I understand feeling like you’ve reached your threshold for reading articles memorializing Prince by now. The internet is always up for a good ol’ fashioned info-bludgeoning, and an event like the passing of a cultural icon creates prime conditions for overwhelming noise.
“Something just happened! Everyone talk about it at once right now so we can then talk about the next thing all at once right now”, or so the dance goes. This is how news travels in the information age; With sudden, sweeping affliction. Sometimes you get lucky, and the ominous wave of super-info can’t knock you down because you are, literally, already on the ground.
I am grateful to have been lying on the floor of my office when I found out Prince was gone. Deciding to stay down on the questionably clean carpet to scroll through Twitter on my phone, rather than get up when the nap I was trying to swindle from my lunch break didn’t actually happen, turned out to be advantageous. What I need most in this moment of confusion is to stare indiscriminately at the ceiling for as long as it takes for my brain to get ahold of itself, so already being recumbent is ideal.
I don’t know if I would’ve had the cognisanze to crawl down there once the torrent of Prince-related questions began swirling uncontrollably in my already cluttered and fatigued mind had I been sitting or standing when I got word of the occurrence. I don’t even know if “lie down on the floor” is normal safety procedure for receiving shocking communique’, but perhaps it should be.
I would’ve preferred Nick Hornby just write this moment as a scene in a sequel to High Fidelity so John Cusack could play out this experience in my place.
Surely, what I’m experiencing is a more efficient stage of grief where I just lump the first three stages (or four/five depending on the scale) into one intense period of physical paralysis while my mind frantically considers variables and deduces meaning at a rate far greater than it can handle. The analytical part of my psyche is throttle-locked on full blast now that a significant cultural stitch has been removed from the fabric.
This is an exclusively mental operation, rather than an emotional one, that’s excruciating in a way that I wish deniers of ADHD understood. My head is in a race with my body to get some sort’ve meaning out of what’s happening before the depression stage sets in and I risk being too exhausted to make it up from my prone position on the ground. It’s difficult enough to explain to people why you are lying on the floor in the first place, let alone explain why you “ just can’t” when asked to get up.
If this seems over-dramatic, than I should remind you that this event isn’t just a mere celebrity death. A real life titan just left the planet.
Prince had no peers. He both embodied and transcended genre, race, gender, sexuality, the English alphabet, and time itself (he famously never wore a watch because “he didn’t believe in time”). He single-handedly occupied and perfected territory in the rock and roll landscape carved out by Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Madonna, David Bowie, and Ian Mackaye. Never has a human being been equal parts grace and power, while also being a master of both.
Perhaps the greatest void left by his loss is an easy answer to the question of who is the baddest man on the planet. No living person possibly comes close.
The answer I keep coming back to is “I dunno, Batman? Maybe Batman AND the Joker?” It’s not insignificant that Prince wore a split Batman/Joker outfit when performing his tunes for Tim Burton’s Batman film, because he wielded the power of both. In fact, I think the argument could be made that Batman wouldn’t be the cultural juggernaut we know the character to be now without Prince.
For the Millennial generation and late Gen-X’ers like myself, it’s pretty common to accept Batman:The Animated series as the the definitive depiction of the Batman mythos. That series wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the wild success of the ‘89 Batman film. We could speculate that it would’ve done fine without Prince’s soundtrack, but it can’t be denied that it contributed to pushing the film beyond a cinema blockbuster and into pop culture ubiquity that summer.
Without this, it stands to reason that Batman:TAS may not have had the support it needed to see the light of day. Instead, the cartoon got a prime-time Sunday night premiere event and the history of the dark knight was changed forever.
That’s right. I just gave Prince indirect credit for Batman.
Certainly, there’s a floor available near you should you require the repose to think about such a bold statement. I wouldn’t blame you for taking the opportunity.
The sort’ve big thinky, sociological questions I get caught up in about my generation and Prince’s relevance usually involve the shape of pop culture itself more so than just his contributions to it. I don’t know if it’s possible for any other single figure to have the same widespread, universal impact that Prince’s passing evoked.
For example, my normally contentious Facebook feed became instantly unified in shock and sadness when the news hit. I wish I could’ve measured the time it took for the first descending status update to pop up or election year fight-bait article to be shared.
Maybe the flash of the entire internet ostensibly being in agreement of thought and feeling seemed longer than it was because it happens so infrequently.
I must admit it was beautiful. Beauty was certainly Prince’s domain.
Maybe losing someone that best represents our connection with each other via popular culture is what truly makes me sad. Not because there aren’t talented, transcendent artists anymore, but this world changes rapidly and is much more fragmented than the one that shuffled Prince to prominence.
The centralized destinations of TV and radio are no longer paradigm and fame is rarely unaccompanied by some sort’ve irreparably damning controversy.
Maybe Prince’s death, along with the other high profile losses as of late, signals the true end of the 20th century. Maybe my generation’s hit it’s peak impact and we’ve begun the reduction cycle. Maybe I should focus more energy on the question I keep coming back to in this series, which is “Now what?!”
Prince’s life was important and I think he deserves the dignity of quiet contemplation. I also have to draw a line somewhere for the sake of preserving my own mental health. There is still a thing called life to get through(dearly beloved) beyond the purple one’s departure, and I can’t spend the rest of the day thinking about it on the floor.
Seriously, I should probably get up from the floor.
Versus The New Half-life is a satirical feature series documenting the experience of modern geek life beyond the 18-34 demographic. Are we simply nostalgia driven super-consumers refusing to embrace adulthood by indulging childhood fantasy or have the expectations of being an adult changed? Writer J. Aaron Poole over-analyzes various geek fandoms to explore common themes and appropriate behavior from limbo as an indubitable grown-up under the age of 40.
J. Aaron Poole is a 21st century writer, musician, and geek culture advocate. He is a member of the American Sociological Association with an academic interest in the relationship between media, technology, and modern culture. Currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia, Aaron can be found making absurd comments on Twitter, PSN, and other social media platforms as @JAaronPoole.