Metal band Gwar is not usually associated with thoughtful social commentary.
Unless you're already a Gwar fan, you probably think of the band as "that crazy group with the freaky costumes and elaborately vulgar stage shows."
Actually, even if you are a Gwar fan, you probably think of them that way.
For the uninitiated, Gwar is a performance-art-slash-metal band whose vulgar stage show and elaborate fictional mythology function as a kind of absurdist caricature of everything ever. Literally. There is nothing safe from their satire (or the bodily fluids that spray from the stage).
So you might be surprised to learn that the lead singer of Gwar recently gave a TEDx Talk.
And it's really good.
Dr. Michael Bishop, who gave the talk, currently plays the role of Gwar's lead singer, the berserker Blothar (or, as he puts it, he is the "human slave" of Blothar). More importantly, he has a Ph.D. in music from the University of Richmond, with a particular interest in ethnomusicology (basically, the cultural and social context around music).
He's a pretty smart guy.
The talk is about the intersections of regional identity, economics, slavery, and creativity — and how it all relates to Gwar. And i f you're confused by that sentence, just imagine how I felt while typing it.
As Dr. Bishop explains, a surprising amount of careful, conscious commentary went into the construction of the Gwar mythology:
Basically, Dr. Bishop (aka Blothar, formerly known as Beefcake the Mighty), presents an argument that a band like Gwar only exists because of Richmond, Virginia's troubled history.
While Gwar's brand of creative output certainly reflects Richmond's violent history, there's one major difference: Gwar is fictional and has never actually enslaved or killed any real people.
Being from Richmond, the members of Gwar couldn't avoid the death, destruction, and poverty that surrounded their hometown. So they found another way to channel that negative energy and turn it into something productive. And given that a recent study showed that metal fans grew up to be more well-adjusted than many of their peers, Gwar just might be on to something.
Watch the full TEDx Talk — it is a glorious, glorious testament to the late Oderus Urungus: