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The Prodigy – What do “dark stars” tell us about society?

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The Prodigy Perform At Stadium Live Club In Moscow – By: Kommersant Photo – People: Keith Flint

The Prodigy are a British pop band most popular in the 1990’s and the turn of the century. Their often controversial “big beat” electronic music was banned from some American department stores. The BBC also had issues with some of The Prodigy’s material. Canada, however, never had a problem with The Prodigy.¹

In their heyday they were perceived as dark stars, replete with devilish and disturbing videos. But we should keep in mind that a lot of Rock and Roll was initially taken this way. One could see The Prodigy’s work as artistic representation, not entirely unlike the horrific yet socially ‘acceptable’ works of the visual artist Hieronymus Bosch.

It remains to be seen if The Prodigy will survive as long as the former bad boys of Rock and Roll, The Rolling Stones, whose lead man Mick Jagger ironically became part of Britain’s highest social order – knighted by the Queen.²

This leaves us with a lingering question:

Does society really change or do many so-called rebels eventually learn how to play the game, like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, and simply fit in?



† It was difficult choosing the headline image for this entry. See for several more good shots.

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Censorship by IsaacMao via Flickr

The censor is a psychological mechanism hypothesized by Sigmund Freud in which threatening or socially inappropriate dream material is toned down. Freud describes the censor through the analogy of professional writing.

To be effective, media writers must consider their audience. If words are too strident or suggestive, an editor rejects or possibly edits an article for publication.

With regard to dreams, Freud believed the censor acts like a newspaper editor. The censor disguises an unconscious wish symbolized in a dream. The stronger the prohibition of the wish by the ego, superego or conscience, the more it will be distorted in the dream, or in a series of dreams.

Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) is worth quoting at length here:

A similar difficulty confronts the political writer who has disagreeable truths to tell those in authority. If he presents them undisguised, the authorities will suppress his words…A writer must beware of censorship, and on its account he must soften and distort expression of his opinion…The stricter the censorship, the more far-reaching the disguise and the more ingenious too may be the means employed for putting the reader on the scent of the true meaning. The fact that the phenomena of censorship and of dream-distortion correspond down to their smallest details justifies us in presuming that they are similarly determined.¹

However, Freud’s analogy might not hold up in the 21st century because it assumes a political writer is concerned with telling the truth and not just with making a living, stomping on an opponent, or winning an election.

As for the idea of the censor itself, it assumes that the brain (and person) works like software filters, merely distorting hidden desires before they reach consciousness. The idea that dreams could be symbolic because they point to something far greater than mundane reality is never considered. Why? Well, Freud was a reductionist atheist. So for most of his life he saw just about everything from a sexual, materialist and conceptual bias, which for spiritually biased people is not entirely wrong but definitely incomplete.

¹ Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) trans. James Strachey, London: Pelican, 1976, pp. 223-224.