The Diluted State of Punk

With a recent slew of documentary films and books, punk’s forty year old body has been repeatedly repackaged, sweetened and sold to the masses at the mall, mystifying and irritating many people in the process. In The Baffler, Eugenia Williamson analyzes punk’s history, evolution, literature and commodifycation and addresses the lingering question: what does being ‘punk’ even mean anymore more?

Besides, anyone who’s seen the Ramones documentary End of the Century knows that punks weren’t entirely free from rules, even within the confines of their small domain. In one of the film’s saddest sequences, Dee Dee Ramone—the band’s lovable, goofy bass player and resident junkie sexpot—tries to set out on his own as a white rapper. By the time he hit his forties, he had grown tired of the bowl haircut, tight jeans, and leather jacket dress code enforced by Johnny Ramone, a man who thanked George W. Bush at his induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Chastened by the verdict of the market—and it must be conceded, abundant evidence of his absent rapping talent—Dee Dee fatalistically dons his bomber jacket and returns to the Ramones fold, never again to depart from the prescribed formula in the short balance of his life. So much for punks doing whatever the fuck they wanted.

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