being exposed, at having their whole Potemkin Village of publishers and editors and writers and reviews and “bestseller” lists and awards blown away in the harsh, judgmental winds of reality.

So, they will attempt to continue controlling the narrative by speaking on our behalf and erecting the sort of strawmen they are capable of defeating. But, thanks to the Internet and our own determination to speak for ourselves, they will not succeed.