Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rage Against the Machine: Revolution in the Head and the Art of Protest

Group 2 Responses (400 word minimum). Focus on themes, or specific scene shots, or some other aspect of the film or its social, cultural, musical context. Due by the end of Tuesday.

Group 1 comments (200 word minimum): Supply a thoughtful comment that expands upon one (or several) of Group 1 responses.

Link to documentary:


  1. Rage Against The Machine: Revolution in the Head and the Art of Protest gave me more information than I had expected. I thought it was just going to be all about the band ("RATM")and it's history. Instead, the film also presented the band's viewpoint on the idea of revolution against oppressive government. The viewer gets more than just a history of the band. The viewer gets a philosophy through the words of the film's narrator, people interviewed in the film and the lyrics of the songs. The film treats the band as the modern legacy of a long history of "protest music", beginning with the labor movement of the early 1900s and carrying through the victims of the Great Depression, the civil rights movement and various periods of anti-war sentiment. What is different about RAGM is that most young viewers are seeing and hearing its protest in current time. This means that the music played by RATM is not gospel or folk songs, but hard metallic rock with a hard edge. My parents grew up in the 1960s and 1970s listening to softer protest music of Bob Dylan (Blowin’ In the Wind), John Lennon (Imagine), Buffalo Springfield (For What It’s Worth) and Crosby Stills Nash and Young (Four Dead in OHIO). If they watched this movie today, I am not sure they would recognize the protest themes because of the loud, aggressive,"in your face", approach to music. Younger listeners and viewers are used to this type of music and are not as easily offended. I think part of the message sung by RATM is more personal in nature. Some of the group members were victims of racism and prejudice growing up. This makes their "rage" more intense than just a hypothetical anger toward established government, capitalism and religion. That’s why they did not name themselves “I’m Angry About the Government” , and intentionally used the word “rage” to express their true emotion.

    walker miller

  2. Rage Against the Machine is the main point of focus in this documentary with a small highlighting of the past 100 years off protest music. Overall I enjoyed this documentary but being a Rage Against the Machine fan I might be a little biased, the only point I found not so relevant was the directors choice to make his own assumptions and conclusions at the end of this film on a couple different topics. I had a hard time finding scene’s where I thought that the director was using original material to match up with the music. It seemed like every time there was a highlight or clip of Rage Against the Machine’s music it was accompanied by scene’s from the original music video’s. The music video that really stands out to me is “Sleep now in the Fire”, directed by Michael Moore. This video had a huge impact on me the first time I saw it about 10 yrs ago, the fact that a band could shut down wall street and continue to playing the face of numerous police officers and onlookers. The whole video is sensory overload and one struggles to keep up with the barrage of obvious in your face facts( like the mocking of “who wants to be millionaire”) and more subliminal and intuitive. The end of this video great, after one has soaked in Zack de la Rocha lyrics, he commences in bombarding you with the line Sleep Now in the Fire, and Michael Moore and Rage have a homeless man who has just won the “millionaire” and refuses to take the money, this leads into clips of the band playing on the steps of Wall Street and being harassed/arrested . The final scene beckons for all those who are watching/on looking to take up and not to follow those in greed, they show this by having the audience in the gameshow to rush the floor and tear apart the set while no one individually goes for the money. Followed by Rage Against the Machine and their followers making their statement on the steps of Wall Street, while the members of the band are being arrested and harassed, their fans continue to protest on the steps, with the final scene being the slamming of emergency protective doors and a note from the director commenting that no money was harmed, just as in the millionaire satire, a large gathering of proactive people not driven by greed.

    “ The world is my expense
    The cost of my desire
    Jesus blessed me with its future
    And i protect it with fire
    So raise your fists
    And march around
    Don't dare take what you need
    I'll jail and bury those committed
    And smother the rest in greed
    Crawl with me into tomorrow
    Or i'll drag you to your grave
    I'm deep inside your children
    They'll betray you in my name”

  3. In my opinion Rage is the face of new era rock music. Simply rebellious music towards the goverment and also social out cast , relaying messages of what they see to be a corrupt goverment .. Rage to me was a huge contributer in the 100 year music protest which truely is still probably going on. though many may think that the language in the music is pretty much crazy. they had a point to get across and i dont know it they could have done it with out it.

    one thing that stood out to me was kinda the rebelion behind the song "killing in the name". what really stood out to me when listening was fuck you i wont do what you tell me . which was kinda relaying the message of many people of the us police force who were still members of the KKK, this kinda opened my eyes to what was going on at this time. growing up a little after most of their music became popular i hadnt really heard of any of it or them to be honest . but what very pleased and surprised by their music. kinda being social out casts and making it big at what they did was kinda a dream fulfilled i would look at it as.

    One thing that kinda stuck out to me was their concert across from the democratic building and in a way rioted through music to the point where swat was called in to calm and put an end to it.

    Overall i have to say that besides Woodstock this video killed it . everything that i think would be in a rock band defined rage.

  4. The documentary we watch on Rage Against the Machine is a fine, informative and enjoyable documentary of the career of this band and its impact in the tradition of music protest. It connects Rage Against the Machine to the protest music movement that stretches back to folk music's roots, and found expression in influential artists like Guthrie, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger and came into the 60's through Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and John Lennon. The documentary focuses on those acts that had a more direct impact on the sound of Rage Against the Machine: Minor Threat, Public Enemy, Bad Brains, and The Clash. The film follows the band's history and often paradoxical rise, with forays into the band's unique sound and political emphasis, as well as bold public protests.
    They take a look at the band's now infamous "naked performance" on the Philadelphia stop of Lollapalooza '93, where the band stood unclothed except for duct tape over their mouths for 25 minutes of feedback, with only the letters PMRC on their chests (a stand against the censorship of music instigated by the Parents Music Recourse Center.) The making of the notorious "Sleep Now in the Fire" video with Michael Moore, with its guerrilla film-making technique which had the effect of shutting down Wall Street if only for an afternoon. With songs like "People of the Sun" which celebrated the Zapitista movement of the Native Indians of Mexico, and "Bulls On Parade" which explored the business of war that proved prophetic of America's war in Iraq and the privatization of military efforts by the Bush administration.
    Many of their fans loved the angry, rebellious tone of the music but missed the deeper analytical tone of the band's politics. And the assertion in the song "Testify" that the two political parties in America and the two presidential candidates of that era Bush and Gore, were essentially the same, which led to a performance outside the Democratic National Convention of 2000 in Los Angeles.
    An artful, creative, energized musical act, as well as a prescient political protest act, brilliant in its use of media and direct action, Rage Against the Machine is willing to point out injustice, inform the public and send a wakeup call to the world. As such, this film captures an important voice from the 1990s.

  5. Kaitlyn G. wrote “Many of their fans loved the angry, rebellious tone of the music but missed the deeper analytical tone of the band's politics.” and I completely agree. If you take a look at the average Rage Against the Machine fan they are your typical metal heads who do genuinely love the band, but often miss the point of their statement making music. It is not fair to say that all, or even most, of their fans are like this, but a fair few are. Some of their “fans” like them just for the appearance of supporting anarchy. It’s not just some of the fans that are like this though, a lot of other protest bands are the same way.
    Most statement making pop culture icons today are protesting or trying to stir up anarchy just to cause a scene and revolt for the sake of rebelling. Not many of these figures actually believe in what they are saying. In the documentary though, Rage Against the Machine seemed to be completely devoted to their causes and protests. Their website even has a page called “Freedom” where the band acknowledges and thanks freedom fighters across the country.
    Another difference between Rage Against the Machine and most other “anarchists” is that this band actually seemed to know what they are talking about. Like Walker said, “Some of the group members were victims of racism and prejudice growing up. This makes their "rage" more intense than just a hypothetical anger toward established government, capitalism and religion. That’s why they did not name themselves “I’m Angry About the Government”, and intentionally used the word “rage” to express their true emotion.”

  6. In response, I completely agree with both Kaitlyn and Kate's response to Kaitlyn. This band in the documentary seems to be completely misunderstood, in some regards, because of the "rage". If the music was performed in a more peaceful choice of music with the same message, more people would respect the information given. Since the music is harder and more violent, the broader range of listerners seem to be turned off by the sound. The band's message is the same political and social message as the softer rebellious acts such as Bob Dylan and John Lennon.

    The "rage" seems to be also the key ingredient that influences the youth to get involve with the political and social movements around them. The youth, in general, seem to operate on more aggressive means than older individuals. I love the band for this element. It demonstrates so much passion and allows the forbidden emotions of political and social movements to flow. It gives an option to the listener to release the tension and fustration with a faulty system that shows no signs of change or reform.

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  8. As a fan of the band, I was reminded of the impact Rage Against the Machine has on my spirit. I had the pleasure of experiencing them in concert in the late 90s, although my interest was slightly different then as it is now. Their message then spoke to my rebellious teenage quest for the ultimate defiance against my parents, my school, and my awkwardness. Watching the film now not only brought back my love for their hard rock and unique sound but also stirred up that fire of defiance against those forces that oppose my spirit. It did what every powerful protest song did; stirred up emotions and caused me to question certain aspects of my daily life. I think it is very interesting how the message still applies; no matter the age or surrounding circumstances.
    Rage managed to prove their point of protest in the most solid airtight inarguable way possible; they clearly demonstrated the effects of propaganda and capitalism by creating 3 hit records. They knew how to harness what they were against (capitalism, materialism, religion) and by successfully doing so they proved their point. They used propaganda positively. I think the outcome of their Speak Now in the Fire video proved one lasting point; that activism is possible. It wasn't necessarily about the issue, although capitalism did strike a chord with the band, but the possibility that the public could take a stand and action is feasible. Ultimately, this documentary managed to make me dig through my CDs and apply their timeless message of protest to my current outlooks and ideals.

  9. Thanks everyone for your comments -- I'm getting ready to show this to a Peace Studies course and it was good to see your responses to this documentary.

    Also good to see that the discussion of the potential of music as a political forum is continuing.


    Michael Benton