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The purpose of this paper is to develop a critical review of documentary films with an aim of examining their analysis of issues related to the youth music and the culture developed through music. The analysis attempts to develop a comprehensive understanding of the identities and identity formation through music and the consequences of these identities to the individuals involved. In particular, the documentaries reviewed provide a firsthand information from interviewing individuals who participated in the development of some music cultures during their youth and their perceptions towards the identities assumed at the time and how this has had an impact on their current lives.
The 2011 American film “The other F word” attempts to explore the lives and worlds of some former musicians under the punk rock genre. Using an interview approach to examine the topic, the film attempts to show the transition of the aging musicians from their assumed identities two or three decades ago to adult life. In particular, it emphasizes on the process of transition from rock identities to parenthood. In addition, the film shows how these individuals try to maintain a contrast between taking responsibilities as a parent in the current life and the assumed rock identities that were characterized with authoritarian lifestyles.
The film interviews more than twenty musicians that actively participated in the rock culture in the 1970s and 1980s. In addition, the film focuses on examining other individuals that were not part of the music group, but assumed punk or rocker identities, thus becoming part of the subculture.
The film begins with a review of the acts and scenes that were common during the active days of the rockers and punks between 1960s and 1980s. It shows episodes of the dynamic activities involved, including live performances, rough and daring acts such as fights, jumping from high grounds, excessive speeding and other vigorous activities. As each individual is examined, the film shows how he copes with the current life. The responsibilities of taking care of their children and families seems to be an important part of their current life (The Other F-Word). Among the main interviewees in this film is Jim Lindberg, the former lead singer of Pennywise group.
It shows his former activities as a leading punk and compares his former life and identify with his current situation. He is filmed at home in South Bay, Los Angeles, with his wife and three daughters. He says that he still loves music and often participates in playing guitar (The Other F-Word). As a part of his parental role, Lindberg teaches his daughters how to play guitar. However, his emphasis is to give them a good life and education. He says that he faces challenges trying to balance between being a punk and a father, where taking responsibilities is a critical issue.
The film also examines other individuals such as Fat Mike, a heavily built individual, who was active in the NOXF group of punk musicians. In this film, Fat Mike is at his home taking care of his daughter. He struggles to fit in the common man’s life. For instance, he still likes punk clothes, including jackets bearing graffiti. However, he has to bring up a modern and normal family, focusing on giving the best life possible for his daughter. In addition, the heavy tattoo marks that were placed on his body, especially the arms, are still clear. He seems not to like them anymore, often wearing long sleeves to hide them from his daughter and other individuals.
The interview further shows how most of the unlucky former punks and rockers have had to undergo social problems in their families. For instance, most admit that their former identities caused family breakages early in adult life. Due to the vigorous activities and tours involved, the individuals were mostly absent from their families. The film shows that most partners could not withstand being left for days and months, which ended up in marriage breaking away. In addition, most other former punks such as Art Alexakis still hold the memories of their brutal life, including abusing their partners. They remember their lives in music and drugs.
Since aging is inevitable, some of the former punks, such as Lindberg and Andrea Blaugrund, admit that they have to balance between normal and punk life. As such, they are currently trying to remain young by applying hair dye and hemorrhoid ointments.
The film was made in 2011 in the US and features more than 20 former active members of various punk and rock groups that contributed to the formation of the rock and punk subcultures in the US. It was written and directed by Andrea Blaugrund Nevins and explores the lives of the aging punk rock musicians in transition into parenthood but trying to maintain their former identities. Therefore, the main subject of this film is the transformation of identities of rock, punk culture to adult life, where parental responsibilities take much of the individuals’ life and time. The film uses an interview approach to examine the topic at hand.
It features a number of leading musicians in groups such as the adolescents, Total Chaos, Everclear, NOXF, Bad Religion and others. In most of the scenes depicted in the film, the individuals are examined in their homes as they take parental roles such as taking children to school, teaching them basic skills, playing and even cooking. For each individual interviewed in the film, it is shown that there exists a contrast between the former identities and the new identity as a father. It further focuses on the contrast in lifestyle between the old punk identity and the modern life, including the type of clothing worn, the time dedicated for entertainment and perceptions towards life and culture (Steinberg, Parmar and Richard 54).
Quite evidently, the film’s major target audience is the modern youths who are currently in the a critical stage of development, a stage that affected the current lives of most of the individuals. It seems that the filmmakers wanted to help the modern young people who are active in hip hop and other subcultures to be careful, especially in their personal lives and avoid certain things such as violence, drugs and irresponsible behaviors. It tends to use the interview examples to remind the young people in the modern times that they have a future to care for. It also reminds them that they are still growing and will soon be unable to be active in these subcultures.
Nevertheless, the film also targets individuals who witnessed the growth and decline of the punk and rock subculture. These are individuals who were fans or active members of the subcultures, especially between 1970s and 1990s. Today, as they struggle to fit in their aging self, they find it enjoyable to reflect on their previous lives. They are most likely to find the film enjoyable as it reminds them of their old lifestyles, but shows its impacts on the current life.
As described above, the film maker is conversant with the punk subculture. The quality and nature of storytelling can be described as excellent for a number of reasons. First, it is based on narrations by individuals who were actively involved in the formation and growth of the punk and rock subcultures. For instance, individuals like Jim Lindberg, Rob Chaos and Art Alexakis are known to have undergone transitions in difficult situations, which caused them humiliations as they lost public interest and try to settle with their families.
The information given by the interviewees in this film is based on firsthand experience rather than historical narrations. Secondly, the film uses visual evidence to develop the argument. For instance, the filmmaker attempts to shift scenes to show the former activities of each individual during his active years and the current situation. It shows individuals taking part in the vigorous music activities, including the vigorous dance moves and instruments involved, fighting and taking daring tasks such as jumping from higher grounds. The film then shifts to show how the individuals are coping with life. In most of the scenes, the individuals are filmed from their homes, where they have to take responsibilities as fathers and breadwinners.
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The filmmaker also attempts to describe the plurality of the viewpoints held by the interviewees. For instance, most of the individuals admit that their current life is good. They find it important and enjoyable to break away from the past and assume a normal and less public profile. Several interviewees such as Fat Mike and Jim Lindberg seem to care about the tattoos they received as a mark of the punk identities. Yet, they seem to have some regrets for offering their bodies to the punk subculture, which left permanent marks. On the other hand, some individuals such as Lindberg says that they still like their old identities.
They are struggling to maintain their old self against the aging self. For instance, the application of hair dye and hemorrhoid ointments proves that they have a negative perception towards aging. It is also worth noting that some individuals like Tony Cadena, Josh Freese and Fleas hold that their old punk identities provided them with what they were looking at life. With the popularity and rapid growth of the punk rock during their active years, the individuals achieved economic gains, which sustains their current life. Thus, some of them, though no longer active, hold the punk life of 1980s with high regards for its contribution to the American music and the economy.
It is also clear that the filmmaker has attempted to use visual and audio aspects to contribute to the ideas presented. As depicted in the film, the heavy sounds involved in rock music are used in the background when scenes of the current life for some of the individuals are shown. In addition, the heavy sounds are used when presenting scenes recorded in 1970s to 1990s, when some of the individuals were active in punk rock.
The film is an excellent analysis of the situation at hand- the transition of individuals from public identities (rock identities) to parenthood. Although it emphasizes on the challenges that these individuals undergo trying to fit in parenthood and maintain their former identities, it leaves out the audience to make their own conclusions. For instance, it provides first hand information from interviews and video depiction of some of the individuals in their current lives. It does not try to make the audience believe that assuming identities associated with music culture is good or bad. In addition, it does not warn young people to be responsible even when they are active members of certain subcultures. Nevertheless, the idea is to show the negative impacts of dedicating a person’s whole youth to music, drug and other activities at the expense of the family and the future.
I find the film an an important source of education and inspiration to the younger generations. The film invokes a mixed of feeling among the viewers. For instance, the depiction of the scenes recorded during the height of punk rock inspires the current young people. The active roles and tasks taken by most of the individuals are attractive, including vigorous dance and musicals. However, comparing the current life and old identities for some of the interviewees invokes a feeling of sympathy. For instance, the narration by Alexakis is quite sad. One sympathizes with his situation, having lost contact with his former family. Nevertheless, the dedication of some of the individuals to their families is an encouragement to the young people, giving them hope that even after involving in the popular culture, they will eventually be in a position to fit in the normal life.
The film is similar to some of the films watched in this course. For instance, it is similar in some aspects to “Forever Young”, which shows how rock and roll grew. It is also similar to “Dancing in the Street”, a documentary film that depicts the growth of rock music and subculture. Nevertheless, it is unique in that it attempts to show the difference between the two identities- the punk identities and the identity as a parent. Thus, this film fits the sociology of youth culture and subculture and the impact of assuming personal and collective identities on an individual’s future life.
Steinberg, Shirley, Priya Parmar and Birgit Richard. Contemporary Youth Culture: An International Encyclopedia. New York: Greenwood Publishing, 2012. Print.
The Other F-Word. Dir Andrea Blaugrund Nevins. New York: Oscilloscope Laboratories, 2011. DVD.