Friday, July 25, 2003

September 11, the Sex Pistols, and an "End of the World" party

In the weeks of lead-up to the 25 July release of the much-leaked US congressional report into the September 11 attacks, lots of blog-ops had presented themselves to me. Today though, it all feels too anticlimactic for me to blog directly about. In particular, it seems depressingly party-political – I really can’t imagine an issue that is more deserving of bipartisan support, so bypassing the post-1975 norm of political paralysis stopping any substantive outcomes whatsoever. Anyway, I’m filing my response here away for another day.

Adding to my sense of blogger’s-block, just yesterday I read a quite different September 11 insight – a review of the DVD of the 2002 film, "The Rules of Attraction".

In what seems to me to be much more than a piece of production trivia, the final day of shooting the ultra-complex (see the film if you have't already) opening scene of “Rules” – a rich-kids’ undergrad party with a “End of the World” theme, all set in a kind of eternal nineteen-eighties time period – was 11 September 2001. Maybe its just me, but I find the resonances here jaw-dropping – an “on with the show” attitude, with a bevy of young nymph and hunk actors, filming a scene about a themed party, and all without the “End of the World” irony even being commented upon by anyone.

Instead, we just get a post-production talking-head taped interview with two of the “Rules” actors – as one of the usual handful of DVD extras – in which the duo talk about the day when the actors and crew members were openly crying off set, as the “party” shoot went on.

Which mental image, I think, pretty much sums up the cultural zeitgeist each of the 700 or so days since, as well. Yes, the show has indeed gone on, but you only have to step a few inches out of frame to be right back in the world of the unactable and raw. We all mainly live now in the interzone of these few inches – in an area akin to Korea’s DMZ, in that it is necessarily 100% free of something – irony.

If 11 September 2001 was an end of a world, a pretty good time and place to locate the start of this world would be 18 January 1978 in San Francisco – the Sex Pistols' last concert. The article that put such an idea in my head is compulsory reading, so please don’t just stop at my brief extrapolation and paraphrasing. 18 January 1978 in San Francisco was the punk movement’s crescendo and jumping-off point. Punk (and in case it’s not obvious, I’m also referring here to Western culture at large) then and there divided into two asymmetric moieties – one of mass hand-washing by a generation of baby boomers celebrating having finished the job of ‘68, and as for the other, from then on a forever-marginalized rump . . . well, what celebration? what future? – and what job?

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