It appears at critical moments in "Gummo" and "Mulholland Drive," among others, and always seems to signify something absolutely terrifying.
Roy Orbison's "Crying" is one of the most haunting songs I know.
It also appears in the final frames of two of the most haunting films I've ever seen, Gummo and Mulholland Drive. This is probably why I was so struck by the appearance of Orbison's ghost.
OK, technically Orbison didn't come back as a ghost. He starred in his own hologram tour last year, and his reappearance was simulated by a few beams of light refracted through a prism. Still, something about it seemed excessively eerie, partly because Roy Orbison's music has always seemed oddly holographic to me.
Roy Orbison songs sound particularly holographic when used in film, where they tend to exist in stark contrast to the reality of what's actually happening onscreen. The late crooner's songs are the exact sort of dreamy 1950s-style ballads that frequently soundtrack films' violent, disorienting, and apocalyptic conclusions.
Roy Orbison - Crying www.youtube.com
No Roy Orbison song is featured more prominently in film than "Crying." The expansive ballad's appeared in dozens of movies, where it usually represents some kind of splintering, some sort of break from reality, or a faded dream that has long since decayed or never existed at all.
"Crying" appears in the final frames of Harmony Korine's Gummo, a gruesome documentary-style film that depicts what one might call the most stereotypical version of Trump's America. Gummo takes place in an Ohio town that has been ravaged by a tornado. Kids spend their days sniffing glue, beating each other up, and torturing animals; abuse is a constant, looming undertone, a cycle that perpetuates itself over and over again. It's a graphic portrayal of destruction and white American rage.
At the very end of the film, a silent boy wearing pink bunny ears (who has been the film's main symbol of ruined innocence) winds up in a pool with two versions of Chloe Sevigny (she plays twins). As the trio collapses towards each other, driven perhaps by some impulse of inevitable self-destruction, "Crying" begins to play. In the next frame, two young boys shoot the carcass of a cat in sync as rain pours down.
Gummo - Roy Orbison's "Crying" www.youtube.com
The song is so ethereal, with its eerie background vocals, perky violins, and general ghostliness, all of which stand in stark contrast to the desperation, sparseness, and distortion that define the film's characters. The song gives voice to their grief, released to soak everything like the rain, flooding a world where everyone is too numb to care for themselves or each other.
In David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, "Crying" represents the preservation and pursuit of another type of dream—the dream of Hollywood and all it promises. That film tells the story of a woman named Betty who moves to LA to become an actress, only to slowly lose touch with herself. Early on in the film, Betty meets a woman named Rita who has lost her memory, and together, they try to find the key to Rita's past.
Llorando - 'Mulholland Drive' (HD) www.youtube.com
Eventually they make their way into a theatre. There, a woman walks onto the stage. There is no band, says a voice in Spanish. The woman begins to sing a cappella, performing a Spanish version of "Crying" that's so devastatingly moving it brings Betty and Rita to tears. Suddenly, the singer collapses, but the song keeps playing, and slowly we realize: It's been a recording all along. There was never any band, never any real relationship between the singer and the audience. The singer was, basically, a hologram, playing out and preserving the artifice of reality while operating on a completely digitized and robotic level.
At this moment, at last the split between reality and fantasy becomes visible. The center can't hold. The artifice of it all—of Hollywood's illusions, perhaps of identity and the characters' conceptions of reality—opens our eyes.
In all of these instances, "Crying" seems to emphasize the washed-out emptiness of the characters who, up until the moment it plays, have been denying the delusion in which they've been living, denying the sadness and decay that lurks at the edge of the brightly lit theaters they've been hiding in.
"Crying" also features in an episode of The Walking Dead, and Orbison's duet with k. d. Lang won a Grammy after it was featured in the film Hiding Out. Another one of Orbison's best songs, "In Dreams," appears in a different Lynch film, Blue Velvet, also in a scene where the singer is lip-syncing. This is why the fact that Roy Orbison starred in his own hologram tour seems so appropriate, and so ironic. Will a Roy Orbison holograph appear on the edge of my bed one of these nights, smiling ghoulishly? At this rate, it truly cannot be ruled out.
CRYING (Music Video) Roy Orbison, K D Lang www.youtube.com
I've been thinking about this for a while—the kind of vintage, faux-cheery music that films choose to play during their most violent scenes. I've decided that Roy Orbison's songs belong to a canon of movie soundtrack music that, for lack of a better term, I'll call "apocalypsecore." It's the kind of dreamy, spaced-out music that usually appears to contrast scenes of particular violence, and so it always feels doubly ominous and completely doomed. Like hologram performers, it seems to exist in a state of dissociative denial, always in contrast to reality.
Apocalypsecore music even featured in Titanic as the musicians continued to play their instruments while the liner sank. It played at the end of Dr. Strangelove in the form of Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again," which rang out in contrast to the sight of an atom bomb exploding. It played in the ballroom scene in The Shining, as ghosts danced to Al Bowlly and Ray Noble's impeccably ominous jazz number, "Midnight, The Stars and You." In one very creepy art installation I saw at the Oakland Museum, it played on a transistor radio over an installation that depicted an apocalyptic junkyard.
Vera Lynn - We'll Meet Again (Dr. Strangelove Ending Updated) www.youtube.com
The Shining Ballscene 1080p www.youtube.com
Always, apocalypsecore music is happy and upbeat, outlined with brilliant strings played so loudly that they don't sound so different from screams. It's usually vaguely faded and garbled, and always about an idealized romance. They feel like worn-out carnival rides surging to life again in the darkness, lights twinkling through layers of dust.
Much of this music that was made during the 1950s and early 60s—during the Baby Boomer generation's childhoods (and of course, the boomers are the ones who planted the seeds for the lethal neoliberal capitalism that's currently devouring us all). It's music that comes from the Stepford Wives and tract house segment of the 1950s, the one where capitalism seemed to promise a beautiful future for, of course, only the mostly white middle class. It's music that comes from the burning core of the American dream, which is also the Hollywood dream, the capitalist dream, the dream of beauty and imagined glory.
This was also the time period when Roy Orbison began his successful career. His image was akin to James Dean's cool masculinity, with his slicked-back hair and dark sunglasses; he was an evolved cowboy, and his three-octave voice sounded almost alien. Could that Orbison have imagined that he would reappear as a hologram?
Regardless of his desires, without his agreement, it happened. He (or a semblance of him) was reanimated. His son claimed the hologram tour was intended to grant people who had never seen Orbison the chance to see him live. But as these tours have grown in prominence, with Whitney Houston, Tupac, and Frank Zappa joining the ranks of 3D simulated performers, many people have started to call bullsh*t on the capitalist impulse behind these tours.
Recently, an episode of Black Mirror featured a holographic version of Ashley O (Miley Cyrus), a pop star who was nearly euthanized when she began to deviate from her manager's expectations. Black Mirror, perhaps more clearly than any other show ever has, outlines the ways technology is becoming more real than reality. It features another song that contains elements of apocalypsecore—"Right Where It Belongs," a Nine Inch Nails song that I vividly remember listening to on the bus while in eighth grade. This made hearing Ashley O (the real one) play it on the piano, then watching her hologram sing another Nine Inch Nails song with rewritten lyrics, extra surreal. But it was also unsurprising; I long ago realized that I'm far from the only one convinced that the world isn't quite as it seems.
Ashley O - Right Where I Belong | Official Music Video www.youtube.com
One of the most popular videos on YouTube for "Right Where It Belongs" juxtaposes the quiet song against blurry clips of wartime violence, mostly explosions. Maybe nuclear war is the final stage of the experiment human beings began when we created the earliest technology—agriculture—so long ago, and started our project of accumulating more than we needed at the expense of the world around us. If so, perhaps social media and its algorithms are the beginning of technology's form of nuclear warfare, the final proof that our technology has grown more powerful than we are.
Nine Inch Nails - Right Where It Belongs www.youtube.com
Or maybe we were never that powerful at all. After all, tornadoes have always had the power to destroy us, to rip our homes up like blades of grass, climate change is a visceral reality, and the illusion of man's dominion over all things was always a doomed endeavor.
There is no band. And if or when the world ends, if the floods come for Brooklyn, you know I'll be blasting "Crying" until the final moment.
Roy Orbison in Concert - Crying www.youtube.com
- Roy Orbison – Cry Lyrics | Genius Lyrics ›
- Roy Orbison - Crying (1962, Vinyl) | Discogs ›
- Crying by Roy Orbison - Songfacts ›
- Crying - Roy Orbison | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic ›
- Roy Orbison - Crying - YouTube ›
- Roy Orbison – Crying Lyrics | Genius Lyrics ›
- Roy Orbison - Crying (Monument Concert 1965) - YouTube ›
- Crying (Roy Orbison song) - Wikipedia ›
- Roy Orbison - Crying - YouTube ›
- Roy Orbison on Spotify ›
- Roy Orbison | The Official Website of The Soul of Rock and Roll ... ›
- Roy Orbison - Wikipedia ›
A cultural misunderstanding may be responsible for Shein's swastika necklace scandal...but it's still an awful company
Popular fast-fashion retailer Shein came under fire this week for selling a swastika necklace on their website.
A Chinese company, Shein has become well-known for their inexpensive clothing and accessories, often featured in so-called "haul" videos on YouTube. Shein has since removed the necklace from their site and issued an apology. But screenshots of the faux-gold necklace—listed for between $2.50 and $4.00 as "Metal Swastika Pendant Necklace"— quickly spread on social media, with users expressing their disgust at the apparent insensitivity to what that symbol represents.
To everyone we’ve offended, we’re really sorry... https://t.co/rm6TCgx99K— SHEIN (@SHEIN)1594381498.0
Earlier this month Shein was called out for cultural insensitivity after listing Muslim prayer rugs—some featuring an image of the sacred Kaaba in Mecca—as "Fringe Trim Carpets" for decorative use and for selling traditional Southeast Asian dresses modeled by white women and renamed to remove cultural signifiers.
Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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