This is the sixth installment in an eight-part series by Alex Young – Graduate of the University of Guelph-Humber
By Alex Young
It is wrong, to sum up, or draw conclusions about someone based on their artwork because the artwork is based on performance and an artists’ representation of a character, mood or emotion, and not about them as people.
When part of an audience, many people project their fantasies and manifest their desires through their favorite artists and their favorite artists’ performances, especially during live interactions with them, like watching a musician put on a concert. The audience creates the artist as a character based on their art because the audience only knows who the artist is based on their performance. If the artist is a musician the listener can imagine the artist to be based on their fantasies of them rather than who the artist actually is. The audience can project the artist into a character based on their performance when they have no idea who the artist is on a personal level in reality. In the case of Jim Morrison, the hippie subculture in America during the 1960’s elected Morrison as their leader based on who they thought he was by creating a character based on his music. Morrison went by many nicknames including “The Lizard King”, “Stoned Immaculate” and “Leather Clad Demon” because the audience was projecting their fantasies of who they thought Jim was as a singer onto who he was as a person. In the book, No One Here Gets Out Alive, Jim talks about being seen as a cultural leader through his live performances. Morrison reflected on the subject by saying, “It’s all done tongue and cheek, I don’t think people realize that. It’s not to be taken seriously. It’s like if you play a villain in a Western it doesn’t mean that’s you. That’s just an aspect that you keep for show. I don’t really take that (his antics on stage) seriously. That’s meant to be ironic”. Artistic leaders allow their audience to re-evaluate their stance on political and social issues as well as their own lives.
But as for how hippie counterculture influenced American culture, it was able to get America to re-evaluate itself, politically, socially, civically and artistically. Hippie culture in America got the country to re-evaluate itself by challenging gender roles, racial discrimination, international wars involving America and what could be acceptable in popular music. The goal of any subcultural group is to change the society they are a part through the opposition of popular points of view, but Hippie subculture was the first to gain the world’s attention instead of being an underground phenomenon. Timothy Leary summed up the impact of Hippie culture on America and how it influenced future subcultures in the 1990’s in his 1994 book Chaos and Cyber Culture, Leary states, “Hippies started the ecology movement. They combated racism. They liberated sexual stereotypes, encouraged change, individual pride, and self-confidence. They questioned robot materialism. In four years they managed to stop the Vietnam War. They got marijuana decriminalized in fourteen states during the Carter Administration”. Hippie culture shaped North American society as we know it today and laid the foundation for other sub-cultural groups to become known in order to share their views of how they think society should re-evaluate itself. Hippie culture has not shaped the politics of groups like punk rock in the 1980’s or alternative grunge culture in the 1990’s, but it certainly paved the way for them to be taken seriously by American audiences.