Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blog 10: Gonzo

One characteristic of gonzo is fact reporting mixed with personal feelings.  Thompson gives a "compact description of rancid, criminal sleaziness" that includes the gang's colors, numbers, bands, brands and typical appearance.  Just the fact that he uses those terms show that is telling the audience what to think but provides them with the facts to prove that readers would probably have come to that conclusion on their own.  Taibbi uses this same approach.  He presents information that he believes as factual, such as lists of numbers, names of individuals and companies, and adds his own flavor and opinion between the lines.  If the statement " The bank is a huge, highly sophisticated engine for converting the useful, deployed wealth of society into the least useful, most wasteful and insoluble substance on Earth — pure profit for rich individuals" doesn't scream of opinion, then I'm not sure what does.

The polarity of Taibbi's piece proves that gonzo is not restricted to writing about music, crazy times, or sex.  He captures moments that are critical and controversial in and to society and writes about why people should be concerned.  This point also correlates with the openness of sex; Taibbi isn't afraid to address the political evils or hide his opinion.  

Rosenbaum's piece is also kind of like factual reporting.  He is sure to include place and time of pictures, as well as the names of people that he interviewed and what connection they had with his case.  He doesn't vaguely allude to people but provides names and good reasons for their involvement in his article.

Rosenbaum and Thompson both give opinions from sources that aren't as highly thought of or given much credit- both the women's discomfort in taking the photos; the doctor and professors' reasonings behind what others would find ridiculous; and the Hell's Angel's opinions of what happened that dreadful night with the girls, respectively.  In this light, gonzo can be seen as championing the underdog; Thompson and Rosenbaum aren't afraid to show the less popular opinion and give them a platform for 'why.'

One quality that lends nothing to journalistic function is Thompson's style.  I am reminded of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, written in stream of consciousness.  But his writing is not so neat and clean as Woolf's.  Instead, he writes and writes for paragraphs at a time like a deer dashing through the thicket and only once he thinks he's lost his pursuers does he bother to look back.

Another characteristic of gonzo is the overt sex appeal.  Rosenbaum focuses on the sex in the Bones article.  Thompson writes about girls and women blatantly; he's attracted to them, doesn't care who knows it and is willing to tell anyone why.  The details of the girls proves this point.  In a way, Thompson makes it appear that this is how the riders function and their interest in sex is the reason he writes about the encounter.  But I think Thompson is also interested in this kind of attention and therefore leans heavily on description and recounting of the incident.  This also comes from a few background readings, but a query on google for 'gonzo' returned a lot of porn hits.  Also adding to this theory is the entire piece by Rosenbaum.  An issue given so much press (not in the inverted pyramid style) affirms the idea that gonzo is rooted in sex.

Of all these writers, Taibbi stands out as the most 'in your face' author.  Most of this assumption is probably because of the profanity he uses, but is also driven home by the fact that he doesn't seem to represent anyone else; he represents his own opinion.  Thompson and Rosenbaum represent other causes and show two sides to the argument.  Taibbi shows his side and Goldman's side.

Rosenbaum and Thompson make the role of the reporter/writer prominent.  Their actions in the story as well as reactions to what happen are just as interesting and become just as much a part of the action as the events themselves.

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