RUDIE CAN’T FAIL
The Punk Rocker Gets The Girl!
Now, don’t come kvetching to me about why I’m watching Bring It On months after its theatrical release. Let’s just say – ahem — that it’s for context, and leave it at that. Just like The Clash covering Vince Taylor & His Playboys on London Calling. And that leads to the point. In Bring It On, Our Heroine (Kirsten Dunst) not only befriends the punk rock chick who tries out for her elite cheerleading squad. She also falls for her new friend’s brother, a Clash-loving psuedo-intellectual who shreds a Dan-O-Lectro in his spare time and tries to teach his new girl about punk rock. There’s even a reference to his past in a Detroit high school. (See? Even Hollywood realizes Detroit is the new Seattle…). But here’s the funny part. Dunst is the head of the toniest cheer squad this side of Clueless. And here’s the blonde, bouncy cheerleading captain falling – for all practical purposes and Hollywood’s characterization amalgam theorems appreciated – for the local Indie Rocker. In his first scene, the kid sports beat up Chuck Taylors, the Ramones on his headphones, and a T-Shirt featuring Mick Jones and the boys. He promptly shows up the jocks with his smirky cool, and is immediately put in the good graces of Ms Dunst’s character, who in real life just might drop a quarter in the kid’s coffee cup, mistaking him for those less fortunate.
Which suggests the opening scenes of Gia, Angelina Jolie’s 1998 star vehicle that featured her as the doomed model whose innocence was corrupted by the Me Generation and her own excess. In the film, Gia waits outside the hoity-toity modeling agency for her photo shoot, only to have some of the more mamby pamby girls drop some loose change in her morning coffee. Ever the rebel, Gia struts into the agency and, staring down the smarmy receptionist, carves her name into the mahogany with her stiletto. That’s so PUNK, man. And that’s exactly the problem.
What is it about film that places the modicum of cool upon a genre that – in real life – is grudgingly respected at best? In the movies, the girls always go for the bad boy rocker/intellectual. Likewise, the girl who eats nails for breakfast – like Jolie’s Gia or Eliza Dukshu’s Missy in Bring It On – is met with hostility, then fear, and finally respect by those that would normally shun her. What it may come down to is this: The star of the movie cannot date his or her self. If the star in question is blonde, chiseled, or pretty, said star cannot date a similarly cheekbone’d or likewise coif’d individual. And in Hollywood’s streamlined view of Generation Y, there really are only two kinds of kids: Cool/Beautiful, and Cool/Intellectual. And in the latter archetype, musical taste always seems to be the way to display the difference.
THE RIGHT PROFILE
And in this bizarro Tinsel Town view of the world, the cool kid who digs The Clash, Iggy Pop, and Phillip K Dick is written like the punk rock Navy S.E.A.L. You know – in Baywatch, it’s his S.E.A.L. pedigree that gives Hasselhoff’s character his street –er, beach — cred. Spend any weeknight watching bad basic cable and you’ll come across an action move featuring a conflicted hero who harbors a black bag past as a demolition expert with the US Navy’s elite fighting force. Yeah, yeah, yeah — next. It’s the same thing with the rocker/intellectual archetype. If you need to make your star’s love interest cool, make him/her a rebel. The kind with a wallet chain, leather, and a tough attitude derived from the rebellious band T-shirts s/he wears to homeroom. Alicia Silverstone, aka the Kirsten Dunst of 3 years ago, made a similar move in Clueless. By finally falling for her nerdy, college-thinker stepbrother, Cher was simply following the Hollywood formula. And in last year’s Drive Me Crazy, Kirsten Dunst doppelganger and cool chick Melissa Joan Hart fell for her next door neighbor, a withdrawn misanthrope who nevertheless portrayed – In Hollywood’s eyes – the smart, sensitive rocker. In many ways Drive Me Crazy was a remake of She’s All That, starring Rachel Leigh Cook as the artistic geek who woos the class Cool despite her best efforts to remain a mousy painter. Which was in turn a remake of 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love, which followed the transition of a smart-yet-dopey kid into the true love of his class’s dream girl.
So what’s with this punk rocker/geek/rebel/intellectual archetype that keeps showing up in movies as the love interest? We’ve all seen where it ends. Thanks to real-life misanthrope John Cusack and his source material from Nick Hornby, America has seen what real Indie Rockers/Punks/psuedo-intellectuals tend to grow up to be: Frustrated record store owners who spend too much brain power on compilation CDs and not enough on personal hygiene. And yet, in the view of Hollywood, it’s this character set that presents the most pratfalls/romance for Gen Y movies being written at this moment. In real life, would the average impossibly attractive high school senior, who happens to be captain of her school’s cheerleading squad, go for, let’s say, Jack White of White Stripes? Or, to only add to their impossibly attractive hype machine, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes? Chances are – barring the millions that Casablancas and his mates will make in the next year on RCA – that it won’t happen. And yet, in the movies, composites of these guys are shitting on the captain of the football team and getting the girl in the process.
The guys I knew in high school who looked and acted like Dunst’s love interest in Bring It On usually got feces smeared on their car door handles at lunch. But for whatever reason, it’s these brave souls whose punk rock, book-reading lifestyles are perpetually eulogized on the big screen. What does this mean for all those skinny, burgeoning Indie Rockers out there in the Gen Y land? Well, probably not much. But at least they can take solace in the fact that they’ll grow up to be the guy with the coolest record collection. I’ll never understand Hollywood, but I’m glad that they think I’m the kind of guy that deserves the love of a starlet.