I heard this old classic by the Kinks the other day, so when I saw the special segment on the Oscar’s last night that honored all the famous persons affiliated with Hollywood this song naturally popped into my mind. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest rock songs ever.
I believe that the song beautifully deconstructs the romanticist hopes our culture places in what Robert Bellah called “expressive individualism,” by revealing the avoided but painfully obvious reality that the “Celluloid Heroes” that “never really die” are not real persons. But our cultural narrative of expressive individualism is strong, making our nihilistic faith almost necessary. Thus we buy into the hope that we can transcend death through such achievements. Our cultural narrative is quite persuasive, supported by a propagandizing consumerism wherein “Image is everything” and “Nike” rule. This ensures that our religious allegiance is almost a foregone conclusion.
I don’t have any sources I can cite at the moment, but I am sure that some have wondered if the narrative of expressive individualism, expressed in a desire for “five minutes of fame” is one reason why some suicidal persons become mass murderers. In bygone days when our cultural narrative was not yet present, these things did not seem to happen.
The lesson I draw from “Oscar hopes” and “Celluloid Heroes” is simply that expressive individualism is not the way to eternal life. It is not even the way to eternal remembrance. How many famous actors do you know of that performed the original plays of Shakespeare? (Some are still known, but how known are they?)
Thus, I claim we need a deconstruction of the cultural narrative and that Ray Davies and the Kinks have ably provided. I often marvel at how apt the name “The Kinks” is for an artistic musical group that has provided many inconvenient “kinks” to our modern ways. Kinks can be annoying, but you can’t ignore them. The most familiar “kink” profoundly signifies that there is no water flowing in our hose. God save the Kinks!
The first video posted here contains two performances that were on the Mike Douglas Show.
“Sleepwalker” is a great song, but some say it was lip synced here. But the performance of “Celluloid Heroes” definitely was not, and is one of the best live renditions of the song I could find.
The second video is another great version, and if anyone watches all three of these videos it will be obvious that the Kinks were quite dynamic and seem to have never played the same song the same way.
The third video was included mainly because of a wonderful extended introduction to the song with some great guitar playing by Dave Davies.
Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2014. Excerpts, links, and reblogging may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.