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Playing rockstars in movies: St Vincent's The Nowhere Inn and the meta-music documentary.

McCarthy, Amy ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2183-3816 (2023) Playing rockstars in movies: St Vincent's The Nowhere Inn and the meta-music documentary. In: Fairclough, Kirsty, (ed.) This is Me: Interrogating the Female Pop Star Documentary. Bloomsbury (In Press)

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Directed by Bill Benz, The Nowhere Inn is a meta-mockumentary depicting Carrie Brownstein creating a music documentary of St Vincent. The purpose of a music documentary is to add ‘the celebrity/star brand via the presentation of a version of manufactured authenticity’ (Edgar, Fairclough-Isaacs & Halligan, 2013, p.19). St Vincent’s The Nowhere Inn challenges the conventions of the autobiographical music documentary by bending the genre. The Nowhere Inn manufactures St Vincent into a character that can not be seen as authentic, which leads to the problematising of the music documentary as a confessional genre.

Like music memoirs, the music documentary is confessional and a medium for the public and private life of the artist to merge. Rather than aiming to reveal an ‘Access All Areas’ pass to St Vincent the artist, the documentary further feeds into the mythologising of St Vincent the character. The ‘’myth’’ of the confessional musician narrative ‘is allied to authenticity’ (Gardner, 2019, p.14). Through the use of metafiction and transforming the music documentary into a psychological thriller, The Nowhere Inn raises the question: how does a music documentary present the artist as authentic?

The Nowhere Inn is a mockumentary, but it is also classed as a meta-music documentary. Metafiction is an element to life narratives, which includes autobiographical documentaries. In relation to women’s autobiographical writing as an act of resistance, Laura Beard argues: ‘The assimilation of critical perspectives into the fictional narrative, a fixation with language and its relationship with the world and a self-consciousness of the artificiality of the narrative’s constructions are all metafictional elements’ (Beard, 2009, p.12). Using metafiction in the music documentary highlights the self-conscious art of documenting an individual’s life and the artificiality of authenticity.

In the trailer of The Nowhere Inn, Annie Clark is moments away from stepping onto the stage as St Vincent. Talking to Carrie Brownstein, Clark gets a roadie to light a cigarette in her mouth. Despite, as Brownstein states, not smoking, Clark interrupts Brownstein to say, “this is how actors play rockstars in movies” and then ascends onto the stage to begin her performance. Rather than unmasking St Vincent the artist to reveal Annie Clark the person, The Nowhere Inn pushes the persona of the rockstar to its limits.

In this chapter I will argue that The Nowhere Inn parodies the image of the rockstar by bending the music documentary genre. Through this parody, however, the documentary unveils the anxieties Annie Clark voices about being St Vincent and being her “authentic” self. The Nowhere Inn is a commentary on the artist’s battle with controlling their narrative and curating their public persona. Clark challenges the authenticity of the musician by mocking the need to access a celebrity’s private life via music documentaries and, as a result, further obscures her public image. By using the mockumentary genre, Annie Clark destabilises the idea of the performer achieving authenticity.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: In Press
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/9057

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