Well, I just watched for the first time the X movie, The Unheard
Music. The girl in the video store told me not to rent it, a long
winded nonsensical explanation ensued that made no sense relating to
the first five minutes of the movie. The part when a letter from a fan
is read out that asserts that the fan is not going to sue X even
though they re-wrote/stole her life story via the Los Angeles LP,
because that record is so good she doesn't mind. Hmmm. Maybe the video
girl though it was a lame affected set up? Not a real letter? I did
not think it detracted from the movie at all, in fact I think it kind
of added to the world of X, the symbols and codes of Exene's girl-ness
smashed up against the anti hero masculinities of the dudes in that
band. (More of that later) In fact I'm very glad I took the time out
to watch said movie, it made me think a lot about myths and how bands
create worlds that you can 'see' when you are listening to their
records or even just thinking about them whilst going about yr
business. I read that Exene's sister basically invented/inspired
Madonna's style of the early 80s, which resonated with so many girls
at that time... and watching the Unheard Music it was very clear to me
the powerful effect Exene herself has had on rebel girl style and
image. Courtney Love seems to me to be a bad xerox of a bad xerox of
Exene's iconoclastic genius; the religious iconography, the beauty
advertisements of the 1920s through 60s, silent movies, bad girls...
I think it's so much easier for men to find an anti hero identity,
if that makes sense. There are Holden Caulfield's and Jack Kerouac's
and Henry Rollins' and Ian Mackay's falling out of the sky onto every
angry white suburban teenage boy throughout the traumatic adolescent
period. Think about it; Mark Gonzalez and Aaron Cometbus and Bukowski
and Darby Crash and Ian Curtis, providing a million different ideas of
'rebel' masculinity with which one can declare allegiance to. All of
them providing anti-hero mythologies with which a dude can shape his
idea of himself if he deigns to reject the four walled concrete tomb
suburban death camp lifestyle. I remember when I was a teenager it
used to really frustrate me that I couldn't find a female character in
a book that I could relate to in that particular, perhaps simplistic,
reactionary adolescent way. All the women in On The Road are left
cleaning up after the beatnik heroes, which for sure was not a
lifestyle I wanted.
I recall complaining about this, after finishing Bukowski's Ham on Rye
to one of my dad's girlfriends who told me I should read Bonjour
Tristesse, which was written by a French teenager in the 50s
(Francoise Sagan). I would recommend reading it; it's about the
amorality and frustration of youth. The protagonist Cecile, is a
teenage girl who I would put in the Holden Caulfield school of 50s
rich kid psycho-analyctic rebellion, if that makes any sense... She
clearly is not a girl who is going to be rebelling by meekly cleaning
up after heroic alchoholic poets, but there's something about her that
seems as if she can't see herself outside of the male erotic gaze.
While her bratty petulant sexuality was very shocking and liberating
when it came out I am sure, it did not ring true or call to me really.
The first time I found something that felt like it was mine was a
semi-autobiographical book by Katherine Dunn called Truck. I think
it's out of print now, or maybe just hard to find; the only book by
her that's easy to find is Geek Love, which is a good read if a little
too Book Club for my likings. Anyways, Truck is about a 15 year old
girl who runs away, and being that I haven't read it since I was about
that age I can't vouch for it's timelessness or if it would now hit me
in the same way it did then. It was the first time I can remember
reading a book that felt like it was written for a girl like me by a
girl like me.
That seemingly random and unrelated literary (ha!) diversion is
related to me watching the X movie ( I swear!) because it made me
think about how we need to figure out how to make identities for
ourselves as women/girls, and create our own girl culture and girl
heroes that aren't just based on what we are given, so to speak. I am
sure many teenage girls read Sylvia Plath and feel satiated, but what
about if you want adventure and freedom rather than fear and suicide?
I am not sure if I am even making sense at all at this point really,
but I feel like it's so easy to tread water in a stale ocean of pre
built James Dean forever-frozen-in-death rebel immortality, especially
for dudes. The extent to which things and symbols and ideas and
people that used to be considered acts of war against decency, and are
now used to sell cars and snowboard lifestyles is apparent and obvious
I know. I am sure most A and R reps at major labels would say that
Kerouac was their favorite writer and how deeply he changed their life
maaaaan. Male anti hero mythologies are boring and trite and empty and
forever regurgitated, their meaning and power neutered. But then it's
twice as bad when the only women mentioned are the nagry girlfriend,
the rape victim, the housewife.
There's that corny quote that I think Kim Fowley always dredges up in
regards to the RUNAWAYS; how he put them together because of something
Jimi Hendrix said in regards to the fact that in his imagined future,
girls with guitars were going to be the true musical revolutionaries.
Of course th eRunaways didn't really get to be 'true musical
revolutionaries' because they were formed in Kim Fowley's cartoon
lolita stadium rocker mold, plus they didn't 'make it' so they
couldn't fire him and make up their own rules, but I think that's the
point I am trying to make.
When you watch footage of bands like X or even the Clash, bands that
have become their own myths now, note the greased back hair, the 50s
teenage pocket tees and motorcycle boots, rebel images carefully cut
out from Montgomery Clift and Sal Mineo fan magazines from the 50s.
Punk was a reclamation of the shock and terror of 50s rocknroll that
had been silenced by the cozy non realities of FM radio rock, the
casual sleaze of The Eagles has none of the fear and raw sexuality of
say Little Richard or to go later era wise, even the Sonics you know?
So of course punks looked to that prior era for an image to add to the
collage of the punk identity. Which in itself adds to the myth of the
loner rebel hero dude.
Watching Exene sit in her room with the tacked up drawings and
letters, cutting up pictures for her scrapbook, writing lyrics in a
book, on her hands... She looked so self created. She looked like
herself, and also an important part of a line of girl heroes, maybe
not all of them remembered or deified in the same way as fucking
Kerouac or whatever but still... It made me think about the thing the
video girl had said in regards to the supposed lameness of the letter
writing girl in the first part of the movie and what a bogus way of
looking at things that was. The letter writer saw herself in X's songs
and in the Los Angeles LP because she found a myth created for girls
and other fuck ups like her. A world in which she could and did exist
in that did not actually exist itself. I am, like I said ,not sure if
I have explained this correctly, but I am gonna finish up with a top
ten of girls and girl culture artifacts that I would connect with this
idea, to quote Patti Smith, 'We Created it, take it over....' Most of
the time I find anti hero mythologies tired and repressive but here
are some that aren't.
1-uh duh, Patti Smith! Esp the first two records... and the Piss
Factory 45. I would align her with Dylan and even Rimbaud you know...
2-Linda Manz in Out of the Blue. If you haven't seen this you need to.
It's a classic of punk cinema, she is so tough and cool... 3-Ladies
and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains (Hey Andy!) Seriously ladies, this
movie will change your life. 4-The Raincoats first LP, music for the
basement meetings of secret societies of girls 5-Isabelle Eberhardt,
there's definitely some weird colonial messiness in there but she
dressed as a man to explore life in the Middle East in the 20s.
Definitely an answer back to all the swashbuckling male conquerors and
exploiters mythologized by Weekend Warrior types nowadays. 6-Exene!
Therese from The Brat! Alice Bag! Lorna Doom! Even the fucking
Go-Gos-how many rad girls in early LA punk? so many, then think about
SF girls, Penelope, UXA, total punk rock icons for sure, and girl anti
heroes too. 7-The Duchess, from Bo Diddley's band. As cool and tuff
lookin as he once was. I know the ladies in the Cramps were very
inspired by her existence... 8-How about Marianne Faithful or Nico and
Edie Sedgewick? Maybe they aren't quite heroic but they all have that
doomed mythology surrounding them and they are all total icons and
symbols of something. 9-well actually I am at work right now and have
to uh, serve a customer, but I will use this point to make a pithy
comment about women rebels-psycho! crazy! male rebels-daring! foxy! uh
yeah. wimmin's studies 101 yo. 10-write me with yr girl anti heroes