In theory, I am writing a chapter proposal on Bad Girls this weekend. Whether or not this will come to fruition is a question that will best be answered on Monday. When the proposal is due.
My academic career and research curiosities (okay, so that comes out really badly) have led me to skirt around the subject on a number of occasions, riffing off of the stories of Lilith, the Queen of the Night, assorted fairy tales, video characters and Diamanda Galás at various times. There exists a thread between these fictional and real women, but I’ve never attempted to suss it out clearly, and I am not certain that what the call for critical responses to the “bad girl” in popular culture is looking for is this binding. I have the shape, the notes, but not that…whatever it is the yanks this together (that isn’t Benjamin).
(Before I move on. Diamanda Galás: “This is the Law of the Plague” and “Skótoseme“. Oh, hell…”Do You Take This Man“, for sport, particularly if you want to go for something more…straight. And the last two are with John Paul Jones. Plague Mass is also worth a listen. You’re welcome.)
Certainly there are elements of the big theme–redemption–is here, though that goes in dozens of directions (though, having typed it…this could be the starting point I was looking for. Violent redemptions. Redeeming bad girls–or not, as is the case so frequently, etc. ACK! I know what the damn thread is! I knew I’d find it if I stopped looking). I was looking for a story about Joan Jett that I ran across a dozen or more times in the punk oral histories, and damned if I can’t lay hands on it this time.
What I kept returning to as I worked through an outline without the hook (I knew I should freewrite) was the narrative of the groupie. I even reread parts of Roxana Shirazi’s book, Last Living Slut, reminding me just how degradation was framed throughout. Specifically, I reread a scene I have written about before (misspellings and all), when she depicts encouraging Synyster Gates to urinate on her breasts. (N.B.: Piss is apparently a theme for them. There is something here to unpack, but I suspect it ends around egotistical assholes who know how to play the roles. I swear, if the porn remark on the second link doesn’t scream “no, really, trying to be bad boy,” I’m not sure what does)**. She describes them, on the one hand, as so frightening that she can’t look at their pictures for long, particularly Shadows’ (Matt, though the stage name does seem relevant here). She does note that “though their look seemed aggressive at first glance, their reputation for excessive behavior unfortunately reeked of public-relations press release” (171). See also, “World’s Most Dangerous Band” motifs.
Though she twice uses “serial killer” to describe one or more members of the band, she also uses “instant cake batter”, “cute as puppies” and “soft, Cheerios-fed, California beach boys,” which may be my favorite description ever. Brian gets an additional nod toward “blue collar machismo” (which is interesting in light of the rest of the chapter). With respect to Matt, she later remarks “[his] face was actually less of that of a ravaged serial killer than that of a lovely little boy. That damn marketing department didn’t do them justice” (173). I’m still trying to figure out the ravaged serial killer bit–that marketing department (and the band) was never unaware–no matter the characterizations–of the, um, attractiveness of the band members (for the love of Pete, you need only see them once to recognize that they are perfectly aware of it too. Watch Brian identify the young ladies who are seeing the band for the first time. Trust me, he can. He flirts shamelessly and wins their hearts. Every. Single. Time. Man knows how to perform. Then there is that vocalist and his dimples. He can get away with pretty much anything with just a smile. I feel certain he’s known that since childhood).
The chapter’s structure seems to bear some of the dichotomy of bad boy/wonderbread out: Brian and Roxana go off alone, engaging in an act neither have done before and subsequently return to the bus in silence. Her following descriptions of her infantilize him: “He was mumbling, and I just wanted to hold his hand and tell him it would be okay” (179). Here, she sees herself entirely empowered in the situation–he is merely following her lead. He subsequently disappears only to return in a bizarre…not sure what to call it here…Brian ex machina? He stands at this point as the confirmation of the archetypal PR-created bad boy (heart of gold near the surface, of course) that she thought they would be in the first place.
He comes of as so much the little boy, which was, I suspect, the point, particularly as he serves as the foil to the Rev in the next scene. While the first scene was shrouded in sort of privacy–though outside, they were alone–this sequence is public (even though on the bus). She follows the Rev and her friend Lori upstairs… I can’t do justice to this paragraph in summary, so…here:
I can only describe what ensued in the next half hour as nerdy frustration. The Rev tried to fuck me while the singer, M. Shadows, watched [***]. When Synyster showed up, though, The Rev’s dick died. He kept trying to fuck, but his dick was spaghetti limp. He tried to shove it in again and again. (179)
That “nerdy frustration” apparently comes out as a fairly violent, perhaps drug-induced assault on Roxana by The Rev. She grabs Lori and her clothes and leaves furious…”because I hadn’t got proper sex’ (180). I don’t even know where to start with this. The humorous: where exactly was Lori (who goes unmentioned between upstairs and exit)? Unless bus lounges have gotten somewhat less cozy, we’ve got a considerable number of people stuffed in here. Not going to touch the Magical Brian ™ arrival. And then there is the obvious thing–she brushes off having had her head slammed into the ground, angry instead at sexual frustration. Granted, I’m making a judgement here about how she “should” react–certainly she has her own agency, but it’s troubling, particularly as it is hardly the only denial of violence.
I confess that my recall of her depiction was off–I thought she had described Matt in some detail during this scene (including some reference to the omnipresent aviators), but I apparently made that part up. Which means I am rewriting this book in my head. I’m not sure I want to follow that too much further. But, now that I think on it…The Rev and Brian are both framed as little boys, aren’t they? One is shy and mumbling in the face of her empowered self, and the other is an angry little boy who doesn’t get what he wants (and, to that end, she doesn’t either). The whole damn chapter is about children, isn’t it? Right down to Matt as “lovely little boy.”
How in the blue hell did I end up here?
Well, at least it’s getting research out of my brain and into the ether. Even if it is research I would never submit.
Though apparently I’ll happily post it publicly.
*What are the corollaries for bad girls on this? I suspect there are more similarities that I was assuming at first blush. Bad Boys with hearts of gold are, after all, stock in trade.
**Important reminder: immaturity. Eye-rolling, remarkable, immaturity. One hopes this is at least partially self-aware caricature. Actually, it’s damn difficult to ever read Zacky through any other frame. As the world’s finest internet troll (retired), he knows something about how to stay in character.
***Fits nicely with the porn remark, yes? Straight on, dude.