Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

London’s Burning

1 Comment

Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols

The punk movement began largely in the mid-seventies with the emergence of the Sex Pistols. As it continued to grow with the rise of punk bands, subculture formed around the movement. Individuals belonging to this group were followers of this brand of music, as well as a new ideology it engendered. Somewhat related to the ideas of the hippie movement, the ideology of the punk subculture is highly political, and is very focused on individual rights, being also centered largely around the idea of anarchy and anti-conformity.

These ideas are manifested quite often in the actions of the people of the punk culture, since the idea of anarchy is anti-establishment, and to do whatever one wants or benefits them. Riot type behavior, excessive drug and alcohol use, unique clothing and music are all forms of this type of rejection of societal rules and norms. Since there is a very clear style of dress shared by a majority of those involved in the movement, clothing becomes a way of connecting and bringing the people in the punk movement together despite the very high emphasis on individualism. The fashion that they choose to endorse is often made up of clothing that most would consider “dirty” or “grungy” and has a fair amount of holes, political patchwork and is mostly dark. The fashion also involves piercings, tattoos and intense hairstyles. This type of dress is not generally considered classically fashionable, and is one way of saying to the world that they can do what they want. They don’t have to dress to impress of they don’t want to. Punk music has a similar effect. As the subculture all began with the music, and it continues to remain a driving force, the “punks” can feel united by songs and use the values in the lyrics and those shown by band members to fuel their own ideas even more. One lyric from the Sex Pistols song “Anarchy in the U.K” says “Cause I want to be anarchy / No dogs body.” By hearing lyrics like these, “punks” can all connect in their beliefs centered around their idea of individuality, and have it validated by those who have slightly more power in society.

However, this is where the subculture’s movement becomes problematic. As Storey pointed out of rock music in his article, punk music similarly tries to create this lack of “distance between producer and consumer” (Red, 91) but through the “commercial success” (Red, 94) this divide cannot be completely avoided. Essentially, this gap is the “negotiation between dominate and subordinate cultures” (Blue, 80) that makes the punk movement a cultural (and at many times political) hegemony. While those belonging to this subculture support the idea that they are non-conformist to any culture, by buying tickets to concerts and CDs of their favorite punk artists, as well as dressing like them, they are contributing to the very parts of society that they despise: corporations and conformity. There is a sort of hypocrisy present, however unconscious it may be, that creates an illusion within the movement. While “punks” might think they are “sticking-it-to-the-man,” they also, in certain respects, fuel this man.

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One thought on “London’s Burning

  1. I think you bring up a really excellent point in your analysis of punk culture that is, ironically, the case in the vast majority of subculture movements. A lot of the time these subculture movements are based on the premises of individuality and non-conformity, yet the image that they choose to adapt turns into a subculture of people who look, think, and act in nearly the exact same way. The irony is simply that they are still conforming, but to a different group of people, and somehow that makes them “unique.” I think it really speaks to human nature that no matter how adamant you might be about being unique, we all have an innate tendency to feel like we are a part of something.

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