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IT'S THE VERY FIRST THING you notice about Dennis Rodman's remarkable autobiography:

Bad As I Wanna Be . . .

[published by Delacorte in June 1996 to coincide with the NBA Finals].

THE TYPOGRAPHY IS "GIMMICKY." Over and over again, for the entire length of the text, the reader is confronted with whole sentences printed in different fonts, in larger point sizes, in boldface or italics (or boldface and italics) and/or in full capitals. Occasionally, single words or phrases are printed, shall we say, differently from the norm.


of course, Dennis Rodman is different from the norm. He's an "in-your- face" basketball player, and his autobiography is an "in-your-face" book.

Get it?

BUT THERE'S QUITE A BIT MORE to "get" in Bad As I Wanna Be -- to be precise, there's more being communicated by the "gimmicky" typography -- than one might expect from a poorly-organized, all-too-short and irritatingly sketchy book that was clearly designed to


on Rodman's spectacular success as a member of the revitalized Chicago Bulls basketball team. Masquerading as a gimmick,

the jumpy typography is a metaphor

for Dennis's multi-colored hair, which is itself a metaphor for his sexual persona, which is itself a super-metaphor for the completeness of Dennis's refusal to be denied participation in the totality of what it means to be a human being. In a word, the typography is a metaphor for his total and therefore exemplary refusal to remain domesticated, despite all the pressures he is under to stay as he has been or to become what he "should" be.

AN "ANIMAL" ON THE BASKETBALL COURT, Dennis Rodman is nevertheless the most human basketball star ever to play the game.

This makes him a spectacle only to the extent that the other players, who generally pride themselves on being picture-perfect "role models," do not seem to be human beings at all.

AS HAS BEEN NOTED ELSEWHERE, it is Rodman's ceaselessly inventive performance of his "de-domestication" that makes him so, er, ah -- sorry to use a word that even seems silly when it is uttered by "revolutionaries" -- revolutionary. His much-vaunted "negativity" has created untold numbers of new radical possibilities and expectations for all kinds of people. Thanks to Rodman, some of America's most fixed and therefore oppressive images -- of what it means to be a star professional athlete, a physically powerful male human, and a black male athlete -- have been loosened and set adrift. If only critical theorists and professional "revolutionaries" could be as wild and distracting as Dennis Rodman is!

But, alas, this is rarely the case.

TAKE FOR EXAMPLE THE COLLECTION of essays written in the 1970s by the French communist Jacques Camatte and published in translation by Autonomedia in 1995 under the title This World We Must Leave and Other Essays. "Until now," Camatte announces in the title essay, "all sides have argued as if human beings [have] remained unchanged in different class societies and under the domination of capital." Supposedly striking out into completely new and unknown territory, brave Camatte claims that the widely observed "autonomization" and becoming-human of capital have been accompanied -- indeed, made possible -- by the capitalization or "domestication" of people living in advanced capitalist societies. This double movement of autonomization and domestication, Camatte writes, is ultimately responsible for "the return to ‘barbarism,' as analyzed by R. Luxemburg and the entire left wing of the Frankfurt School; the destruction of the human species, as is evident to each and all today;

finally, a state of stagnation in which the capitalist mode of production survives by adapting itself to a degenerated humanity which lacks the power to destroy it."

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