Wolfe's Chronicle of Song and Chant in Surfer Society
Alexis Smagula '05, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2005
Tom Wolfe, cultural weatherman and guru to disenfranchised hipsters, dissects segments of the American underground with great wit and precision. Using language as both a mirror and a magnifying glass, he delves into the psyche and sentiment of a socially marginalized, theatrically imaginative, and not too subtly absurdist segment of Southern California leisure-class society. These rag-tag surfer kids of La Jolla form the Mac Meda Destruction Company and through the creative use of language and song, they confirm their existence and establish their power. "Mee-dah, Mee-dah" the kids of this corporation chant over and over again throughout the entirety of Wolf's article. This and other equally inane songs symbolize their struggle for human connection in an increasingly isolating and marginalizing consumer society. The primary function of these songs is to reassure the group and to create the functional trappings of a new and viable society that sets them apart from mainstream culture. Wolfe attempts to show how this subculture came together and how it uses linguistic lubricants to keep things running smoothly.
--- Ooooo-eeee-Mee-dah! They chant this chant, Meedah, in a real fakey deep voice, and it really bugs people. They don't know what the hell it is. It is the cry of the Mac Meda Destruction Company. The Mac Meda Destruction Company isÉ an underground society that started in La Jolla about three years ago. Nobody can remember exactly how; they have arguments about it. Anyhow, it is mainly something to bug people with and organize huge beer orgies with. They have their own complete, bogus phone number in La Jolla. They have Mac Meda Destruction Company decals. They stick them on phone booths, on cars, any place. Some mommy-hubby will come out of the shopping plaza and walk up to his Mustang, which is supposed to make him a hell of a tiger now, and he'll see a sticker on the side of it saying, "Mac Meda Destruction Company," and for about two days or something he'll think the sky is going to fall in. ["The Pump House Gang," 30]
1. How does Wolfe's language in this passage communicate this theme of understanding and misunderstanding? How does it effectively address a larger existential problem of translation and communication?
2. How does Tom Wolfe's repetitious use of 'Mee-dah' and the phrase 'Mac Meda Destruction Company' in this passage correspond with the overall objectives of the group. Why does he in this specific passage about stickers and decals, keep reasserting the name of group? (In this one paragraph he writes it about four times almost to the point of reiteration).
3. How do Wolfe's personal sensibilities color his portrait of this subculture and these hipsters?