Thursday, October 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: Dirty Pop, the Record Companies, and the "Law" of Social Darwinism

#NaNoWriMo #writers
Lately, my villains have started invoking what they call the "Law of Social Darwinism". What is Social Darwinism? Basically, the game of "king of the hill" turned into an all-encompassing worldview. "Survival of the fittest" and all that, you know. Capitalism is based entirely on Social Darwinism, if you believe the most ruthless robber barons and the fiercest anticapitalists. When you hear the words "Law of Social Darwinism" come out of the mouth of one of my characters, especially if the character gives it a positive spin, you know you've facing a villain, and our heroes are in trouble. Case in point: in Dirty Pop, the ruthless record company chairman, based partly on the Ned Beatty character in Network, who tells our poor heroine Charlie that he owns her.

Meanwhile, in Black Science, I realized that what Willa is refuting when she defends herself against the university faculty senate is none other than Social Darwinism, of which she gives a definitive short history that includes not only eugenics and the Holocaust but Lysenkoism as well. Her purpose: to defend a group of evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists who lean leftward (sometimes even far leftward, like sociobiology forefather and former white Black Panther, Robert Trivers) against a powerful group of feminist and multiculturalist professors (some of whom actually gained tenure way back in the 1970s) who hate the very idea of evolution as much as any creationist and call it "Nazi". They throw that epithet around so much that Willa accuses those professors of compulsively invoking Godwin's Law. And I realized that Willa's primary opponent shouldn't be her ex-husband Henry Becket, but his younger sister and her archenemy, Drusilla Becket, the cult guru and evil stage mother who also happens to be one of the major villains in Dirty Pop. In both novels, Dru is trying to destroy one of her daughters (Desiree in Black Science, Charlie in Dirty Pop), both of whom she considers racially inferior because their father is a rocker and not a feudal or corporate aristocrat (eugenics again).

I should mention that Social Darwinism relies on the naturalistic fallacy, which assumes that what is natural is therefore by definition the good. Thus Social Darwinists use "survival of the fittest" to justify bullying, ruthless social climbing, unethical business practices, and social, racial, and sexual prejudice.

In Dirty Pop, the Social Darwinist entities locked in a Hobbesian war of all against all are a handful of gigantic media conglomerates that own huge record companies. But those record companies are shrinking, in size as well as profits, because of file sharing (and the high cost and low quality of CDs). If Lily Allen (who, by the way, has just quit the Internet) is against file sharing, Shakira has announced that she's in favor of it. The confrontation between Charlie and her label's chairman is in this context: Charlie needs the exposure she can only get by making her songs available for free download, but the record company chairman forbids it and threatens to sue her and every single person who downloads even one song. And the label's chief lawyer (shades of Bad Company's malevolent Clayton Starr) screams in her face. The chairman even goes so far to say that corporations are superior to people, for explicitly Social Darwinist reasons.

For those who do download and share music files, the record companies are indeed the embodiment of evil itself. Why? The cartel, called the RIAA in the US and BPI in the UK, is trying to sue for piracy every single person who has ever downloaded even a single song from the Internet. The industry's position is that these people are stealing record company property. The problem, from the artists' perspective, is the record company tends not to pay most of them at all; in fact, except for a celebrity elite, the artists tend to go into debt to the label. Free downloads and file sharing are how many bands and solo artists reach their listeners. In any case, musicians tend to make their money in concert. The ruthlessness of the record companies has been the result of a Social Darwinist outlook since the days of Tin Pan Alley.

So, in Dirty Pop, Charlie will have to fight the record company that owns her contract and, by extension, her music. And the label's chairman will invoke the "Law of Social Darwinism" like a Dennis Jernberg villain as he threatens to sue Charlie into slavery for defying his will. And you thought Charlie had it bad when her evil stage mother, Drusilla the narcissistic cult guru, tries to destroy her for the crime of trying to have a life as something other than an extension of Dru's all-consuming ego. And Dru has her own lawyer, Marshall Brinkman (also a major villain in Black Science, and a minor one in Bad Company), who Dru wants to pretty much sue Charlie out of existence — though he may relent, if she sleeps with him...

The music industry is a "dog eat dog" kind of world in which corporations ruthlessly exploit artists and co-opt a good number of them, all in the name of the "Law of Social Darwinism". And this is the world Charlie wants to return to? All we can tell her is: good luck, and let's hope you survive...

Back to Spanner’s World...

1 comment:

  1. Interesting bit of psychology for your characters.