July 07, 2012
Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
(Hey, man, you’re the one who turned down the groupie.)
That one looks Jewish!
(Up in the VIP box?)
And that one’s a coon!
(Selling beer and nachos?)
Who let all this riffraff into the room?
There’s one smoking a joint!
(Certainly old enough to know better.)
And that one’s got spots!
(You mean liver spots?)
If I had my way,
I’d have all of you shot!
Waters suddenly pulls out a machine-gun prop and empties the clip into the crowd. This ethnic-cleansing bit is supposed to be ironic, but Atlanta’s audience is exactly what it would look like after the purge: a whooping mass of corn-crackin’ white folks.
The live show concludes with the film’s original animation for “The Trial“ projected on the wall behind Waters. We see the vulnerable rock star lost in his own demon-riddled conscience. In the end, he is condemned by a towering, floppy-cheeked judge with a fanged butthole for a mouth. The star is sentenced to be “exposed before [his] peers,” and the butthole-mouthed judge shits all over him while all around me the crowd chants along: “TEAR DOWN THE WALL!”
Let me explain. There is a crucial scene in the film that the live performance skips. Just before “The Trial” begins, the camera pans to Pink huddled in a bathroom stall backstage. A black security guard hears him babbling.
The guard pushes the stall door open and finds the superstar who was just onstage yelling about tossing “coons” against the wall.
As I interpret the film, the story is pretty straightforward when you peel away the spacey tunes and hallucinatory animation. A spoiled musician has a Mel Gibson meltdown in front of his fans. Before he can issue a public apology, an angry black man defecates on him. Somehow, this helps the musician work out childhood issues.
Why don’t rock critics ever pick up on these subtle details?
Waters wrote The Wall in the late 1970s, when a drug-addled David Bowie publicly supported fashionable occult fascism and Eric Clapton allegedly slurred to his audience, “get the wogs out, get the coons out…Keep Britain white!” The newest incarnation of The Wall Live tour just adds menacing political elements to Waters’s original satire of division, hostility, and superstardom. Photo memorials of people killed in war appear on bricks in the wall, along with specific anti-authoritarian jabs at Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Bush, and Obama.
At the show’s end, the massive wall”or, like, social division, man”crumbles onto the stage, revealing a self-realized Roger Waters smiling in the spotlight. The crowd cheers and goes back home to their government-controlled consumerist lifestyles. I tap my chest to make sure the wall’s still there.
Artists tend to be good at identifying social ills, but their remedies are so half-assed. Steve Miller’s solution to poverty was apparently to “fly like an eagle to the sea.” To those who wanted revolution, John Lennon said, “Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright.” Well, that’s helpful.
How do we overcome alienation and eliminate ethnic tension? According to Roger Waters, you simply “tear down the wall.” OK, sounds simple enough. But if that means somebody’s going to drop a steaming hank on my face, I’ll come up with my own plan, thanks.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock