Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Analysis on Aaron Carter’s “How I Beat Shaq”

By Doug Lieblich * Other Doug Lieblich Posts

Sigmund Freud

In Aaron Carter’s hit single, “How I Beat Shaq,” Carter’s repressed subconscious presents itself within a one-on-one basketball game between Carter’s protagonist, Aaron Carter, and Shaq. This match up is more than a basketball game. It is the eternal struggle between Carter’s imagined self, the ego, and his domineering sexual urges, manifested as well-known celebrity NBA star, Shaquille O’Neal. Carter begins with narcissism “I heard the fans screaming / I thought it was for me,” and crescendos as he confronts his id: “but then I saw a shadow / It was 12 foot 3 / It was Shaquille O’Neal. The disparity between Carter’s expected opponent (another twelve year old boy) and his actual opponent (the center for the Los Angeles Lakers) reflects Carter’s loss of innocence. It also represents the fear of losing his penis.

The final chorus reveals that Carter’s victory over Shaq was actually a dream. Carter is awakened by his mother, skeptical of Carter’s story: How could you be playing if you’re still in bed/ Are you gettin sick, did you hit your head?” This revelation is a projection of Carter’s Oedipal complex, and perhaps a regression to the infantile state. I believe Carter’s conflicted self-image, his fixation on his mother, and his incessant dreams of defeating Shaq in a basketball game derive from the universal fear of death’s cold embrace. Also, he’s afraid of losing his penis. I would prescribe him 6 months of psychoanalytical therapy and 300 milligrams of cocaine.

Karl Marx

Aaron Carter’s triumph over Shaq is a victory of the proletariat over the bourgeois. Carter struggled “throwing brick after brick…dunk after dunk…jam after jam” as an honest serf toiling for his oppressive master. Social class is a lie, religion is a lie, Shaquille O’Neal’s athletic superiority is a lie! Carter’s treatise is a bold call to revolution. Whether it be candy, parties, Shaq, or simply “The Clapping Song,” Mr. Carter is not afraid to tackle the difficult subjects of our generation.

But perhaps it’s all a dream. Perhaps a worker’s state is a fantasy, as Carter’s bourgeois mother would have us believe. This is mere deception, comrades. Remember the words of comrade Carter: If it was a dream and it wasn’t real / How’d I get a jersey with the name O’Neal?” How did he get that jersey indeed?

You may believe in First Citizen Carter or you may oppose him. Either way, you cannot deny him—just has Shaq could not deny his final three point shot to win the match.

Harold Bloom

Comparisons between Aaron Carter and Shakespeare are as enduring as the legacies of their respective works. Both reinvented modern literature, and both are masterful writers of mysterious origins. The only knowledge of Shakespeare we have is a marriage license and the deed to his house. While for Carter, the only clues to his existence are his Myspace page and an old love-note to Hillary Duff. For nearly a decade Aaron Carter has been the dominant sage of the American imagination. His command of the English language borders on the sublime, and surely rhymes such as “Sorry Shaq, I should’ve let you win / You’re good too / And we can still be friends,” will reside in our memory for a lifetime.

The presence of Shaquille O’Neal, a foreboding doppelganger of Carter himself, is a brilliant use of the “magical negro” device. Carter’s strategy to tell Shaq that he didn’t “tie his shoelace” in order to gain a competitive advantage reveals cognitive dissonance within the Shaq character. It also reveals that Shaq is a moron. A stronger correlation, however, is the magical negro role played both by Shaq and Shakespeare’s Othello. A simple reading of the two passages proves that they are nearly identical:

Even so my bloody thoughts, with violent pace,

Shall ne’er look back, ne’er ebb to humble love,

Till that a capable and wide revenge
. Swallow them up.

Now, by yond marble heaven,

(Othello, III.iii.458-462)

[Shaq] looked down, I stole the ball

I’m taking him to school now, watch me all

A 3-pointer, nothing but net

Come on Shaq, had enough yet?

(Carter, lines 35-39)

Betty Freidan

The duel between Carter and Shaq perpetuates the phallus-centric patriarchal confines of basketball. Carter’s winning shot: “I put the ball up / I put him to shame,” reminds us that male genitalia lie at the center of athletics. Why must we always handle balls. Is it a “shame” to not have the ball? Why are there three major sports that revolve around a testicular object (one even uses a puck), and not one sport in which players compete over a vagina?

James Joyce

Carter, basketball, pig intestines, Dublin, eyeball, slam-dunks, sex at 3 o clock, father’s funeral, the menstrual cycle, Mickey Mouse Club. Irish independence, jews, jews, jews. Shaq, nationalism, Gaelic poetry, shoelaces…Shaq forgot to tie them. I’m a woman in a man’s body. I Want Candy? Double-dribble. Proteus, Telemachus, Aeolus, Polyphemus, the Backstreet Boys. Masturbating damns me to Hell. Potato talisman…my potato talisman. Shaq is number 34 for the Lakers.

Aaron Carter

I just really like basketball.

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