We actually learned a lot this week. Those of us who didn’t know, found out that Lizzo is actually an excellent flute player. She doesn’t just do it as a gimmick. I’m reminded of the times David Byrne sang an operatic aria or two at his concerts and did just an ear-blisteringly awful job. We also learned that James Madison had a flute! Made of glass! And we wouldn’t have learned any of this if not for the fact that Lizzo twerked with Madison’s flute.
Big Cat, Little Cat
The Inevitable (for Some Reason) Fallout
Other outlets are concentrating on the fact that the Conservative backlash against Lizzo is… racist.
There’s not a whole lot for me to add to that discussion. What I can do is point out something you might have forgotten (or more probably never knew) which is that Ben Shapiro is an amateur violinist. And he holds himself so stiffly when he plays that a lot of notes go out of tune, a lot of musical effects are lost, and his playing just sounds soulless.
Which means I might be suggesting a romantic comedy in which Ben is the buttoned up lawyer and Lizzo is the manic pixie dream girl. Ben has a nervous breakdown or something because he’s too career-focused, and Lizzo is the physical therapist who initiates him on a course of twerk-therapy. They bond over their shared love of music, and Ben learns to become a better lawyer and a better violinist… but also a better man. Nah. I wouldn’t do that to Lizzo. Or to anyone, for that matter.
I’m curious if anyone else experiences this problem–holds themselves so stiffly that it negatively affects their craft. I do. But I’m working on it, not holding it up as a standard to be emulated.
Laissez Lizzo Faire
We’re actually at the point where we can talk about a real artistic issue that actually matters (racism is, of course, a real artistic issue, but there are rarely two arguable sides). And that issue concerns respect for a craft. Lizzo’s respect for the craft of music is on display in everything she does. And yet Conservative pundits claim not to be able to see it. Maybe that’s on them. At what point does ‘respect’ translate to gatekeeping? An example: I don’t listen to much hip-hop or R&B. If I were vengefully opposed to twerking (I’m actually guardedly in favor, but never mind) I might say something like: I don’t agree with Lizzo’s, methods but I’m glad she’s furthering the cause of music and teaching history.
Would that really be so hard for one of these professionally angry people to say?
The thing that bothers me about people who appeal to supposedly forgotten norms of decency is that they don’t actually know or care about the thing they’re protecting. Can you imagine Ben Shapiro at a Franz Liszt concert? Would he be nodding approvingly as the women in the audience literally threw their panties at Liszt and rushed the stage with scissors to try to forcibly obtain cuttings of his clothing? What about a Puccini opera with its thinly disguised arguments for overthrowing the government?
Aren’t there More Important Things to Talk About?
Yeah. Obviously. But that doesn’t mean these little cultural moments are a complete waste of time. As long as you don’t let them take over your life, you can do your work and follow real news stories and still have a bit of time left over to use non-issues like this as a way to debate values.
The two things I would recommend is: it’s important to have an open mind… And it’s important to have a ripcord. If your arguments aren’t working the way you thought they would, there is less shame in reconsidering and allowing yourself to be educated than there is in getting dragged by an entire discussion group. And if you’re talking to someone who does not have that ability, that humility, to allow themselves to be educated? Then pull the ripcord and get out of the conversation.
Four panels, side by side, each of which depicts an identical image of two cats sitting side by side on cushions, discussing life. On the left, a large orange with dark orange stripes takes up about half of the frame. On the right, a small grey with dark grey stripes takes up less than a quarter of the frame. The orange is looking companionably down at the grey, while the grey is looking out of the frame with a look of frustration; of weltschmerz, that is, disappointment in the state of the world.
Big Cat: Little Cat, can you believe what just happened?
Little Cat: Oh no! Something to do with Ukraine? Hurricane Ian? The water in Flint, Michigan?
Big Cat: Lizzo twerked with James Madison’s flute!
Little Cat: Is that a euphemism?
Big Cat: What? No!
Little Cat: Oh. Well… First of all, congratulations on saying that sentence with a straight face.
Big Cat: This is very serious!
Little Cat: You’re right. I can respect your point of view.
Little Cat: *snrk
Big Cat: You’re trying to suppress a laugh, aren’t you?
Little Cat: Can’t–hold–it–much–longerrrrrr