March 8, 2018

HAGOPIAN | Bob Dylan’s a Tool

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Maybe you’ve read The 36 Questions That Lead to Love on the New York Times website. The piece enumerates thirty-six increasingly intimate questions that apparently accelerate intimacy and facilitate pair bonding. One of my current entrepreneurial ventures is The 36 Questions That Lead to Disdain, one of which is “What’s your most unpopular opinion?” Mine is that I hate Bob Dylan.

I don’t hate his music (I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it). I’ll throw on “Quinn the Eskimo” every now and then if I’m in the right mood, and “Who Killed Davey Moore?” has a few good lines. I’ve just never understood the fascination with the man. If you asked me to name an artist who meant more to the progressive community than Dylan, I’d name Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie. If you asked me for a better songwriter, I’d point you toward Paul Simon or John Prine. And if you asked me to identify someone who’s just plain cooler than Bob Dylan, I’d name just about anybody. Anyone from Adele to ZZ Top. I’d name Ed Sheeran or Nicki Minaj or even Van Morrison, for God’s sake.

I’d name all those people because Bob Dylan is not a cool guy. He’s a cornball and a tool. At a 1965 press conference, a reporter asked “if you were gonna sell out to a commercial interest, which one would you choose?”, and Dylan’s response was “ladies garments.” Definitely douchey, but admittedly not that bad. What is bad is that, thirty-nine years later, ol’ Zimmy followed through on his promise by appearing in a Victoria’s Secret ad that might very well be the most cringe-inducing thing ever produced by anyone in any medium. The commercial features a bikini-clad Adrianna Lima, and yet I’ve never found anything less arousing in my life. It’s a sexual Dementor of Azkaban; watching the thing makes you feel as though you’ll never be turned on again.  I strongly suggest that you don’t look it up.

If you need further proof of Bob Dylan’s boorishness, look no further than his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (that he was apparently “too busy” to read personally at the award ceremony). He compares himself to Shakespeare, he doesn’t thank anyone besides the Swedish academy, and he says that he never “had the time to ask [him]self, ‘Are my songs literature?’.” No no no, no time for such esoteric questions as that. Ya jackass. You didn’t have time to ask yourself that question, but you had time to appear in commercials for Victoria’s Secret and IBM and Pepsi. Ya toolbag. Go cheat your fans out of some more money with your god-awful Sinatra covers. Ya jerkweed.

Bob Dylan was a meme before memes were invented. The younger generation liked him because the older generation found him bewildering and vaguely offensive. And it’s entirely understandable that, when the younger younger generation came along, this meme-ish irony was lost on them and they viewed Bob Dylan as someone that was worth liking on his own merits. I wouldn’t be surprised if Grumpy Cat or Pepe the Frog wins a Nobel Prize in 40 years; it’s the “golden years” effect. But there’s more to life than memes and Highway 61 Revisited, people. Whatever else Dylan was, he was undoubtedly the voice of a generation, which is a title that has gone tragically unclaimed since Kurt Cobain died. We’re a generation living half in the past and half in the future, and the former is easier to fix than the latter. Let Bob Dylan go; he’s not that great anyway.
Ara Hagopian is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ahagopian@cornellsun.com. The Whiny Liberal appears alternate Fridays this semester.