For some reason, the picture above has caused a little bit of controversy.
You might ask what’s the deal? I did too. It’s a picture of Kristen Stewart( star of those Twilight movies) wearing a Black Flag shirt. Upon first glance, I didn’t even know her by name, and I’ve never seen any of those Twilight movies, and I don’t plan on watching them. But Black Flag is my favorite band and the greatest American punk band of all time.
Many fans of the band had a problem with this picture. I noticed the picture on Facebook last week, and underneath it was a barrage of vitriolic remarks, comments like “That bitch has never listened to Black Flag a day in her life, “poser,” “I’m going to burn all of my Black Flag shirts now.” For those befuddled by such comments, I can explain in two words—punk dogmatism, so–called non conformists creating a set of rules to impose upon others.
I can understand. Because that was once me, but I grew up and acquired a more panoramic worldview.
For many within the punk scene, and other subculture scenes, the music and so many of the trappings associated with it becomes a refuge from all things mainstream and conventions I, and others, did not fit into, and in the mind of a punk-rock dogmatist, Stewart wearing that shirt is an encroachment upon on that refuge.
I understand. The four bars can take on an almost sacred quality, but to say someone shouldn’t be listening to a band or jumping to the conclusion that this person doesn’t listen to said band, which the person is wearing a shirt of, just because she is in a higher income bracket is prejudicial and bigoted. That’s a mentality that is antithetical to what Black Flag was about.
The band shattered schemas and destroyed dogmas.
During their early days, Black Flag would not attempt to break-up fights at their shows. The philosophy behind such a laissez faire approach was that to intervene would be acting as an authority, and Black Flag was a band that railed against authority.
Many punk rock dogmatists would turn on Black Flag when the band released My War, an album that saw Greg Ginn and company moving away from the three chord blitzkrieg approach and contained songs with a slower, dirge-like, tempo.
As far as to whether Kristen Stewart listens to Black Flag or not, I don’t know her, so I can’t provide a definitive answer, but she has been photographed before in shirts of other punk bands—Minor Threat and the Clash. One can connect the dots and see a pattern pointing to that she probably is a fan of the genre.
For what reason do punk rock dogmatists attempt to rationalize a hatred of Kristen Stewart? Because she’s a movie star? Other “movie stars” who listen to one variation of punk or another do exist.
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) listens to the Sex Pistols. I read an issue of Blender in which Steve Buscemi was quoted as saying that one of his favorite albums was the Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Sasha Grey is a fan of Black Flag, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, and the Stooges.
I’ve seen pictures of her in a Misfits shirt and a Slayer shirt. Why did those photos not receive the same reactions as Kristen Stewart rocking the four bars? Nowhere did I see any “that bitch doesn’t fucking listen to the Misfits; she’s a poser.” Is there really that much difference between the social or economic status of the two.
They are both attractive female faces of young Hollywood, though Stewart never took massive loads to the face in a fifteen man blow-bang or something like that. Is that why Sasha Grey gets a pass on liking punk, metal, and experimental ? Is it because she’s been photographed by Richard Kern? And Kern had previously worked with Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, and Henry Rollins?
Both Sasha Grey and Kristen Stewart are successful actresses. They undoubtedly have an income and net worth that is drastically greater than myself and most of the people reading this. The notion that how much money someone makes should serve as a barometer of whether they can listen to punk or not was espoused. Some Facebook class warrior proclaimed that punk is only for those without means.
I read that and thought what a bunch of trite, cliché Exploited inspired babel. Most people in poverty do not want to stay there. The drive towards upward socio-economic mobility is a human drive that goes on, and should go on, regardless of what music someone listens to or subculture one is a part of.
But the icing on the cake was a middle-aged (looking ) man saying that back in the day girls like that wouldn’t have given us a chance.( or something like that) What does he mean by “girls like that?” attractive women?, actresses?, etc. etc.
I hate to be the one to burst this guy’s bubble, but time doesn’t stay frozen in some type of equilibrium; time moves forward in a linear fashion, a fact that even extends to subculture scenes. Things change. It’s not back in the day, it’s today.
Punk and hardcore were essentially revolutionary forces for change, screaming for change as Uniform Choice put it, and at least on a number of social levels, the revolution was successful. A greater acceptance of tattoos is a testament to the success of that revolution, so is the growth of skate culture and the popularization of shoe brands like Vans.
When a mainstream Hollywood actress wears a band shirt in 2013 that might have gotten you beaten up in 1983, such a fashion statement can be chalked up as a success of the punk rock revolution of yore, and I don’t object to her wearing it. I think it’s pretty cool.