©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.