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Mikaela Elson --- Nothing is certain anymore; not even death, not even taxes, in a contemporary society whose media and marketing schemes thrive off the self-conscious of the individual. In Janelle Monae’s new album Dirty Computer, she touches upon this very premise, particularly, that of our current political regime under, Donald.
The media and popular culture frame the government or any established order as infallible, delivering a message as if they can do no wrong. We are taught this ideological view point that creates an idea of homogeny, "oneness,” under a monolithic umbrella. We are depicted as a diverse and well functioned society, but under what dominant perspective? Do we ever question what we see? Do we question who is running our computer, cell phone, bank, internet, and social media companies? Well, in Janelle Monae’s short film comprised of her latest album, Dirty Computer, she does exactly that. Challenging the dominant perspective and using her position of fame to help spread a powerful and much needed reminder towards the positionality of the rest of the world that aren’t white, rich, and heterosexual.
“Everything is sex, except sex, which is power. Everything is sex, now ask yourself whose screwing who.”
In Monae’s, Emotion Picture, she touches upon normalized concepts that further oppress marginalized members of society such as equality, equal pay for women, representation of queer and people of color, as well as hypersexualization.
In an interview with Radio One-Baltimore, Janelle Monae goes into detail about her new album. The relevance behind this interview centers around the deeper meaning of a dirty computer that coincides with the current political regime and how it affects people that aren’t rich, white, and powerful. Although, the title of the video completely contradicts the message she is trying to deliver (Janelle Monae On Kanye’s Rant About Slavery: I Don’t F*ck With That [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO]), which is another important message to point out in relation to the power behind media and how just the title of something can change the whole meaning and purpose behind the proposed argument.
Monae goes into further detail about queer possibility and how the political operations are unfortunate for people who are different, however, she highlights how she was born and raised in America, this is her country as much as anyone else’s. She argues to stand up for the self and what a person believes because she as well as others are not going anywhere and will freely express who they are.
Standing up against the political regime while using the power of media she upholds is a powerful statement by Janelle Monae. She is setting the bar for other women of color that are queer, therefore, creating an image for other black lesbians to follow. This is also associated with self-naming (coined by Barbara Hammer) creating representation for the other that is not commonly portrayed in mass media. I would recommend this album to anyone who needs breath of fresh air. Seeing her live was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life.
Until next time, MK
ABOUT MIKAELA ELSON: University of California-Media and Cultural Studies, Singer, in the Soul-Punk band “Mother Mosaic”, host of Riverside Jazz Jam, & intern for John Jennings.