Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Like a Rolling Stone -- Bob Dylan

"You better take your diamond ring, you better pawn it, babe."

Here's the link to Bob Dylan's new interactive video. You can watch Drew Carey on the Price is Right lip-sync the lyrics, then flip the channel and watch a newscaster seemingly deliver the next verse. It's all very cleverly done. But because of the channel surfing feature, I think many people have been distracted from just how disturbing this video is.

The song itself is an exercise is truth-telling, an activity that is rarely featured on television. Dylan isn't preaching to one unfortunate "babe" -- the song is aimed at all of us. We can't bear to hear about how precarious our material comfort actually is, about how shallow our relations are with others, how empty our accomplishments are.

The contrast between the vapid, pretty images that we are used to anesthesizing ourselves with and the punch of the lyrics is disconcerting. It is as if we have turned on the t.v. for the usual reason -- to distract ourselves from the meaningless of our lives and the discordance between our self-image and reality -- and, instead of being painlessly "entertained," we are confronted, subtlely at first and then undeniably, by the truth.

The video is powerful because it puts viewers in the position of someone slowly going insane. You are sitting there mindlessly watching the news, or the home shopping channel, or the history channel, and you slowly realize that something is off-kilter, that the words coming out of people's mouths aren't the words that you are expecting. You change the channel quickly to a kids channel or a fashion channel, and there is no escape. You channel surf to escape the truth and it follows you wherever you go.

It reminds me of this scene from The Game, with Michael Douglas:

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