The Mothership Connection: Mythscape and Unity in the Music of Parliament

The Mothership Connection
Mythscape and Unity in the Music of Parliament

Kurt Baer
Indiana University

Due to Afro-centric and Afro-futurist themes and the lyrical content of some of their songs, the music of funk musician George Clinton and his band Parliament has been referred to by scholars (e.g. Brown 2008; Nama 2008; McLeod 2003) as linked to the Black Nationalist movement. Other sources, including song lyrics and interviews with Clinton, emphasize themes of promoting unity among people of all races. Although these themes of racial solidarity and unity without regard to race may at first be seen as contradictory, I argue that both interpretations arise from Parliament?s creation of what I am calling a ?unified place.? Through images of places set in outer space and at the bottom of the ocean that are disseminated through the lyrics, album covers, liner notes, costumes, advertisements, and performances of their songs, the band provides the means to turn these abstract spaces into familiar places filled with over-the-top characters and their mythologized stories. These places, constructed from particular and often romanticized landscapes by the individual through such decontextualized images?what Andy Bennett (2002) refers to as ?mythscapes??are then ?brought to life? in performance through devices such as enactment to create this sense of unity. I argue that it is because this enacted mythscape is individually constructed through decontextualized and often ambiguous images that scholars have found such apparently contradictory themes of unity within the same body of music. Continue reading “The Mothership Connection: Mythscape and Unity in the Music of Parliament”


Variation of Manufactured Folk Drama: A Case Study of The Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House

Variation of Manufactured Folk Drama: A Case Study of The Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House

Mary Mesteller
Indiana University

A version of this paper received the prize for Best Poster at the 2010 IU/OSU Student Folklore Conference


Local Variation of Manufactured Folk Drama: A Case Study on the Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House analyzes The Hell House Outreach, an Evangelical Christian outreach tool, a folk drama that has become widespread in churches throughout the United States during the Halloween season. The Hell House Outreach’s popularity and traditional aspects are because of the The Hell House Outreach, which became available for purchase in the 1990s. Variation exists in content as well as context in individual hell houses, though a traditional form is maintained. It is within the adaptability where the producers of The Hell House Outreach believe the power of the ministry lies. The Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House in Southern Indiana is an excellent example of a hell house that altered the The Hell House Outreach Kit in order to highlight controversial moral and political issues unique to Monroe County of Southern Indiana. Continue reading “Variation of Manufactured Folk Drama: A Case Study of The Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House”

Rama for Beginners: Bridging Indian Folk and Comics Cultures

Rama for Beginners:  Bridging Indian Folk and Comics Cultures

Jeremy Stoll
Indiana University


In the boom of recent comics scholarship, the comic art of India has received little attention compared to that of other nations, the United States, France, and Japan in particular. Through a basis in religious and folk narratives, Indian comics narratives, especially those published by the Amar Chitra Katha series, have worked to update folk tales, retelling them in a modern medium. By looking at the figure of Rama in the Amar Chitra Katha and other Indian comics, this paper will analyze the process and implications of this transformation. In particular, the analysis of Rama as contemporary hero will reveal how these stories help people to deal with daily life at the same time that they affirm another, older way of understanding the world. This paper will thus demonstrate how comics creators in India have adapted the comic book to effectively re-maneuver traditional tales as a modern, folkloric inheritance to future generations.     Continue reading “Rama for Beginners: Bridging Indian Folk and Comics Cultures”

Representing Valerie Solanas: Productions of Gender and Sexuality in The Factory

Representing Valerie Solanas:  Productions of Gender and Sexuality in The Factory

Sayo Yamagata
City University of New York


This essay explores the musical and artistic reactions to Valerie Solanas’s shooting of Andy Warhol in order to demonstrate how acts of violence, artistic representation, and constructions of gender not only inform, but also enforce one another.  The present analysis also intends to understand how attempts to represent Solanas within the context of her violent act, as a political tool for radical feminist or anti-feminist ends, can become the occasion for additional violence.  Pivotal examples that activate the discussion of gender construction in Warhol’s Factory scene include Lou Reed’s and John Cale’s song “I believe” as well as Solanas’s writings on violence, gender and sex in her SCUM Manifesto. Continue reading “Representing Valerie Solanas: Productions of Gender and Sexuality in The Factory”

The Snob, the Rube and the Connoisseur

The Snob, the Rube and the Connoisseur: Sideways and the Legitimation of “Culinary Capital”

Margot Finn
University of Michigan


In this essay, I analyze the critically-acclaimed 2004 film Sideways and its effect on the U.S. wine industry. I argue that part of the film’s popular appeal was its successful negotiation of two desires that often seem contradictory: the desire to appear sophisticated in the realm of food and drink and the desire to avoid seeming pretentious or be branded a “food snob.” Ultimately, Sideways argues that “good taste,” which functions a form of “cultural capital,” is meritocratic. Like all meritocracies, the “meritocracy of taste” obscures the structural differences that make the tastes and practices constructed as valuable and desirable more accessible to some people. It also enhances the pleasures and rewards of having good taste, by constructing “culinary capital” as the result of talent and effort rather than wealth and privilege. I argue that the “Sideways Effect”—an increase in the demand for and price of Pinot Noir and decrease in the demand for and price of Merlot following the film’s successful showing in theaters—is evidence that the film reinforced exclusive taste hierarchies rather than promoting an inclusive ideology of “good taste.”

Continue reading “The Snob, the Rube and the Connoisseur”

Heroes Are Over With: Possibilities for Folk Hybridity in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”

Heroes Are Over With: Possibilities for Folk Hybridity in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Katie L. Ramos
University of Wisconsin, Madison


Folklorists have long sought to illuminate the blurry boundary between contemporary popular culture and folk culture, and in the information age that boundary is fuzzier than ever.  The internet provides tools for the folk to produce creative works and disseminate them widely while remaining mostly anonymous.  These tools have also allowed greater interaction between producers of popular media and their fan (folk) base.  Camille Bacon-Smith and Henry Jenkins have identified a “participatory culture” in which fans produce their own creative works (on and offline) in response to popular film and television.  The more recent phenomenon of internet-based high-budget programming has led to an even greater level of interaction between media producers and their fans.  One example is Joss Whedon’s 2008 web production Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  Whedon was known for friendly interaction with his fans, but when he developed Dr. Horrible he encouraged them to engage actively in creative play with the musical, partly through a contest that asked viewers to create their own video responses to the musical.  The ten best were included on the DVD release.  This paper examines how the producers and fans of Dr. Horrible entered into a (lopsided) reciprocal performance, inventing and re-inventing a shared, creative event. Continue reading “Heroes Are Over With: Possibilities for Folk Hybridity in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog””

Harold Hinds, et al. Popular Culture Theory and Methodology: A Basic Introduction

Harold E. Hinds, Jr., Marilyn F. Motz, and Angela M. S. Nelson, eds. Popular Culture Theory and Methodology: A Basic Introduction. Madison: Popular Press/ University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. Pp. vii + 406, introduction, bibliography. $65.00 hardcover, $21.95 paperback.

Trevor J. Blank
Indiana University

The relationship between folklore and popular culture has been the subject of scrutiny amongst folklorists, and the study of the connections between these fields is problematic for scholars entangled in debates over the scope and legitimacy of their disciplines. The comparative analysis of popular culture by folklorists has been peripheral, not rigorous. However, it is important to note the influential role of popular culture on folklore, and this field certainly merits the attention of folklorists and cultural historians. Popular Culture Theory and Methodology provides a wonderful introduction for folklorists and interested scholars seeking to enhance their knowledge of the core fundamental theories, methods, and debates that have shaped the popular culture discipline since its acceptance as a serious academic field in the 1960s. Continue reading “Harold Hinds, et al. Popular Culture Theory and Methodology: A Basic Introduction”