But to demand that a work be “relatable” expresses a different expectation: that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer. The reader or viewer remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her. If the concept of identification suggested that an individual experiences a work as a mirror in which he might recognize himself, the notion of relatability implies that the work in question serves like a selfie: a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.
"If Astaire’s dancing was the graceful line of black-tie seduction, Brown’s was a paroxysm of sexual frenzy, a blend of Pentecostal possession and erotic release. … Smith quotes Brown as saying that the T.A.M.I. performance was the ‘highest energy’ moment of his career: ‘I danced so hard my manager cried. But I really had to. What I was up against was pop artists—I was R. & B. I had to show ‘em the difference, and believe me, it was hard.’"—David Remnick, The New Yorker, “The Possessed: James Brown in Eighteen Minutes"
Here’s my favorite sequence from the T.A.M.I. performance that Remnick offers up — a 25-second burst of proto-moonwalking, adorned by three synchronized back-up dancers, punctuated by a fearless leader’s stomp. I’ve watched the entire video three times now, and I still can’t wrap my head around the size of Brown’s talent.
(All GIFs made with Gfycat.)
Has there ever been a rapper who looked more excited about making videos than Nelly? He performs with the enthusiasm of a foreign exchange student who’s been looking forward to a trip to a real-deal american music club for months. He has a hand motion for every line of the song, including a moment where he rubs his hands together at 1:03 like a cartoon wolf.
DMX narrates his experience on the Sling Shot at Orlando’s Magical Midway Thrill Park. (Slate’s BrowBeat.)
That is why the event revealed by the cascade seems so obvious after-the-fact. If you think about it, it’s clear that this is actually a subset of measurement error.
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