Ben Ratliff’s rumination on the Coachella Music Festival raises an important cultural issue and then just drops it. Ratliff wonders if the audience has become more important than the performers–and who is that audience?
One is a young man who bangs his body around to show you that he has been to the gym, or that he has a basically competitive attitude. He has grown simpler over the history of the festival. He wears black sunglasses, sleeveless shirt or none at all, backward baseball cap or headband, a water-pack on his back. He is a flat, hardy example of power and privilege. He seems to have no history. If style is something specific to a time or place that pleases the eye and the mind, he has no style. His time is running out. (Don’t blame him. Blame globalism, the major banks, professional sports.)
By contrast, Ratliff notes that the woman in the audience “looks more flexible, curious and specific to the region” and that the music pitched at them has more nuance than the EDM the guys flock to. But by going on to describe the wonderful women performers at the festival, Ratliff does not pursue the truly existential question he raises. Is a culture aimed at buffed out knuckleheads with their caps on backwards devolving into meaninglessness?
I don’t just mean EDM or the blatant sexism of a good deal of hip hop. I mean a movie business that seems trapped in a Spiderman 4, Fast and Furious 7 trope aimed at the young men with no history. I mean a video game industry unable to escape the first person shooter adreniline rush and a web culture built around sites like Reddit that celebrate the obnoxious know it all geek life that “has no style”. I don’t know how we get out of this trap thinking that young guys are the only audience for entertainment, but I know we have to do it.