Just the Fax, Ma'am: Or, Postmodernism's Journey to Decenter
In the waning moments of the 1970s, Eraserhead was playing at the Waverly in the West Village, and David Lynch, its director, was not exactly a household name, though he did find some kindred spirits who'd always known there were puffy-cheeked women singing under the radiator. When he was given a TV series in the spring of 1990, eyebrows went up nationwide, and everyone waited to see whether the Apocalypse would follow from the historic encounter between David Lynch and prime-time network TV. But Lynch's relentlessly strange and provocative Twin Peaks became so widely acknowledged a critical success that it wound up being explained to--and defended from--the uncomprehending masses by none other than the house organ of the uncomprehending masses, USA Today, whose Life section loudly protested the show's hiatuses and eventual cancellation by ABC. Soap Opera Weekly checked in from time to time with astute, sympathetic, and theoretically sophisticated assessments of the show's development, and large segments of middle America were served up Lynch's hallucinogenic Northwest, along with a side of pie, for over a year.
Meanwhile, back in the late 1970s, a few miles north of the Waverly, Kool DJ Here and Grandmaster Flash were busy recycling vinyl cultural products in some strange new ways. A mere decade or so later, 'rap', aka hip-hop, has become the single largest music on the block--any block. On the technical tip, hip-hop's dazzling blends of traditional and electronic musical forms, together with its dexterous pillaging of various recent cultural archives, have launched (among other things) a thorough, multimedia examination of blackness and the technological means of cultural reproduction. And in the space of a few years, hip-hop has made its way from turntables to TV ads for cola, throat lozenges and kids' breakfast cereals, all the way from the Bronx to Bel Air--surviving its many co-optations and crossovers at every little step. Not even Hammer and Vanilla