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Friday, 8 June 2012

Musings On MorrisseysWorld by Heathercat


MUSINGS ON MORRISSEYSWORLD
by Heathercat (@heathercat222)
Morrissey’s latest stage backdrop portrays Oscar Wilde asking the question, “Who is Morrissey?” On one level, this can be viewed as a humorous, self-deprecating quip, but on another level, it poses a challenging question that people have been struggling to answer for the past 30 years. Notorious for being enigmatic and full of contradictions, Morrissey has crafted a public image shrouded in mystery which has kept us guessing about his persona ever since his rise to fame with The Smiths. Rock music writer David Buckley has observed that Morrissey’s appeal lies in his unpredictability and determination to preserve an old-fashioned mystique, which has continued to enthrall the public for the duration of his career.
On the MorrisseysWorld blog, the following caption has been posted under a photo of the Oscar Wilde backdrop: “After many months of MorrisseysWorld fans asking ‘Who is MorrisseysWorld?’ Morrissey asks ‘Who is Morrissey?’” It’s quite remarkable that, in the past several months, the question pertaining to MorrisseysWorld has become just as much of a conundrum as the question about Morrissey himself, causing one tweeter to call the MorrisseysWorld mystery “the ‘who shot JR’ of our generation.” In an attempt to answer this burning question, there has been much discussion about various signs and clues given by Morrissey that seemingly relate to the MorrisseysWorld blog (for an exhaustive list see FollowingTheMozziah, June 2), but there hasn’t been much discussion about the nature of the blog itself. Further examination of the blog and its underlying themes may add new insight into the MorrisseysWorld enigma.
One of the recurring themes on the blog is the 90’s cult favorite TV show Twin Peaks. When it first appeared on the blog, many of the readers seemed confused and wondered how it was relevant. I believe it’s actually an important clue to understanding the underlying concept of the blog. Steeped in ambiguity and surrealism, Twin Peaks is a prime example of postmodern style. In ‘Twin Peaks – An Argument for a Postmodern Reality’, Llowell Williams writes the following: “The immense popularity of Twin Peaks to this day is a testament to the power and appeal of the multilayered and dense nature of the show’s narrative and presentation. This is perhaps one of the aspects that make the series most genius, by leaving a lot of interpretation and understanding of the plot and characters up to the viewers themselves… What sets Twin Peaks apart from many other primetime dramas is the unique ideologies it puts forth, challenging the viewer’s own pattern of beliefs through which they interpret the world around them. The most important ideology present in Twin Peaks by far is that of postmodern subjectivism… The series posits, like postmodern theory, that reality is neither concrete nor definitive… Often there is duality and paradox present in the world and as such there can be no single Truth (with a capital T) or perspective.”
The enduring appeal of the show lies in the fact that nothing is presented in a straightforward or clear-cut manner, which keeps the viewers guessing and forces them to think on their own. Just as Morrissey has always refused to explain his lyrics in order to allow for multiple interpretations, MorrisseysWorld is purposefully oblique and multilayered so that each reader must come to his/her own conclusions. The MorrisseysWorld header asks, “Is reality real?” to suggest that we each create our own reality, as there is no definitive truth. 
Wikipedia includes the following on the subject of postmodernism: “Many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs and are therefore subject to change. [Postmodernism] claims that there is no absolute truth and that the way people perceive the world is subjective… In particular it attacks the use of sharp binary classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial; it holds realities to be plural and relative.” It’s not difficult to see how Morrissey’s ideals correspond to this postmodern viewpoint, as he has always sought to blur the lines between such classifications.
In the MorrisseysWorld chatroom, ‘Our Mozzer’ once said that the purpose of the blog is to open people’s eyes and to teach us not to rely on others, namely the press, to tell us what to think (see FollowingTheMozziah, April 26). In the absence of definitive truth, we should question the world around us and not accept the word of authority as truth. As Twin Peaks tells us, “the owls are not what they seem.” We can’t and shouldn’t believe all that we are told (or not told). In the case of MorrisseysWorld, Morrissey and ‘Our Mozzer’ deny being one and the same, but the clues are there to discover and interpret for ourselves. Just because the press hasn’t declared them to be one and the same doesn’t mean it can’t be true. If Morrissey admitted to being MorrisseysWorld, a secret society would not be possible, so denial is essential.
For those who may be skeptical that Morrissey would have any interest in secret societies, consider the following passage regarding Oscar Wilde’s own secret society, the Green Carnation Society: “The suggestion of a mysterious confraternity enigmatically binding one of the players with some members of the audience gave Wilde the delight he had found in Masonic signs… With a hint of decadence, the painted flower blended art and nature” (Richard Ellmann, ‘Oscar Wilde’). Here we see the inspiration for the use of flowers as the symbol of MorrisseysWorld  (red and white roses being symbolic in Wilde’s works; blue roses being unnatural, just like green carnations). We also see that Wilde’s inspiration came from his experience as a Freemason and his enjoyment of being in a secret society with its own symbols. 
When Masonic signs and symbols began appearing on the MorrisseysWorld blog, many readers were shocked and confused, and it may seem odd that Morrissey has chosen to use some of these hand signs during concerts. Gavin Hopps, who acknowledges Morrissey’s work to be “thoroughly postmodern,” discusses Morrissey’s use of signs in his book ‘Morrissey: The Pageant of His Bleeding Heart.’ Hopps asserts that Morrissey uses signs as a self-conscious reference to themselves (“a sign of a sign”), which creates distance from their original meaning. Moz coyly does this “behind the towel of his irony, which leaves us wondering whether he means it or not.” In the case of the Masonic signs, he ironically seems to use them as they were originally intended (to communicate within a secret society) while simultaneously negating their original meaning (as Masonic signs). This ironic usage essentially becomes a protest against the way these signs are used today, namely by vacuous pop stars who represent the dumbing down of the music industry.
Since irony and humor are trademarks of Morrissey’s style, it’s only fitting that the MorrisseysWorld blog abounds with both in the context of a parody, which happens to be an important characteristic of the postmodern style. Parody creates a double or contradictory stance, simultaneously legitimizing and subverting its subject. In her discussion of postmodernism, Linda Hutcheon refers to parody as taking “the form of self-conscious, self-contradictory, self-undermining statement.” How apt, then, that MorrisseysWorld describes itself as a “self-aware parody,” which fittingly correlates with “Morrissey’s habit of making fun of the fun that had been made of him.” (Gavin Hopps)
While some have taken Morrissey’s denials at face value and seem to think that the blog isn’t representational of Morrissey, I would argue that the combination of irony, humor and postmodern ideologies couldn’t be any more Morrisseyesque. While pondering if “Who is Morrissey?” and “Who is MorrisseysWorld?” could possibly refer to the same person, I invite you to consider the following quote by Harold Pinter: “There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.” In this context of duality and paradox, it’s possible for Morrissey to encompass two identities (as the song ‘I Am Two People’ suggests) while simultaneously denying it. One of MorrisseysWorld’s early tweets (September 10) sums it up well: “Anyone can simply turn up and tweet. What I have done is a little more… cunning. I am but I’m not. I did but I didn’t.” Cunning indeed. Nine months later, we’re still enthralled by the best kept secret in pop music.

10 comments:

  1. Great write up and great research Heather! Thank you very much! I feel much more at ease now with the Twin Peaks stuff! I never got into it as my English wasn't good enough when it was on TV but you explained it perfectly!

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  2. Brilliant Heather, quite brilliant.

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  3. A well argued essay Heather, congratulations.

    Thought-provoking too !

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  4. Thank you very much Heather! I must say- I've been having my doubts if the blog could actually be from Morrissey but you've given me more reason to believe it is him, especially because you explained the Twin Peaks bit! This should definitely be posted on the MW blog as well!

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  5. Excellent essay Heathercat!

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  6. Heather this is written with such eloquence. You clearly have a real talent for the written word & I hope you will share more with us in the near future.

    Sincere thanks.

    Admin/Our Mozzer please post on MW :)

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  7. told you that you could do it pussy cat..of course it will end up on MW

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  8. Excellent Heather - you put the whole Masonic thing into a context which makes sense to me for the first time. Really well done, thanks for taking the time to put this together.

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  9. I have tried explaining the MW phenomenon to others before but I always feel like I sound insane. Your piece gives it much more sophistication and the validity it deserves. Thanks, I think I need to read this to those people who looked at me as if I had lobsters coming out of my ears!!

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