Anyone who can should really enjoy the hell out of their iPhones.
They are amazing in what they allow. They are terrible in what they require: say, mass exploitation in Itu and Shenzhen. About whether they have ruined or rescued dance parties I remain uncertain. Holding all of this in your head is part of what it means to live in the cruel heart of Twilight Capitalism. If we are assessing the wonders that said climate has bestowed on its privileged consumers, it’s never going to get better than this.
But the development of such powers has proven to be a hollow one, despoiling both the planet and its own capacity to grow. Forty days after the iPhone’s unveiling on June 29, 2007, global megabank BNP Paribas froze three asset-backed security funds for “a complete evaporation of liquidity.” Thus erupted a crisis that was in truth the great, unresolved crisis of the 1970s come calling. There has been no substantial recovery. If you don’t believe me, look at US interest rates. And remember they track the general rate of profit—closely. No recovery for the United States, and dreams that another avatar of economic dynamism will arise have turned to nightmares. Gather your iPhones while ye may, global overclass. On the other side of them there’s a different world, and you may not fancy it.
There are no iPhones in The Get Down, Baz Luhrmann’s fairy-tale reconstruction of the birth of hip hop from the ashes of the South Bronx in 1977. But there is a beginning of the end, both different and the same. It’s better, by acclaim, than HBO’s equivalent fantasia, the already-canceled Vinyl. It’s not as compelling, critics agree, as fellow Netflix nostalgia piece Stranger Things, which needs no more ink spilled upon its sinister 1980s suburbisms. The current fate of The Get Down (which cost about 10 million bucks per episode) remains uncertain.
The main action follows the self-invention of a crew very much like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five—except that Flash is himself a different character, mentor to our crew’s DJ Shaolin Fantastic. There is no shortage of variations on the always-satisfying training sequence: In this case, it concerns attempts at the difficult depiction of artistic invention. We see the discovery of turntable techniques, the leap from personal poetry to synchronized rapping, and a fantasy reconstruction of how the incomparable disco standard “There But for the Grace of God Go I” was forged from found materials and cultural pressures (albeit with the most confrontational lyrics expurgated). More ambitiously, the show endeavors to show not just a new artwork but a new art coming into being.