Odd Future’s true legacy
Odd Future have done me a favour. I was watching “Rella”, the new video by the Californian rap outfit, and there it was, at 1:22: a smack delivered to a woman’s face so hard that her head snapped to one side. And there I went, straight onto Twitter with my outrage, and in the process giving Odd Future precisely the marketing that they had bargained for. But, that said, they still did me a favour.
As I commented to a friend at the time, anyone who watches an Odd Future video probably gets exactly what they deserve, be it delight or disgust. Now that I’ve cooled down, my reaction to their work reminds me of the devout Christians who would listen in to Howard Stern’s radio show, comfortable and perhaps excited in the knowledge that they could take offence at any moment.
Outrage is always a word that has bothered me, but until Odd Future’s video I was never quite sure why. But “Rella” has made that clear. Whenever I have a sense of outrage, it only reminds me how far my anger over an issue is removed from any practical action. It’s as if the mere expression of rage is an end in itself: and there’s something quite self-involved about that.
There have been many times when I have looked at the UN, particularly in response to international crises, and wondered whether it feels similarly self-involved. When I see the UN expressing its “outrage” at this or that atrocity or ethnic cleansing, I wonder whether that’s just diplomatic language for “our horror at this scenario is our sufficient and entire response”. Having read of how this institution largely sat by as the 1994 genocide unfolded in Rwanda, I am increasingly convinced that outrage is not so much a feeling as a luxury, the type of sensation you feel when you’re at a safe distance, whether physical or emotional, from the object of your discontent. For that reason, I wish it were a word that the UN never used again.
But back to Odd Future. It’s not as though what they’re doing is thrillingly audacious: in fact, it’s deeply conservative. They know very well that there’s no risk to their music careers from videos such as these; that an “ironic” scene involving violence against women is an easy target. What would be truly brave is if Odd Future directed their energies against those who perpetrate such crimes in real life, but I doubt we’ll see that anytime soon.
In the short term, then, Odd Future have done me a favour, in galvanising me to draw greater attention to such violence than I have previously done. And in the long term, they will have done everyone a favour, which will be their true legacy: to remind us that the expression of outrage is perhaps the most useless of all human acts.Tagged in: Howard Stern, misogyny, Odd Future, Rwanda, un, united nations
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