History Through Pop: 3OH!3’s “My First Kiss”

Since Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” is still at the top of the charts (sigh), I thought I’d try the top iTunes single in the “Alternative” genre.  Away back when in the early 1990s, “alternative” implied that there was a bit more to the song than what you’d hear on pop radio–you know, Nirvana’s anti-consumerism angst and so forth.  I thought I mind find something a bit deeper to play with, historically speaking, in this category.  I was, of course, wrong:  3OH!3’s “My First Kiss” ranks number one, and it is indeed a rank affair of mindless beats (does every song have to be club-ready?).  But here’s a line we might try:

Well my first kiss went a little like this
I said no more sailors
And no more soldiers

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life PIctures—Getty Images

Ugh.  In an effort to move away from this crap as quickly as possible, I refer you to the passing of Edith Shain, who claimed to be the nurse in that famous picture from New York Times square at the end of WWII.  Others could say and probably have said (suggestions in the comments?) something meaningful about the gender dynamics obvious and implied in the photo.  I will instead note briefly some thoughts to get started with (and then I must be off to work):

1) What, exactly, did the people in the photo think the future held for them?  Even with the end of the war, it was clear that another conflict was brewing, with the US and USSR carving up the spoils of war (namely, Germany).  So maybe they hoped for peace, but, when asked, would have admitted that not all was well abroad.  And at home?  The assumption was that men would return to work…meaning that women would be out of a job.  The NYT obit says that Edith Shain “moved to Los Angeles a few years after the war ended.”  One wonders what she did there.  Did she continue her work as a nurse?  Get another job?  Stay at home and raise kids?  What different ideas about the future were held by the different people in the photo?

2) And what’s this I see in the upper left corner?  A person of color?  Perhaps s/he had been a subscriber to the Pittsburgh Courier and believed that Double-Victory meant more than winning in Japan and Europe.  Perhaps s/he had experienced the inequality of some federal programs during WWII, when affirmative action white.  In any case, s/he might have some different ideas about what WWII meant and what the future held.

3) What were the people in the photo relieved about?  The end of sacrifice and suffering, obviously.  But the sacrifice of what?  Human lives might be the first answer.  Consider also the other sacrifices: the Victory Gardens, the rationing, etc.  We should consider how WWII was a total war, of course, with sacrifices at home and abroad.  But let’s not get carried away; WWII helped set the stage for American prosperity, through the utter destruction in unleashed on Europe and Asia, and by building up American manufacturing infrastructure.  American exceptionalism!

I’ll stop here, and return to writing my dissertation.  I have to get done with this chapter so I can go clubbing.

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