On Misogyny in Industrial Music

And speaking of deflecting criticism through irony, Nadya Lev has written a long, thoughtful piece on misogyny in industrial music:

The “cinematic reference” argument seems to be a common tactic in deflecting criticism. Thomas Rainer has used the filmic term “sexploitation” to describe Nachtmahr, and Throat Full of Glass music video director, Chad Michael Ward, wrote to Coilhouse stating that “the video, conceived by both the band and myself, is a send-up of 1970s grindhouse/exploitation films, where men were thugs and women were whores; in other words caricatures, not entirely unlike the noir films of the 1930s that I also love dearly.” In reality, the “it’s an homage to grindhouse” defense is so common that it’s becoming a cliche. Here’s the thing: when Tarantino revived the grindhouse genre, it was with clever, self-aware, satirical, intelligent scripts that actually told new stories that were relevant to our time. The Bride is one of the most celebrated bad-ass film icons out there. Similarly, today’s burlesque movement revives the noir glamour of the 30s with a DIY, feminist sensibility. Contrasted to that, what collective story does the combination of these industrial music videos tell?

Full Story: On Misogyny in Industrial Music

Here’s the comment I left:

“If satire isn’t interpreted as satire, but as a sincere expression of belief, doesn’t mean that the artist has to condescend to explain it and hold the listener’s hand.”

The question of the artist’s responsibility for people not getting a piece of work is a sticky one. People completely missing the point of satire has been a thing for a long, long time. The movie Joe [1] comes to mind, but it was hardly the first.

Similarly, to what degree can an artist be criticized for utterly failing at satire? If Combachrist has been at this for as long as he has, and no one gets the joke, is that a failure as an artist on his part? (joblowcritic’s point about Laichach is particularly relevant here).

There has been a rash of movies over the past few years that claim to be satire or criticism of media violence, violence against women, etc. but simply devolve into being an embodiment of what they intended to satirize — to such a degree that it’s questionable whether the film makers ever really intended to do satire or whether that was all just a cover (Sucker Punch for example).

Combachrist and Nachtmahr have fallen into the same realm. Is this stuff *really* earnest parody, or cover for the opportunity to do whatever they want without criticism? Did it start out as parody, but at some point start feeling a bit too comfortable?

One big difference between these guys and Laibach is that, to the best of my knowledge, Laibach never used their aesthetics of fascism schtick as an excuse to, say, make a video about torturing Jews or beating women or whatever. That’s the problem I have with films like Sucker Punch, Crank and that whole family of neo-grindhouse films as well. There just isn’t a big enough difference between the real thing and the satire.

[1] http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3013/


  1. I’ve been following Technocult for about a decade, and never made a comment — and this is my third in one day.

    I’m well outside of the industrial music scene these days, but two things struck me about perceived targets in industrial music and one of the dangers of satire.

    I stepped away from industrial music in the late 1990’s, for no other reason than it just didn’t capture my attention anymore and my tastes changed. However, what I recall is that whenever a song had a socio-political angle, it was generally aimed, aggressively, at oppressors, or oppression in general — and usually not that obvious. That seemed to mark a contrast from hardcore metal that more often than not seemed to either embody or stand for different kinds of oppression, ironically or not (Master of Puppets?). The big difference, beyond sound, seemed to be in the obviousness of the possible interpretations, and that made the industrial crowd a little more self-selective; if you didn’t mind being challenged by some music and having to work for its meaning, the Front 242 show is this way; if you want it a little more spelled out and obvious, Megadeth is that way. That kind of self-selective audience arguably helped guard the genre against widespread misinterpretation of “artistic” satire, so-called or otherwise.

    But your point about an artist’s/satirist’s responsibility is interesting, and reminds me of why Dave Chappelle did the kind of comedy he did, and why he pulled the plug. Like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pryor, Chappelle’s kind of satire worked to deflate the sorts of images and language he took on. The jokes themselves provided enough context to see how they deconstructed themselves, like the black white supremacist, or the race draft, or the Wu Tang financial planners.

    Chappelle provided all the context he could within the structure of the joke (his art) in order to convey the meaning without having to spell it out. However, he noticed when the show reached a tipping point, when high school kids were reciting catch phrases as if their deflated meanings were the intended ones, and they were made okay by Chappelle. He took responsibility when he noticed people laughing at the wrong spots in his bits, or in the wrong ways, and that’s when he pulled the plug. His responsibility, he felt, was not to enable a dangerous misinterpretation of his work.

    Isn’t that where an artist’s responsibility lies — in not enabling dangerous misinterpretations of one’s work, whether it’s outwardly addressing them or cleverly countering them within the work itself? To not address dangerous misinterpretations is tacitly approving such misinterpretations, which suggests those aren’t really misinterpretations at all. And when they’re not misinterpretations, then you can’t really claim “irony” or “satire.”

    (It was telling that Comedy Central replaced Chappelle with Carlos Mencia — as if a sketch show hosted by any old ethnic minority was interchangeable. Mencia played right into the ethic that caused Chappelle to leave, joking in ways that reinforced stereotypes rather than dismantled them from within.)

  2. Like mxyzptlk I use to listen to a lot of industrial music, I still listen to some of it but nowhere near as much.
    I completely fail to see how Tarantinos revival of grindhouse was clever, being as it was wholly predictable and somewhat tedious.
    As to the subject of misogyny in industrial music videos it isn’t something I have noticed as much as in videos for the metal scene.
    Off the top of my head I am thinking about bands like Front242, Nitzer Ebb and Frontline Assembly.
    The Nitzer Ebb videos that I can think of mainly revolve around images of Doug and Bon..the Front 242 videos again feature the band quite a bit some of them are a little abstract such as the eggs from mouths in the headhunter and as for FLA well they seem to revolve around Bill Leebs obsession that machines will rise up and take over a world that should be destroyed.
    Misogyny if there is any will be dictated by the mind of the artist, the nature of the track and the director, I maybe assuming too much in this.
    I dont think it comes down to the genre. But if you are looking for misogyny in music videos then maybe look no further than the glut of videos on mtv…the pop/commercial rap/R’n’B videos surely must be contenders for this…..

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