October 15, 2003
White on Black

I've been a fan of Armond White's writing ever since James Wolcott endorsed his book The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World in The New Yorker by saying the critic plays the race card on every page. I used to read White when he was the arts editor of The City Sun, a now-defunct African-American paper out of Brooklyn, and I'm glad that he's maintained his spot as part of The New York Press' film crit dyad with Matt Zoller Seitz.

While I find some of White's assertions ridiculous (for example, every turd put out by Steven Spielberg is not worthy of your praise or my ten bucks, and all roads do not lead to Morrissey), what I like about him is that he makes connections between and among disparate things, that he can see beyond the Todd-AO screening room into the culture-at-large. (Try getting Peter Travers to set aside his exclamation points for a second and do that.)

This week, White begins his slam of School of Rock in The Press by pointing out the following:
The week that School of Rock topped the weekend box-office, Billboard/SoundScan's top-ten-singles list belonged to: Ashanti, Beyonce, Fabolous, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Black Eyed Peas, P. Diddy, Nelly. Clearly, School of Rock doesn't teach audiences what they need to know: that today's predominant youth culture no longer moves to a "rock" beat.

Very smart, and dead-on. Next, he tells us:
[Jack Black] browbeats his [students'] personal taste with idolatry about Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Motörhead-he instills the rockist ideology that, in standard pop publications, has turned popular music into a sinecure for cultural racism. School of Rock perverts the radicalism imputed to rock in the 60s, pretending All-American exuberance and liberation when it is actually only selling hegemony.

Nice, but the obvious joke White misses is that playing on the soundtrack beneath Black's first day as a sub is the chorus to The Who's "Substitute," that fades out before the line:
Substitute your lies for fact/
I can see right through your plastic mac/
I look all white, but my dad was black

School of Rock was written by Mike White: does that make this a case of White-on-White critical violence?

One more thing on Armond White: his second book Rebel for the Hell of It: The Life of Tupac Shakur had a blurb on the back that said "Soon to be an HBO film!" To cite the title of another Morrissey fanatic, how soon is never, Armond?

Posted in a Shallow fashion.

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