“Cringe-pop – it’s so bad, you can’t stop watching.” From Dhinchak Pooja and Taher Shah to the resurrection of Om Prakash Mishra’s “Bol Na Aunty Aau Kya,” there seems to be a rise in the viewership of cringe-pop in India. I won’t lie, I have enjoyed laughing at many of these videos myself with my friends (this is an entirely subjective opinion and I am okay with people having a taste for this kind of music — if you can call it that).
Rather, as a member of the demographic called the youth, I find this new found interest and love for cringe-pop, an indication of our diverse tastes, interests and accepting nature.
I am currently studying postmodernism in my literature classes, and cringe-pop presents to me a dilemma similar to the one I deal with when confronted with postmodernist ideologies. Let me break it down for you. Postmodernism for me is a complete breakdown of dominant ideologies, rules and hierarchy – its ‘post’ everything.
We cannot find a universal meaning and purpose because there is none. It systematically works towards any dominant ideology that attempts to put itself at the centre and the top by denying the existence of a centre and a top. It is an extremely warped, subjective and simplistic definition. But the thing about postmodernism against hierarchy and meaning is that it allows for multiple perspectives to exist without any judgement and allows for the voices in the periphery, which were earlier discarded, rejected and silenced — to be heard.
Society rejected this kind of music earlier, but as we become more accepting and a breakdown of rules happens, it is allowed to exist and even welcomed! This acceptance is also a dethroning of the elite music systems which are placed on a pedestal and expected to be emulated because according to the dominant discourse, ‘that’s how music should be’. The popularity and acceptance of cringe-pop and many other genres of music and art work against this very discourse. But, there is a flip side to this too.
One of the biggest arguments against postmodernism, which, incidentally, is also one of the biggest arguments for it, is, as my professors put it – ‘Anything goes‘ or my favourite ‘sab chalta hai‘. Anyone can do anything because there is ‘no right way to do it’.
I welcomed this ideology and cringe-pop with open arms until the movement came down from the screen to the streets. That’s when it hit me. It was all okay to sit, laugh and cringe at the music but when thousands of people gather in the streets to shout the song, with absolutely no purpose in mind (so postmodernist, I can’t) what does it say about the youth? The community? The purpose? As I mulled over it, here are a couple of observations I came up with:
Around 13,000 (!) people were interested in the event called the “Bol Na Aunty Aau Kya” public meet in Connaught Place, Delhi, and more than 2000 turned up. As we speak, multiple meetups are being organised across India.
While this does stand as commendable proof of our mass mobilisation techniques, solidarity for a movement and reach of social media, it is precisely this that troubles me. Mass mobilisation techniques for what? Solidarity for what? What happens to this reach and mass mobilisation during peaceful protests or when fighting for issues like NREGA, pay gap or even fundraisers?
Mass mobilisation for this trivialises and depoliticises the power and impact of mass mobilisation for a cause. The non-“Bol Na Aunty Aau Kya” meetups will also be treated with the same attitude, which ranges from annoyance to mere indifference.
Drawing on purpose, let’s talk about content. We all have had at least one adult in our lives who tell us “What is the youth coming to these days”, and after the meet up at CP, I wondered about the content that appeals to the youth today. For me, as a content creator and consumer, it not only raises questions about the content being created and consumed but also makes me re-evaluate my own techniques and tailor them to match what appeals to my readers. Are we going towards more content about Dhinchak Pooja and fewer animal rights?
People who can access cringe-pop and gather to celebrate it on the streets belong to a particular class. A class that has access to a screen, network connection and free time to assemble in the streets to do nothing but shout “Bol Na Aunty Aau Kya.”
Hence another question this raises is – are we looking at cringe-pop as a symbol of this class mostly in terms the impact it has produced, or (as my roommate put it) how this class appropriates different kinds of music and art while condescending to them? One of the primary reasons these videos appeal to a class of people is because they can laugh at them. This laughter comes from a place of superiority that we feel with respect to the content being viewed. Hence, while we appropriate these songs for meet-ups and memes, we justify it through our self-awareness of knowing that it isn’t really music or that it’s just for fun. Does acceptance of cringe-pop reek of privilege?
I know that these are a whole lot of questions with not many answers, but as someone who is enthralled in the clutches of a postmodernist mindset, the most I can do as a member of this very community is question.
Cliche as this is, Albert Einstein once said-“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Let’s enjoy our Dhinchak Pooja’s and Taher Shah’s while being conscious about it and understanding whether we want to align ourselves with this line of thought.