Cool-dad-with-a-recording-studio-in-his-basement Joe Scarborough is making another big career transition: from TV host to “GOP Lou Reed,” yesterday releasing his first EP, Mystified, to, well, mystified, listeners everywhere.
We’ll leave assessments of the musical value of Mystified to less charitable publications, of which there will assumedly be many, and we’ll focus instead on the music video of the generic, eponymous lead single.
The film is driven by three interlaced elements: a plot of two hit men preparing to kill, and then killing, a journalist who bears a passing resemblance to Mika; Joe and Mika stone-faced in a screening room with an endless montage of images flashing past on their faces; and the montage of images itself, as seen by the viewer. . . guns (lots of them), scantily-clad women dancing (too many to name, but mostly springbreakers), monster trucks, more than one cheeseburger, shakeweights, a man shooting down a drone in the desert, Four Loko, painkillers, Grand Theft Auto, Miley Cyrus, Steve Bannon, OJ Simpson, mushroom clouds, the Clintons, President Trump, George Bush, needles, and. . . you get the picture. Eisenstein would be proud:
“Montage is not an idea composed of successive shots stuck together but an idea that DERIVES from the collision between two shots that are independent of one another (the ‘dramatic’ principle)”
So would Kuleshov:
“The Kuleshov effect is a film editing (montage) effect demonstrated by Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov in the 1910s and 1920s. It is a mental phenomenon by which viewers derive more meaning from the interaction of two sequential shots than from a single shot in isolation.”
What is the meaning behind this artifact? The reductive musical backing feels secondary against the power of recognizable images—an endless montage of sex, power, and politics. Is it a statement of “who we are now,” at least, and literally, through Joe and Mika’s eyes? Is it a statement about the interconnectedness of political crime dynasties? Is it a meditation on the cultural and civic decline of western civilization? Is Scarborough’s lyric, “I’ve been looking inside. . . and I’m horrified”, a nod to some kind of higher understanding he has recently gained (there is a brief but curious clip of the Pentagon on 9/11)? Has he finally been inducted into some elite secret society and this is simply an embarrassing initiation task?
Midlife crises come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe Scarborough is just fulfilling a Republican-Elvis-Costello-on-Xanax-auteur-rockstar fantasy—we all have one, right? Right? No? Maybe he’s trying to tell us something—something he can’t just come out and say? After all, he’s “doing this because [he has] to do this,” he says. Is that a statement of artistic self-determination. . . or an admission that this is all some sort of Illuminati prank?