American soldiers aren’t just fighting wars. They’re breaking into song—and staying “relevant” back home in the process.
Have you been following the latest military trend? Groups of boisterous servicemen are blowing off steam and staging tributes to the current ladies of American pop, including Miley, GaGa, and Ke$ha. It’s all going on YouTube. The Peanut Butter Jelly song has been spoofed. And the Ding Dong Song, whatever that is.
New York Magazine writer Lisa Taddeo takes a look at one soldier whose video reportedly made Obama “laugh his ass off.” Specialist Codey Wilson spoofed Ke$ha’s “Blah Blah Blah” and satirized what might happen if “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” was revoked. Wilson’s video got some 200,000 views in its first two days before he took it down after his immediate superiors caught wind, launched an investigation, and put him on garbage duty.
These videos are revealing a new breed of soldier: rebellious, witty, rabid consumers of pop culture, thousands of miles from home but able to Skype daily with family and friends. They are as plugged in as lab rats. When they are not on patrol, they live on the web. They are there and here at once. In Iraq, there are long, stretching days and lonely nights when the guys don’t come out of their rooms unless the Internet is down or an alarm sounds and the base is in trouble. … Music, they all say, saves them. They talk about stuff going on at home, but mostly they don’t. Girls, family. “It’s easier,” says Mike, “when you don’t think about what you’re missing.”
Wilson insists that none of the guys in the video are actually gay. He says that there are plenty of homophobes in his unit, and what they’re most worried about, apparently, is a change in the unique way straight men gaily relate to each other—a phenomenon Taddeo refers to as “fraternization.” But for the guys making these videos, it doesn’t seem to be about politics. It’s about being recognized back home where people aren’t thinking about the war.
More than anything it says about gays in the military, the message is, Hey, we’re still here.
“The most special thing about the video I made,” says Wilson, “is that for a few days, we kind of became members of society. It was like we actually mattered.”