Little Big’s “pacifist” music video as a case of half-hearted rebellion

The Russian “protest” culture continues its procession down the road of moderateness and carefulness. First we witnessed the ROAR almanac, edited by Linor Goralik, which took in only the works by “correctly”, “humanely”, and moderately rebelling authors according to the principle “just don’t cause any inconveniences”, while also publishing poems by poor souls showing compassion to Russian jingoists. Now this tradition is continued by a band from a seemingly different cultural cluster: Russian import-oriented popular music. It’s doubtful that the members and the vast majority of Little Big fans are reading Neo-modernist works, or even authors like Vera Polozkova, but this band’s new music video exhibits the very same thing: a half-hearted rebellion.

The anti-war music video “Generation Cancellation” came out on 24th of June. This song, like many other songs of theirs, is performed in English; Little Big here tries to appear as part of the global cultural context and seemingly distance itself from the realities of “provincial” Russia. But what we have is nothing new: cowardly pseudo-rebelliousness has become a defining characteristic of many Russian cultural figures.

The metaphors of the music video show us nothing new: pipes siphoning crap from the TV-toilet into people’s heads are very familiar to people of my generation (early millennials bordering on Gen-X) who’ve been seeing it since the early 2000s. Very common imagery for caricatures used even in mainstream newspapers like “Komsomol’skaya pravda”. Naked musicians covered with merely guitar and fig leafs like Adam and Eve rebelling the state liars in ominous suits are also a cliché famous ever since John Lennon and Yoko Ono did it. Look it up: “naked peace protest”. But I guess this might be a breath of fresh air for Russian high-schoolers who grew up under Putin and haven’t listened to classic rock.

There is one interesting thing, though. Even the clichés could be shown in a better light if their derivative nature wasn’t exacerbated by the attempts to simultaneously appeal both to “us”, and to “them”. One of the politicians on the “zombie TV” looks very similar to Biden, but oddly there is no president resembling Putin there. Do they try to say that the war is Biden’s and Ukraine’s fault?

The masses are depicted as the obedient herd that lets itself be fooled and is not at fault for anything. Perhaps it’s Putin himself that is blowing up the Ukrainian houses, and the thousands of hired soldiers coming consciously and voluntarily to Ukraine are cute little sheep. Apparently, the aggressive vatniks who harass their neighbors for anti-war position while gluing the Z letters and “Traitor” signs to their doorsteps are all our imagination. The authors of the music video in this way shift responsibility away from conscious adults who willingly support Putin out of personal considerations. Some might say that we are demonizing and denigrating the unfortunate Russian people. But isn’t robbing people of their agency and putting Russians at the level of clueless toddlers, as the music video does it, itself a denigration?

Comically, even the name of the song is easy to flip against the fight of women and minorities for their rights: look, your cancel culture leads to fascism and people’s degradation, but we know the truth. Can’t help but remember the homophobic jokes the singer of the band Ilya Prusikin cracked in his blog, like “how to find a faggot by his glasses”. Despite such treatment towards gay people, they still wanted to participate in Eurovision, a song contest that’s been LGBT-friendly for years. After all, glasses are glasses, but money is king.

But especially beautiful is Little Big’s conception of a generation. What generation are they talking about? They are building an image of relatively young adults; however, the imperial propaganda affects every generation, from the very elderly to the teens. If they sought to amalgamate the Russians zombified by propaganda into a single “ageless” generation, they should’ve demonstrated it differently, otherwise the point is just not there.

By comparison, their 2017 music video for Lolly Bomb, a satire of Kim Jong-un, seems much braver in its messaging. However, those were still the herbivorous times, with nobody being arrested yet for a blank sign or criticism of Putin’s friends.

The lyrics are exceptionally plain; there is practically nothing to analyze here:

My generation
Generation cancellation
​
My generation
Generation cancellation
My generation
Generation cancellation
​
I've got no, I've got no
I've got no voice
Die or leave, die or leave
I've got no choice
​
My generation
My generation
My generation is a new civilization
​
My generation
Generation cancellation
My generation
Generation cancellation
​
My generation
My generation
My generation is a new civilization
​
Cancellation
Cancellation generation
Cancellation
Cancellation generation
​
My generation
Generation cancellation
My generation
Generation cancellation

Such lyrics could be accompanied by nearly any visuals, be it hippy new age, or transhumanism, or conservative utopia, or, like in this music video, the “No War” signs. In the end the heroes of the story come out with pacifist signs against the cruel state, and right before them the new world opens, green and beautiful like Biblical Heaven.

Blessed be the one with faith, but just standing around with a protest sign is not enough. Even after the regime falls, there will be a lot of hard work ahead. But Russian music videos won’t tell you that.

Original: «Пацифистский» клип Little Big как пример половинчатого бунта

Translation: Marko Karpo

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