Excisions: 6 (The girl is mine)

I mentioned in a couple of previous posts that I decided to excise a number of the memes that were going to be part of my book. It was sufficient for a meme to be excluded that I did not envisage being able to write anything of interest (to me) in the commentary on it. I have now set myself the goal of posting the excised memes here, in an occasional series, and trying to write something of interest (to me) about them, thus proving my decision to exclude them mistaken! Also, in this parergonal space around the book, I will write about the memes without the pretense that their maker is someone other than myself. I am curious to see how this affects the nature of my writing about the memes.


This was originally posted on Facebook on March 15th, 2016. The text is from the song by Michael Jackson (with the participation of Paul McCartney) “The Girl is Mine.” There are, I think, three interesting features of this meme.

First, it superimposes two contexts of conflict each of which can function independently of the other, but which together generate a pattern of  “interference waves” because their conflicts oscillate at different wavelengths. The first, of course, is the conflict in the image, an older man perpetrating physical violence on an adolescent whose guardian he is. The second is the conflict between the two rivals in the song, arguing over whose the doggone girl is. This second conflict itself is played simultaneously in two registers. Explicitly, it is presented as good-natured, friendly rivalry. (The music is cool and laid back; the two sing their rivalry in sweet harmony…) But implicitly, as we all know, such rivalries can be deadly – for both the protagonists and the objects of their possessive love. (This duality, it seems to me, is brilliantly emphasized by the use of the word “doggone,” a humorous and mild euphemism, apt for the friendly rivals, but a barely concealed transformation of the violent and explosive expression “God damn” (or “goddam”).) But neither of these two registers coincides with the conflict in the image. The friendly rivalry of the lovers is less serious than the conflict of the image; the potentially deadly rivalry more serious. There are thus three levels of conflicts reverberating, across two media (the visual and the aural) and the result is a highly-charged meme, bursting with tension.

The second interesting feature of the meme is that it is an early attempt at something I took more seriously in a couple of later memes, which will be included in the book, of generating conflict by use of the same words in both the speech bubbles. This is not quite what happens here, but it could have been, had I quoted from the song the alternating “she’s mine”s the singers swap. I will say no more about this here since I intend to deal with it at some length in the book.

Finally, the meme is unique, not in its use of musical notation, which occurs in two other memes, but in the way it represents the musical notation. In one of those other memes, I hand-drew a few notes:

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In the other, I pasted as an image a printed pair of staves with notes as they appear in a score:

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In the current instance, I used pre-made images of single notes available on the internet. This is, I think, the best version of musical notation in the oeuvre and I am sorry not to have any musical notation of this kind in the finished work.

Well, I have done a fairly good job in making myself regret the excision of this meme from the finished work. I was always aware of the third point, but that didn’t seem enough reason to keep it. Nor was the second, which I became increasingly aware of, since the other memes I mentioned do a better job of using the same text for both speech bubbles. But the first point, which I only really came to understand in writing this post, now strikes me as pretty interesting.

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