Hm. Three bands on this bill, apparently; I don't know Jaxes or Taxes or whatever the least of them is supposed to be. You Say Party, We Say Die!, the one time I saw them live, were energetic, hooky and professional, but nonetheless fairly derivative of pop musics past (I thought of the early Manchester scene and British pop-punk/"New Wave" of the 80s), and not particularly exciting to me. Despite having sniped them in the Nerve for stepping on Femke, I can appreciate the snottiness of Fake Shark, Real Zombie! a bit more - their gender-bending spastic ripoff of the New York Dolls (with a pinch of NY No Wave thrown in) seems sincere enough, since the kids in it are probably living a devoted, drugs-'n'-debauchery rock lifestyle - and the fun they have on stage is reasonably infectious. Still - I don't really care. Neither band is as boring as the New Pornographers, say, but they're definitely on my "skip this gig" list.
Other than registering that there were two bands I didn't want to see on the bill, tho', I barely blinked at the poster. "Some black guy... grinning... looks vaguely familiar... bomb in his hair. Hm." My mind drifted when I saw it to a Last Poets song, "Black Rage," which likens angry black youths on street corners to "bombs waiting to explode," or something like that. Probably if I'd realized that I was looking at an exaggerated caricature of Isaac from The Love Boat, I'd have been amused: Isaac wants to explode. Well, who doesn't? Odd for a buncha white kids to use this image, but insofar as the invitation seems to be to "explode along with Isaac" -- that we're invited to identify with the "rage" of the once-servile, now bomb-bearing, black man, returned from his token-happy-darkie status on The Love Boat to get some payback -- I don't think I would have been particularly offended. There's enough overt, uncomplicated, obvious racism around - and, possibly thanks to the influence of the snotty/ironic humour of South Park (which I have a love/hate relationship with), enough confusion about where lines should be drawn or what should or shouldn't be taken seriously - that a gig poster such as the one above basically just gets filed under "weird urban noise," and forgotten.
Some people are having a harder time of forgetting it. A friend has been trying to convince me by email that it's a racist image, pointing to the ways Isaac's facial features have been distorted (which I didn't notice, initially, because I didn't realize it was Isaac) and the connection between the bomb-in-Afro and the bomb-in-turban motif of those offensive Danish cartoons of Mohammed (which I also didn't think of at the time.) Now, like I say, in the current melieu, I have a fairly hard time figuring out what ANYTHING means: are those Danish cartoons themselves even racist? I can see why they're offensive to Muslims - for whom even representing the prophet is a blasphemy - but they seem to be in a different league, say, from cartoons of yore (which, alas, I cannot find online) mocking the various Indian immigrants who tried to enter Vancouver on the Komagata Maru in 1914, back when Canadian law was set to keep them out. Those cartoons mocked the refugees seeking shelter here as dirty undesirables, and seem outrageously offensive and shameful now -- the act of a priviliged majority sneering hatefully at an underpriviliged minority and asserting their superiority. Given the degree of intolerance and oppression in the name of religion that groups such as the Taliban have wrought - to say nothing of the violence of Al Qaeda - and the extent to which, in the worst excesses of political correctness, certain stripes of liberal strive to censor both themselves and everyone else, stifling free discourse with a demand that everyone conform to their definition of what is tasteful and sensitive, at the very least, the Danish cartoons seem to have a point to them. Should they be defended as an act of free speech, or should their perpetrators be assassinated like Theo van Gogh? There's at least some grounds for discussion. But what the fuck does it mean to stick Isaac from The Love Boat in Mohammed's place, though? Goddamned if I know. If there's a point to this image, OTHER than creating jarring noise and attracting cheap attention, I don't see it, and without having the slightest clue what the image means or was intended to mean, it's hard for me to call it ANYTHING: racist, offensive, whatever. For all I know, whoever designed it was a person of colour, listening to the Last Poets, and wanting to stir up shit... I'd be very curious what other people make of it, tho'. I'll be soliciting comments from friends - but anyone who reads this is encouraged to post!
I'll say this: my friend's emails have definitely got me thinkin'. Am I just another complacent whitey, so secure in my position of privilige that I can't see racism staring me in the face...? Hmmm...