Reflections on a Pistol

©2022 Michael Raven

Last night I finished off the limited television series and biopic of the Sex Pistols based on Steve Jones memoir, Lonely Boy, called “Pistol”, available exclusively in the US as a streaming series on Hulu.

This isn’t a review of the series, as I think different people will take away drastically different interpretations of the quality and content. Some may have quit watching five minutes into the first of six episodes. Others, like myself, watched it to the bitter end. My gut impression? It certainly was about on par with the movie “Sid and Nancy” — probably equal parts faulty memory, glorification, sentimentalization, sensationalism, truth, fantasy, and something else I can’t quite define. In other words, pretty much any supposed biopic of any rock act out there. Thankfully, they reminded me each episode that it was “based on real events”, which should be prefaced with “a work of fiction based…”.

That is not a criticism. That’s an observation.

In all, I think it was largely respectful of the real-life people in it while still being fairly honest about those same people based on what we know about those involved.

The limited series got me thinking, however, about the time period. I was born too late to be part of the initial 1975-1978 wave of punk, but I was the first-generation recipient of that legacy. One of the things about the 80s was the rejection of 50s nuclear family ideals as they became obvious fictions after the Boomers and hippies of the 60s challenged such norms. But even, in the days leading up to the punk movement, the generational divide was weary of the Utopian ideals of the 60s as that, too, became an obvious fantasy. What was left was a sense of disenfranchisement with a pivot right about the time that punk became a sensation. Then, it seemed that a polished plastic facade needed to be torn down to expose the ugly underbelly of society.

Almost fifty years ago, society’s seams broke a little. But then, we seemed to find our way back to building back that facade that was so mercilessly torn asunder in the 70s and 80s in many segments of society. And it seems to have corrected itself and swung back to that period just before punk took the UK, and then the World, by storm. Without going into the politics of the current state of affairs, even rebellion has been commercialized and is turning a healthy profit on selling the concept, but not the reality, of uniqueness. Alternative is the norm, outrageous can be bought and sold, copycats of all stripes revel in their “unique” outlook on the world just like everyone else. Sounds very much like my memories of the 70s, to be honest. And the social rage is reminiscent as well (although of slightly different lens perspective, I don’t know that it has actually, honestly changed all that much — it has just simmered under the surface and concentrated).

I wonder, then, if anyone in this time period has the actual courage to absolutely reject the norm the way those young men and women of the mid-70s did, turning that dark, sullied mirror back in on itself. Or, are we just going to keep playing the same movie over and over, patting ourselves on the back for our self-declared individuality that looks a whole of a hell like we are cookie cutters products being churned out by the likes of Meta and Twitter.

I’m not convinced that anyone has the chutzpah to do it.

2 responses to “Reflections on a Pistol”

  1. I have too many streaming services already to keep up with to shell out for Hulu, but I was intrigued by this project, if for nothing else, to see if it could outshine, or better, outclass “Sid and Nancy,” which has its merits but I remember watching on VHS on loan from a punker friend back then and his dismissal of it had me intrigued. It’s sensationalism at its finest, for sure, maudlin AF at the end, and I recall feeling grubbier having watched that hallucinogenic punk dramarama as if I’d been gobbed on while watching.

    We’ll see if and when I catch this one. Your thoughts are interesting and I jive with a lot of it. I was born in 1970, lived and loved the 80s, but was raised on the 1950s from its music and t.v. and the idyllic nature my stepfather portrayed it. I found myself wishing I could’ve lived American Graffiti, then in recent years, attempted to write an American Graffiti for Gen X, which I may try again at a later time. The thing with the 1950s is, despite it’s romantic overtures, it was mostly Fabulous if you were white, the best of times if you weren’t under the probe of McCarthyism. I think of the EC comic book burnings in that timeframe and wonder who it affected other than comic nerds and horror hounds. A lot of progress and innovation for its time, but I found myself embracing (and I still do) the times of my life in the 80s.

    It was flawed, sure, violent for me personally a few years, but there’s so much wonder in early technology similar to the blast in the 50s. By the time the 80s were in full swing, I was immersed in metal and punk, and the actuality of punk was more the hardcore acts like GBH, The Exploited, Discharge, UK Subs, Subhumans, etc., all British bands balking at Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. I find it sobering today that we metalheads just fell in line with that ideology as American mutts getting off on caustic sounds. Why were we balking at Reagan, anyway? Just because the punks we later aligned with through crossover, were doing it?

    It’s the sheer definition of prefabricated rebellion. Today, this generation inherits what we fought for and paid their dues for, and I fail to see why this gen is so goddamned angry at-large, considering the conveniences, general ease of life, self-entitlement, legal protection that wasn’t there and a bevvy of choice. I think of Devo’s “Freedom of Choice” song (an all-time favorite of mine) that told us to think for ourselves amidst the tundra of influencers and products, half of what they are now. Other than racism and social injustice that pervades and spits on the legacies of the 60s freedom fighters, I just don’t get what platform there is, especially from behind a keyboard, cell phone or video game controller.

    The mere fact the “n” is allowed to infiltrate polite society like a dare from this generation is mockery, perverse and appalling. THAT is well-deserved of a gobbing, especially from all those preceding them who took their lumps chasing that stinking word underground. Unfortunately, it’s no better than Hot Topic peddling branded and endorsed faux anarchy.

    Liked by 1 person

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