Friday, September 13, 2013

The Other F Word

I watched Andrea Blaugrund's documentary The Other F Word last night.

I had a lot of hope for the movie, a documentary about punk rock fathers. It ended up bumming me out. For one thing, it is really hyperbolic and myopic in its description of punk. It acts like punks were the first and only rebellious youth movement, totally ignoring jazz, the beats, and rock n' roll. How did those guys become fathers? How did Pete Townsend or Miles Davis make the transition to adulthood?
I also am not a huge fan of most of the bands profiled. They are almost all Epitaph bands whose idea of punk is very different than mine. Their idea is much more rooted in suburban rebellion, getting fucked up and saying fuck the system. For me, punk was less about nihilism and more about a progressive alternative to America's shift towards conservatism in the 80s. It was about being anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, and pro-women and gay rights. It was about trying to find an alternative to commercial culture. That punk ethos isn't really analyzed at all in the movie. Instead, it's basically about how hard it is to be a dad when you tour constantly in a rock band. That is interesting, but it's not really about punk rock dads per se. And they aren't really very rebellious. Jim Lindberg, the guy from Pennywise, acts like it is the height of rebellion to get his daughter's name tattooed on him. Newsflash: tattoos are no longer rebellious. Every square-ass in finance under 40 has a tattoo. Every frat boy has their greek letters tattooed on them. It is more rebellious to not have tattoos, or go Lars Frederiksen's route and get "Skunx" tattooed on your forehead in shitty prison style. Lars drove me nuts, because he was so self-marginalized. He dressed like an anachronistic clown, and then acted put out that people looked at him funny. You are dressed like a punk extra from an 80s action movie: of course people are going to look at you funny. Bondage pants have been out of style for at least two decades.

That's the thing: punk isn't really rebellious anymore. You look at a Total Chaos video and they are basically like a hair metal band, with more power chords.

The women's voices are also pretty silent. Sure, it's hard to be on tour 200 days a year when you have three kids, but what is it like trying to take care of three little girls by yourself while your husband is gone?

I could definitely relate to some aspects of the movie. I was never really a punker, but there is a part of me that identifies with punk, and it's hard to reconcile that with being a parent. There's a part where Lindberg describes how he used to be against the system, and now he is part of it. I struggle with that too. I have the house and the mortgage and a gardner and a cleaning service, and all of these trappings of upper-middle class life that I used to scoff at. I had a realization a few years ago that you can't fuck the system, the system fucks you. The best path forward is to try to play within the rules of the game while hanging on to your decency and integrity by what Buddhists call right livelihood and right action. I try to treat other people with respect and not get addicted to money and stuff.  So I went back to school for management, and I worry about my earning potential, and how I can best provide for my family. It's a weird shift to have to make, and there are times when I become painfully aware that I have become what so many kids mock: safe, suburban, middle-class. But I don't think living hand to mouth in squalor sounds like a great idea. I'd rather be boring than irresponsible at this point.

But I'm rambling. My main point is, The Other F Word is disappointing. Lindberg wrote a book on being a parent that I might check out. I also recommend reading Rad Dad, which is about how radical and activist dads. It's often a little too lefty for my tastes, but it is still an interesting take on alternative approaches to fatherhood.

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