Without much commentary, because I haven’t really done much mulling-over of it, I wanted to include the opening words of Giles Morris‘ Read This First segment in this week’s C-ville. They just really resonated with me.
You can never go home again. The line expresses a quintessential sorrow embedded in the American dream. You move up and out. You can never go home again, because you left and became someone different. When you go back, no one will understand you, and the place you idealized can’t ever live up to the new tastes you’ve acquired. But is the message historical or progressive? Essential or didactic? Was it coined to communicate immigrant longing? Or as a warning to those who made the upwardly mobile journey from the provinces to the city? Or, more basically, does it say something about time and memory?
And since the phrase “American dream” found its way into the very first sentence (and since you know how I feel about media-less posts, and since I spent a good amount of time last week strangely engaged in this song) I’m going to throw in David Bowie’s “Young Americans” along with an insightful interpretation from SongMeanings.net. (Haha I don’t know if I should be embarrassed by admitting that I find myself doing investigating on that site with relative frequency.)
all the way from washington, her bread-winner begs off the bathroom floor: “we live for just these twenty years… do we have to die for the fifty more?”
Several people have mentioned the allusion to the Beatles: “I heard the news today, oh boy.” …Remember the rest of the line? “About a lucky man who made the grade.” You see, Bowie’s song is about someone who has NOT “made the grade” that is collectively articulated as the American Dream. That, in a nutshell, is the point of the song: America bombards people with a litany of flashy expectations -Ford Mustangs, Barbie dolls, Daddy’s heroes (Sports, Hollywood, etc.) material success, etc., but the disconcerting reality is that few people ever attain this tantalizing vision of success, because it’s unrealistic, and when their adult lives turn out to be about divorce, alimony, and general failure, they are just confused. The speaker of Bowie’s song asks questions like “”We live for just these twenty years… Do we have to die for the fifty more?” and “Ain’t there a man who can say no more?” Because he is confused when he sees that a culture that only values youth and flashy things leaves everyone over 20 in the lurch. And there’s no Hollywood hero who will step in to save the day, because that’s just in the movies. In the final evaluation, those who fail to realize that the American Dream is, after all, a dream, will wind up in mid-life wondering what kind of meaning they were really supposed to have sought instead. The ironic part is that Bowie (who is British) is so smart that he manages to critique America without being obvious; most people mistakenly think this song is some kind of celebration of the American way of life. It’s not. It’s an intelligent critique of our shallow culture and the hollow expectations it encourages in place of anything that could actually provide meaning-religion, literature, learning, family, etc.
But still a sick jam!
(Oh and don’t let me trick you into thinking I’m bummed out or anything… I’ve got housing sorted out for next year, I think I’ve got some second income about to kick in, and Foxfield 2013 begins in three days!!!)