Odd Future and a Brave New World
by Hannah Golightly
Odd Future’s portrait of human experience in a society that shields us from the truth
Odd Future is not a feminist issue. Odd Future is a societal issue. Tyler The Creator is brave and afraid. He has the courage to address shame. Very few people have enough balls to do that. Don’t shoot the messenger. If you don’t like what you see in this mirror, then tough shit, breaking the mirror will not help.
This mirror of a sick society and all the human discontent and suffering and abuse is at the core appeal of Odd Future. They are by far the most punk band in the world right now. From the fringes of a society that rejects them, they are poised to view it from an outsider perspective and pass comment. Why do people hate Odd Future? Because they hate the elements of human nature that Odd Future parade for all to see. In broad daylight no less. Have they no shame? No. And that is the biggest contribution to society that any artist can give us right now. Why do people love Odd Future? Because they speak the taboo truths that are pressing up towards the surface of daily life all of the time, while we push them down, numb them with a variety of methods including escapist TV, food and drugs.
That doesn’t make them go away, it just helps us to forget. The pressure is so great both for these things to have their place in human experience and at the same time to be disowned, ignored, repressed and denied by society. This creates a tension within our very souls and makes surviving any of these taboo experiences difficult. Odd Future build themselves a strength from confronting these shameful experiences and disposes of the shame that prevents the healing process. Anyone who listens to Odd Future can draw on this strength, the release that comes from knowing that below the surface we are all human and some of that is challenging in the extreme. Scapegoating them is the easiest option. Them and Us. Get rid of them. Simple, now we can forget this icky stuff and go back into the comfort and isolation of denial. Glad we solved that one. Society can breathe freely once more, all is OK in the world… Except it’s not.
At first I was angry that Odd Future were getting away with their lyrics without even a hint of outrage from the press. Then again, the press didn’t exactly explain their position on the lyrics either and some could say that this was a possible conduit for misunderstanding and the encouragement of “Hey everyone, it’s OK, sexism is cool right now” and miss the point: that it’s taboo they are primarily dealing with, not an attack on women or homosexuals or whoever else they were offending in their lyrics. Odd Future have the potential to set people free. Ignoring these awful painful human experiences will not put a stop to them. I only have faith in corporations having that power at this point. Grim I know. The people responsible for the zillion messages a day that tell women that they are inferior if they are not walking airbrushed photographs and where men are stripped of their rights to express human emotion in order to take part in their gender.
The “so what?” response to Odd Future is not yet good enough. I want to know why we accept this status quo in the first place. The answer is clearly because we have been primed to do so. We have lost the psychological warfare waged by advertisers. Hell, we didn’t see it coming and even if we did, we had no weapons or shields to protect ourselves against it. That is the problem with Odd Future – we live in a society that rejects these taboo experiences and in doing so isolates people and cuts them off from the group, from the comfort and relative security of human connectedness. Odd Future simply reconnect us as humans to ourselves and each other by acknowledging these struggles and sufferings that engender shame and social isolation. This is my explanation for why they gather such a following. Nirvana did it by tapping on the nerve that everyone secretly felt like a loser and a geek (apart from the 10 popular people you went to school with) and Odd Future do it by tapping into the same fear – the fear that none of us are good enough deep down and the fear that that may be exposed.
Their response is to go to extremes in order to prove that they “do not give a fuck”, although their direct protest clearly shows that they do give a heck of a fuck (just like most humans) but at least are struggling to break free from the confines of that state, to own themselves fully in the process. They just do it from a different angle – an extreme and uncomfortable one. Oddly, this is a uniting experience in itself. The results are shocking, but it’s like Electric Shock Treatment for society … or it could be. My hope is that we’re not too fucked up and far gone in our collective-craziness to be shocked and reprogrammed by the treatment. It would be wrong to blame Tyler The Creator for the feedback, when society created the distortion.
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