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Sometimes I feel we should be doing more at R&T to directly connect up to important world events. The daily news of war and suffering, in particular, frequently make me want R&T to be more “topical.” But at other times I think that our more indirect relation to global realities is about the best we can do, because it contributes in a small way to building a critical consciousness about how to live in the world with a deep attention to desire and a commitment to justice.

But I had war’s traumas in mind lately as I have watched the Alice in Chains video for their song “Rooster,” and have been thinking about the way music videos used to occasionally take on significant moral concerns. (Does this still happen with any frequency?)

As the wiki page for “Rooster” explains, the song was written by guitarist Jerry Cantrell as a way of making some sense of the experience of his father, Jerry Cantrell, Sr., who fought in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Images from the movie “Platoon” are featured in the video. Filmic images of American soldiers and a young boy at their mercy are interspersed with archival footage of suffering Vietnamese people. Wiki also reports that Cantrell’s father was interviewed when they made the video. I take it that this is Cantrell Sr. (nicknamed “Rooster”) speaking at the front of the video.

Veteran father has also joined guitarist son on stage when “Rooster” is played. Here is a video from a couple of years ago from a show in Dallas where this happens:

I don’t know of any research connecting attitudes toward war and its attendant political questions to the viewing of music videos, but I would be curious about this kind of moral formation, especially because videos are a fundamental form of learning in the age of the Internet.

Here is one place where ancient theological tradition intersects with contemporary screen technology: theology as well as popular music try to install a moral sensibility of one sort of another and find themselves irreparably in the contest of moral formations at play in the larger culture.

I wonder if R&T readers are aware of having had their minds changed or commitments trained by any music videos in particular.

Tom Beaudoin

Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, USA

1 Comment »

  1. This kind of thing is interesting —
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/sep/28/heavy-metal-music-us-army-iraq

    As are the reports about particular songs and artists being used in the practice of torture.

    Comment by Michael Iafrate — May 16, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

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