A few days ago, I decided to re-read Nick Hornby's "About a Boy." I love this book so much, I ended up re-reading it twice (because there aren't enough UNREAD books on my shelf, clearly) and then I went out and rented the movie on Sunday.
I'd already read the book, and seen the movie, and I remember enjoying the movie. But I didn't remember being disappointed by the movie, whereas this time, while I still liked the movie, I also felt vaguely disappointed.
I think one of my favorite things about "About a Boy" is the way Hornby manages to capture that ineffable essence of the 1990s. And of course, the movie is not set in the nineties. So while the book centers heavily on Kurt Cobain and his music, and sets up interesting parallels between Kurt Cobain's life and the characters' lives, the movie features the music of, well, Mystikal. I'm not going to say that Mystikal's songs aren't catchy, but ... that's kind of all I have to say about that.
So when the movie ended, I pulled out my copy of "In Utero" and put it in my CD player. And I was immediately taken back to the day when I purchased that CD (amazing how music can do that.) I remember my dad and I having something between an argument and a discussion about the CD. My dad heard the song "Rape Me" and was shocked that I, a self-proclaimed feminist, would listen to such a song. And I argued with the total authority that only a teenager can possess that Kurt Cobain was a total feminist! And that "Rape Me" was a feminist song!
Which is funny to me now, because I know NOTHING about Kurt Cobain. And the nothing I know now is still probably more than the nothing I knew back then. Because back then I didn't even LIKE Nirvana really. I thought they were kind of noisy and scary, and I mostly listened to Nirvana because they were cool. And I mean, I guess I can extrapolate a little and say, well, Courtney Love seems to be a sort of strong woman? So maybe Kurt Cobain was a feminist? But the truth is, I don't know. I don't know if I met him, and talked to him, whether I would have considered him a feminist.
Back then, I listened to Nirvana because it was cool. And now I listen to it because it makes me nostalgic for the nineties, and because I eventually grew old enough to appreciate their music. I'm not trying to claim any moral high ground there. Because, frankly, I enjoy listening to rap, and while rap music does give me some qualms, I mostly shut down those qualms. Because while I might be able to claim that Tupac was a feminist, and you might even be able to make the more tenuous claim that Eminem is not really that misogynistic, it's his character Slim Shady that's the real culprit, I don't think you can claim that Ice Cube's "Put Your Back Into It" has a hidden feminist meaning.
And I know the controversy surrounding "Rape Me" (now, I'm not sure I knew much of it back then.) And I know what Cobain purported the song to be, and yet, I understand how many feminists found the song untenable. To me, the song has always been laced with irony, but I sometimes wonder if that's because I have always wanted to like the song, or because that's how I really feel. I think the lyrics are ambiguous enough that you can draw various conclusions, but I think the anger, frustration, and resignation in the song suggest that at the very least, Cobain is not taking the words "Rape Me" lightly.
All of this rambling to say that, there are some musicians I believe are worth analyzing. Cobain is one. Mystikal is not. Or maybe I was trying to say that the book for "About a Boy" is much better than the movie. That's probably it. Go read the book.