Genre and Gender: Metal Version

The other day the A.V. Club (in the guise of Jason Heller) posted “Black Sabbath, Dust, and the myth of the ‘metallectual’” in response to an ill-conceived and condescending WSJ article/post. Buried in the comments user ‘username too long’ submitted (4/17/2013, 6:41 AM) the following attempt at a witty taxonomy:

The protagonist arrives on a Harley, kills the dragon, drinks a few beers and fucks the princess.
The protagonist arrives, fights the dragon, saves the princess and fucks her.
The protagonist arrives riding a white unicorn, escapes from the dragon, saves the princess and makes love to her in an enchanted forest.
The protagonist arrives with some friends playing accordions, violins, flutes and many more weird instruments, the dragon falls sleep (because of all the dancing). Then they all leave… without the princess.
The protagonist arrives in a ship, kills the dragon with his mighty axe, skins the dragon and eats it, rapes the princess to death, steals her belongings and burns the castle before leaving.
The protagonist arrives, kills the dragon, fucks the princess and kills her, fucks her again, then leaves.
The protagonist arrives at midnight, kills the dragon and impales it in front of the castle. Then he sodomizes the princess, and drinks her blood in a ritual before killing her. Then he impales the princess next to the dragon.
The protagonist arrives, kills the dragon and spreads its guts in front of the castle, fucks the princess and kills her. Then he fucks the dead body again, slashes her belly and eats her guts. Then he fucks the carcass for the third time, burns the corpse and fucks it for the last time.
The protagonist arrives, sees the size of the dragon and thinks he could never beat him, then he gets depressed and commits suicide. The dragon eats his body and the princess as dessert. That’s the end of the sad story.
The protagonist arrives with a guitar and plays a solo of 26 minutes. The dragon kills himself out of boredom. The protagonist arrives at the princess’s bedroom, plays another solo with all the techniques and tunes he learned in the last year at the conservatory. The princess escapes looking for the “HEAVY METAL” protagonist.
The protagonist arrives, the dragon laughs at the guy’s appearance and lets him enter. He steals the princess’ make-up and tries to paint the castle in a beautiful pink color.
The protagonist arrives in a run-down Honda Civic and attempts to fight the dragon but he burns to death when his moronic baggy clothes catch fire.
The protagonist arrives, screams something completely undecipherable for about 2 minutes and then leaves.
The protagonist arrives wearing a greasy overcoat, makes obscene gestures towards the dragon and gets escorted out of fairy tale land by security guards.
The protagonist’s mother drives the protagonist and his friends to the castle. He kills the dragon with some awesome arm-spinning and spin-kicking while his friends observe the scene with their arms crossed; then the princess laughs at the protagonists ridiculous hairstyle and the boys leave weeping.
The protagonist hitchhikes to the castle, asks the dragon for some bucks, buys some cans of beer, gets pissed, insults the princess as “monarchist cunt” and “commerce bitch” and leaves the castle in a black maria.
The Protagonist arrives at the castle without any clothes on and grunts loudly for a few minutes. Then he fucks the dragon in every body cavity it has, kills the dragon, fucks the carcass the same way again, grunts loudly again for a few minutes, grabs the princess and fucks her in every body cavity she has, kills her and fucks her in the same way again. Then he piles up the dragon’s and princess’s remains, fucks them in every body cavity they have, grunts loudly and screams senselessly for a few minutes. Then he leaves.
The protagonist arrives in a limo. The dragon lets them in as long as they sign an autograph for its mom who is a big fan. The protagonist leaves with the princess and they get married.
The protagonist arrives along with a cold wind of winter in the middle of the night, frustrates the heck out of the dragon until it dies of fear and desolation, comes to the princess and discusses how to clean make- ups without inflicting skin irritation.
The protagonist swings his feet and arms about wildly, accidentally knocking the dragon out. Then he storms off in anger that someone messed up his dance routine.

(I reformatted it into a definition list but otherwise left it unedited)

I reproduce it here for the sake of some cheap and obvious commentary. It’s also not something originally by ‘username too long’, but rather a list that’s made its way around the internet for some time:

And more. And more.

[1] I enjoy first few entries in a way; it’s a theme and variations that develops neither gradually nor subtly, but with some humor. The fantasy scenario as stand-in for certain genres of music is not particularly original but is appropriate; it’s not entirely arbitrary.

It suggests more than just any old ‘inductive metaphor’, as I might term them, in which we say “X is 14” and then “Q is 2.71” … and then continue doing this for A, B … F, G, … and so on. If we take Spiegelman’s Maus as an example, we know that the mice are Jews, the cats are Germans, and pigs are non-Jewish Poles; but what if we started asking, what are Romanians? Egyptians? Ethiopians … Mexicans … and so on. The metaphorical representations picked by Spiegelman are not based upon deep affinities between metaphor and referent (mousiness of Jews, felineness of Germans), though the rodent imagery recalls Nazi portrayals of Jews as rats; rather it’s a matter of analogy of relationships: Jews are to Germans as mice are to cats (hunted, etc.). Of course this over-simplifies. When such metaphorical constructions are expanded too far the analogical basis snaps. The music genres (originally metal sub-genres) as variations on a fantasy trope are less about relations to each other than about internal structure. The “appropriateness” aspect is merely the old affinity between early metal (and prog rock) and fantasy; this could have been used to comic effect in the later entries as we transitioned to genres not traditionally associated with fantasy.

But I digress.

At first I was amused. Then I was bored. It’s a theme and variations; the variations become strained. As perhaps a postmodern performative corrective, the bland repetition found in some bad music is recreated here.

[2] All the entries are ‘different’ … I like the idea that, almost as if in a puzzle game in which we change one letter at a time until many stages later we have an entirely new and unrecognizable message, we could adjust one trait per successive genre entry. If we could align them so that each succeeding ‘genre’ were related in a direct way to the one before (perhaps in in ‘descent’ or ‘spawned from’), we could have a kind of causal chain from beginning to end, but by the end we would not see the connection, even though step-by-step the connects were clear.

All the entries are different. And yet they’re not: generally explicitly though in a few cases more implicitly they feature a protagonist, dragon, and princess. Kinds of weapons and transportation, methods of violence, and the appearance of the protagonist’s mother vary and/or are optional But what goes unremarked upon? The protagonist is implicitly male (a few times explicitly so).

All the entries are different, except they’re all juvenile male sex fantasies. In particular: violent sex fantasies. Except when they’re mocking sexuality as commentary upon the worth of a given genre. The closest any genre entry gets to subverting this formula? The DOOM METAL dragon gets to kill and eat the protagonist; this dragon has more agency than any of the princesses.

The closest fellow commenters came to calling ‘username too long’ on this bullshit? ‘Minefield’ provided a “*slow clap*”; ‘Texass’ adds the following:


The dragon and the princess have been waiting for the protagonist to show up so they can take turns beating the everloving shit out of him.

But several others just aded more genre entries that followed the same pattern or compliment the poster on the ‘good list’.

I am more amused than bemused by this, not terribly offended because I wasn’t looking for sophisticated humor, and so on. At the same time it clearly struck a nerve, and since it’s something I could speak about, I didn’t feel that I had to pass over it in silence.

See also:

From the similar-but-not-the-same files, consider the recent Dove ad/beauty campaign in which (forensic sketch) artists drew two portraits of women: those based on descriptions by the women themselves and those by people who had sat and talked with the women a bit and then described them to the artists. The result making the rounds is that the drawings based on descriptions by others were more beautiful than those based on self-descriptions; the conclusion is that women are juding their looks too harshly and — perhaps — even seeing themselves falsely. But has been rightly pointed out, sample size, ‘methodology’, etc. aside — as this was an ad campaign, not a scientific study (though one might argue it warrants further, rigorous study … or perhaps that’s already been done … in Psych 101 class after Psych 101 class through the years) –, there are two really major issues that all the ‘hey, you’re prettier than you think!’ cheeriness has been ignoring: [1] almost all the women were white, young, and generally traditionally plain or pretty to start with, with an overrepresentation of blonds; [2] it was still enforcing current Western beauty standards, merely arguing that women fit such standards more than they think.

In particular:

I leave mapping the similarities as an exercise to the reader.

About Steve

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