Subculture in America pt. 2

When taking the time to consider the film Absolute Beginners and its depiction of the Notting Hill riots as a kind of rock opera compared to the novel’s depiction of a darker, more somber toned version of events, we see the conflict of image vs. word. Consider MacInnes’ descriptions: “Quite decent, respectable people they seemed, too: white-collar workers and their wives, I expect, who’d probably been out to do their shopping. Well, they saw the lads get in the Spades’ car, and drive it against a concrete lamp-standard, and climb back in their handy little delivery vans, and drive away” (246). The crowds of white collar workers, quite civilized, escalating racial violence. “Then came another incident–and soon, as you’ll understand, I began to lose count a little, and, as time went on, lose count a bit of what time was, as well” (247). The narrator’s loss of time seems to be a loss of existential identity in the temporal landscape–but it is not silly. The crowd is searching for violence. For a subject to exact violence upon.


“Well they weren’t disappointed long. Because out of the Metropolitan Railway station–the dear old London Transport, we all think so safe and reliable–came a bunch of passengers, and among them was a Spade” (247). The subject to be brutalized. “A boy of my own age, I’d say, carrying a holdall and a brown paper parcel–a serious-looking kiddy with a pair of glasses, and one of those rather sad, drab suits that some Spades wear, particularly students, in order to show the English people that we musn’t think they’re savages in grass skirts and bones stuck in their hair” (247). What is to be made of the image of this poor victim, so much in contrast to the vibrant silliness of the film’s West Side Story-ish portrayal of the Notting Hill riots?


I remember an American movie from 1979–The Warriors–a film based on Sol Yurik’s dark novel about gang warfare. The film became a greatly exaggerated version of the book, a musical or fantasy, if you will, as the director felt no one would allow him to make a direct adapation. Hollywood lore posits violence and rioting broke out in response to the film despite its fantastic tone. Fear of glorifying gang violence on the bigscreen became a talking point in the media even though the Warriors depicted gangs of mimes on roller skates, rednecks in overalls, and a weirdo who wore beer bottles on his fingers. This fantastical version of gang warfare in New York sparked fear and debate about how violence should be depicted on screen.

Whether or not this ultimately affected the 1986 adapation of MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners is certainly worth debating, but the spectacle of seeing rioting, the imagery of gang warfare displayed as an actual dance number, allows us to wonder.

America’s subcultures in the late 70s and 80s were marked by fear and violence. Gangs prowling the urban America. To show the reality of this on the bigscreen would be to glorify it–or so people believed.


Works Cited

MacInnes, Colin. Absolute Beginners. Allison and Busby, 1980.


Hate is NEVER Okay. This Is England Movie Response–Meghan

This Is England, directed by Shane Meadows, was an interesting movie that triggered a lot of different emotions for me. Throughout the entire movie I was really concerned about Shaun’s mother’s parenting style. She gave me some hope when she went to the cafe to confront the gang for cutting Shaun’s hair…but then she left him with them! I was pretty shocked by that. I’m not a parent, so I can’t judge; however, I feel like you wouldn’t want your young son (I think they said he was twelve?) being influenced by and hanging around much older kids. So that was surprising. I was also really sad for Shaun the whole time. He obviously didn’t have a full grasp on what was going on with the Skinhead gang. I thought is was a really low blow for Combo to convince Shaun that in order to make his father proud he had to be an extreme nationalist and hurt innocent people. It was truly a tragic movie.

Furthermore, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to a quote from one of the boys (I’m sorry I don’t remember his name–I think they jokingly called him Tubby?) at the Skinhead meeting. After the meeting was over, one of the boys asked if the other believed everything the men were saying about nationalism and sending immigrants back to where they came from. The other boy replied (this might not be exactly the words he used, but it is pretty close) “if it wasn’t right, all these people wouldn’t be here.” He was referring to the Skinheads and defending that they were right because there were lots of people who believed it. Of course, we could brush this off and say it was just a child misunderstanding and following authority figures. However, let’s say it’s more than that. I think right now, specifically what has been going on in our own country, it is an important time to look at this mindset and identify how problematic it is. I would like to give a brief anecdote of something that happened over the past weekend:

For this anecdote, I will not name any names in order to respect the anonymity of the people involved. Over the past weekend, an African-American employee at a company that will also remain anonymous, was racially discriminated against by a customer. The employee offered assistance to the customer that had just walked in and the customer denied his assistance saying that he would wait for “the white guy” to help him. Without arguing, the employee accepted and told his coworker that the customer was waiting for his help. Meanwhile, the employee went into the backroom and came out a few minutes later. When he came out, the same customer called him “the N word” and continued to do so. The employee rightfully became offended and asked him to leave. The customer did not leave and proceeded to call the police and tell them that he would “shoot [the employee] myself if they didn’t get here fast.” Luckily, the police arrived quickly and arrested the customer.

This is unfortunately a very true story. Perhaps it is a coincidence that this happened soon after the election. However, it seems too me a little too coincidental considering all the hate that has erupted this past week.

I do not want to get into a political battle, nor do I want to offend anyone. I will say that there has been much hate and negativity from both sides of the spectrum and violence is never the answer to problems. Unfortunately, I think the mindset that the kid in the movie brings up–the “everyone else is doing it, so it must be right” attitude–is terrifying and very applicable to what is happening in our country. Just because one thinks a behavior is acceptable does not mean that it is. I know that everyone in our class understands that, my intention is not to talk down to anyone. However, I think this it is unacceptable that so many members of our country are giving in to this idea.

It should never be okay to treat another human being the way this employee was treated in the anecdote. The hate rhetoric that has come from this election is unacceptable. I am by no means saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a bad person–I don’t believe that at all. However, I do believe that it is ignorant to disregard the behavior and hate rhetoric that has been going on among our fellow Americans.

Another quick anecdote: Last week, the day after the election, I was talking to someone who told me about an experience her friend had earlier that morning. She said her friend was at a gym and two men next to her winked at her and one of them said to the other, “now that Trump is President, we can grab that anytime we want.” They said this within hearing range of the woman.

This is also unacceptable. It makes me sick to think human being can see other human beings as objects. Though this is nothing new, it is still upsetting. It concerns me that so many people have found an excuse to be shitty people in the name of Trump’s Presidency. I will stop there because, like I said, I have no interest in arguing.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that hate is NEVER okay. I think the movie This Is England, depicted a realistic and sad example of the hate that can exist in humanity. I think it also represented how meaningful words and actions are. Far too often, I think people forget that words and actions matter. Not only do your words and actions effect how the world sees you, but how you see yourself. This is America and we need to change our words and actions so we do not lose what we have fought long and hard to protect.