N. 6 (2020): Kids Don't Just Wanna Have Fun. Material Girls, Wild Boys, and the Melancholic Eighties

"The Damned Don’t Cry": Melancholia and White British Masculinity in 1980s Synthpop Music

Mica Hilson
American University of Armenia
Madonna, 'Girl Gone Wild' (dir. Mert & Marcus, 2012)

Pubblicato 2020-12-04

Come citare

Hilson, M. (2020). "The Damned Don’t Cry": Melancholia and White British Masculinity in 1980s Synthpop Music. De Genere - Rivista Di Studi Letterari, Postcoloniali E Di Genere, (6). Recuperato da https://www.degenere-journal.it/index.php/degenere/article/view/136


In "Mourning and Melancholia," Freud describes the primary symptoms of melancholia as "a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity of love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings." This is also a fairly accurate description of early 1980s synthpop music, which was full of white male British singers who maintained a numbed affect as they performed lyrics about loss, inaction, and inability.

Although some critics have derided this music as unemotional, this article explores how 1980s synthpop songs dramatize a kind of self-splitting, wherein the intense affect of grieving is displaced onto women and machines, while the singer maintains his impassive melancholy. Examining such popular acts as Blancmange, Thomas Dolby, A Flock of Seagulls, Ultravox, and Visage, it analyses both the songs themselves and their accompanying music videos to examine the performance of masculinity within them.

Drawing from Derrida’s work on hauntology, it also considers how 1980s UK synthpop performers were both haunted by Britain’s past and frightened that it may have no future. Enacting a repressed affect"”the so-called "stiff upper lip""”that had served middle-class white men well in Britain’s imperial glory days but served little purpose by the 1980s, these singers dramatize the dilemma of not knowing how to develop alternative modes of sensitive yet emotionally direct masculinity.

Riferimenti bibliografici

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  15. Selected Videography
  16. Adams, Bryan, "Run to You" (1984). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCBASt507WA
  17. A Flock of Seagulls, "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)" (1982). Accessed 13 Novembre 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opkzgLMH5MA
  18. Blancmange, "Waves" (1983). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=FwjFw6UxcD0
  19. Blue Nile, "Stay" (1984). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=yDGR8R5e0Qs
  20. Bronski Beat, "Smalltown Boy" (1984). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88sARuFu-tc
  21. Dolby, Thomas, "One of Our Submarines" (1982). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OsZTJ5vfUs
  22. Eurythmics, "Never Gonna Cry Again" (1981). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KLruiHP8U8
  23. Fixx, "Stand or Fall" (1982). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=hAofFHPRZTE
  24. Freur, "Doot Doot" (1983). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=aexff90ZWiQ
  25. Godwin, Peter, "Images of Heaven" (1982). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://vimeo. com/150471991
  26. Sex Pistols, "God Save the Queen" (1977). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=yqrAPOZxgzU
  27. Tears for Fears, "Mad World" (1982). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=u1ZvPSpLxCg
  28. Tears for Fears, "Shout" (1984). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=Ye7FKc1JQe4
  29. Ultravox, "Dancing with Tears in my Eyes" (1984). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSQWUZ8a2Ho
  30. Ultravox, "Reap the Wild Wind" (1982). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=NevzImTG_U0
  31. Van Halen, "Jump" (1984). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=SwYN7mTi6HM
  32. Visage, "The Damned Don't Cry" (1982). Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVsrcmW3Yc8