Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do You Want Whale Sperm With That?

 The truth is sometimes being young is less fun than being dead.

If that old adage "you are what you eat" holds any truth at all, then it must also be true that you are what you watch and listen to as well.   If I could go back to 2006 and redo that old blog post in the link there I'd add the movie Pump Up the Volume to the "Recipe of Me" list.  I'm not quite sure why I didn't include it in there in the first place.  I remember much of my teenage years was spent watching this movie while sighing every time Christian Slater spoke (as you do when you're about 15) and I did so, over and over, week after week until the tape literally broke.

I haven't got the movie on DVD (and clearly not on VHS either) but the other night I happened to find it randomly online and re-watched it for the first time in about 15 or so years and was delighted from opening scene to end credits.  I could still recite about 80% of it verbatim and it still rang true.  I'm many years out of my teens now and I'm amazed that I could still relate so willingly to these feelings of hurt, betrayal and injustice that are so fundamentally teenage.  It's a credit to the writing and direction but also perhaps speaks a lot of me and where I'm at during this time in my life.

I'm not sure whether this is true and FFS I can't be fucked researching it but PUTV feels like the first movie of its time to truly be a voice of the emergent Generation X especially in the face of teen cinema that had, (until that time) been thoughtful but also too "pretty" to really explore issues of how difficult it is to be young.  Pump Up the Volume isn't a pretty teen movie. Sure, Samantha Mathis is gorgeous and Christian Slater isn't exactly hard on the eye but when you compare it to the John Hughes movies that typified teen angst in the 80s it's like looking at two opposites.  PUTV is basically a big "fuck you" to the 80s and the Baby Boomers for that matter. It's Generation Xs first real voice, that is when they were still deciding whether they had a voice angry enough to be heard in the first place.

Were Generation X ever really heard I wonder?

Sure they were written about, notably by the brilliant Douglas Coupland and in numerous essays of the time.  Many songs and books and theories were pontificated (probably on the end of a joint) about Gen-X.  Certainly the Baby Boomers and (consequently) Yuppies complained about their lack of willpower, their disaffected attitude, their slacker tendencies, their over-educated cynicism and their moodiness but were they ever really heard?

A lot of what writer/director Allan Moyle examines in his movie Pump Up the Volume I think explains the fears and worries that affected Generation X before we moved the spotlight onto Gen Y and forgot there ever really was a problem.  Namely, control by large corporations over the way we live our lives, how money influences greed and corruption, that adults in positions of power are mostly untrustworthy, an inexplicable need to fuck shit up, a fear that society does not support humanity in humans, fear that our mental and physical well-being is being subverted by a machine running on corruption and greed, a feeling that perhaps anarchy is better than capitalism and of course a deep mistrust in government and all authority associated with it etc.

Let's fact it folk, aren't these the things we are still worried about?  Weren't the hippies worried about that before they turned into yuppies?  And if we aren't, why the hell not?  This is why the movie is still so relevant and why it still works.  These issues never went away in fact if anything they are more hopeless than ever, and Generation X, no matter now ineffective in changing the world they were had a bloody good point.  They may not have invented the plight or were the first to voice their concerns but they did take on these issues personally.  If we didn't listen then, why aren't we listening now?

What I love about Pump Up the Volume is the idea that idea that the voice is so powerful that it creates its own persona.  As a lowly teenager, main protagonist Mark is vulnerable; he is young and as we all know being young is hard and being young also means being powerless.  Young people who speak up or who are different are often beaten down by authority figures and of course since we are so afraid of 'otherness' by their peers too, but a voice can go anywhere and transcends cliques, class and race.  It can penetrate deep and reach out to a humanity that exists in commonality within us all.
I like the idea that a voice can just go somewhere uninvited and just kind of hang out like a dirty thought in a nice, clean mind. To me a thought is like a virus you know, it can just kill all the healthy thoughts and just take over. ~ DJ. Happy Harry Hard-On
So in the movie the voice does go uninvited into the psyche of this small town and creates a virus that causes an epidemic of thought and eventually anarchy and change in this small community and this makes me wonder, what it will take for us humans to do the same on a grander scale? While most of us humans step in time almost mindlessly to the job and the mortgage and hot sex (or endless supply of chocolate) there is a group of us who has been infected by the virus and is currently sitting very uneasily with it pulsating deep knowing that change must happen but not knowing how.

If Generation X were unheard or... ignored when they took it on then what will happen this time around?

I would be remiss to mention the fact that the soundtrack for Pump Up the Volume is just brilliant.  The released soundtrack is good but the actual soundtrack from the movie is some of the best music of its time.  Leonard Cohen, Sonic Youth, Concrete Blonde, Pixies, MC5, Beastie Boys, etc.

Here's one little gem by Richard Hell and the Voidoids.  Love Comes in Spurts.

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