Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Bruce LaBruce Film and the Question of "Emo"

The below is a trailer for Bruce LaBruce's new film Otto; or, Up With Dead People, set to CocoRosie.

(watch it before youtube bans it again)

Bruce LaBruce is a Canadian art-porn director whose former films Skin Flick, No Skin Off My Ass, and Hustler White sparked a great deal of controversy. This was particularly the case with his focus on gay sex between nazi skinheads, in the skin titles above, and a scene where an amputee penetrates another man with his leg stump in Hustler White (rumor has it someone had a heart attack in the Homo-a-Go-Go Festival whilst watching said scene).

The film looks like the highest production value LaBruce has had thus far, although I haven't seen all of his films. And it includes shots from an abandoned amusement park in the middle of Berlin, which I broke into last summer with a friend.* However, stylistically (and this may be a result of it being a flick focused on Zombies) the characters and the themes circulate around what may be understood, in the contemporary, as an "emo" aesthetic, which is to say some combination of older 90's "emo" fashion and the goth subculture's german expressionist, sex fascist visual iconography.

The reemergence of "emo" from the grave of the 1990s I have to say I find strangely troubling. What first started with bands like Moss Icon, Rites of Spring, wool sweaters, Winnie the Pooh imagery, and an emphasis on the power of punk-influenced crescendo has somehow gleaned, in its movement in the undercurrents of the internet, etc. the lace umbrella, and oddly over-gelled 1970s razor hair styles, and an emphasis on suffering. The musical and political trappings seem to have been all but lifted out of this new zombie "emo." I remember as a teenager watching the emo bands play with hardcore and crust punk bands in dirty basements, because Columbus had few venues for such bands so they all aggregated under the few that existed, I never could have predicted the strange places "emo" has sprouted up in. And despite the clashing aesthetics at times there seemed to be a kind of solid set of principles (critical of authority and exploitation) that underpinned these different genres or movements.

A student of mine this semester explored the emo riots in Mexico City. Where emo kids were targeted by the children of the bourgeoisie.

Here is an MTV report on the issue:

According, to the video the emo fashion seems clearly unconnected to observers from a politics or a clear musical aesthetic. Rather, it is a subculture often linked to "suffering" and also some interaction between bisexuality (goth) and homosexuality. The historical connection to the earlier version of this subculture, the importance of the archival knowledges that are commonly associated with (musically based) subcultures, are almost altogether absent. Instead, the word "emo" and the visual markers of the movement have survived the graveyard of cyberspace. This is clearly an instance of a purely postmodern subculture. At the same time the search for a meaningful type of expression for queer youth in Mexico (where machismo continues to rule) seems to have some exigence. For me it is difficult for me not to see that this is clearly a kind of need for queer youth and allies to have some social glue (be it aesthetic, etc.), but I have a difficult time dealing with my ambivalence to the subculture's undead status, wiped free of all memory of historical precedent, and lacking in contextual markers, like a postmodern zombie lumbering and hungry for consumerism.

*We seemed to be constantly fleeing from the grounds keeper who sped around in a black honda.

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