A few weeks ago Lorna Doom, original member of the Germs, passed away. When I heard the news, I thought it would be a good time to revisit Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization, get my snack on, rock out and maybe catch some footage of Lorna performing. After shelling out $4 (a pretty punk price) to Amazon (the least punk of all corporations) to rent the film for a week, I settled in with my crappy headphones and waited to be blown away by some woman punk power.
Doom had a total of about two minutes of screen time. The concert footage focused deliriously on Darby Crash’s antics, and the camera barely skimmed over to Lorna when he stumbled stage right. There was a talking-head shot Doom shared with a friend, holding the Germs album in her hands, not speaking. The more telegenic Exene had lots to say, but aside from a few colorful audience members, Spheeris didn’t dedicate much time to the women in the film. This got me to thinking.
Spheeris is fantastic. We saw her speak at Portland’s Hollywood theater a few years back and she’s eloquent and funny and fun. Wayne’s World is arguably one of the most crossover-y movies of all time (show me someone who doesn’t enjoy it and I’ll show you a kicker of baby animals) and her ongoing documentation of various music scenes are invaluable cultural documents. But what I was thinking about – and what continues to nag at me – is the film’s lack of representation of women. I suppose it was pretty representative of the LA early punk scene. Which was of course pretty much a cesspool of misogyny (yeah, I heard you, Fear).
History is just that, I reminded myself. Look at the great strides Women in Punk have made since then! In my lifetime I’ve seen so many amazing shows with, by, for women from that scene and beyond. I have had the privilege to see Alice Bag. Exene. Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde. The Go-Go’s, even. Later the Lunachicks and Team Dresch and Tribe 8. And so many of their progeny over so many years. Thinking of that made me feel better. All those punk and post-punk women, standing in a long row of badassness, making my life better all the time.
A few days after I’d gotten all my warm fuzzies neatly lined up, I was watching Saturday morning TV with my kids. On weekends, all PBS bets are off, and we were in the midst of a Spongebob binge when I heard a familiar punky refrain… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRd7-RYYN-g
My fuzzies fled. Mediocrity DOES rule. Punk IS well and truly dead. And I know I’m not the only parent who recognized that jam, so then I’m feeling super sorry for all the other punk moms out there. Right back to my post-Spheeris bum out.
Lucky for me, I sometimes read the NY Post. https://pagesix.com/2019/01/25/courtney-love-thinks-bikini-kill-suck/
It is the best of all possible worlds.