You dyed your hair green when you were fifteen. Leather jackets line shelves in Topshop. Has pop eaten itself or has it just continued to be sick? Every book has been written, mashed up, and then published again. No one cares about sex before marriage any more. Marriage ain't what it used to be. No one frowns at your shredded jeans. If they do, they're old fashioned. Boring. Ignore-able. Everyone has smoked green. Everyone has a tattoo.
How do you rebel these days?
Is there anything left to subvert?
As ever, rebellion comes from disregarding the norm. If the norm has become an antiquated rebellious look then the would-be-rebel must look elsewhere. Likewise in other aspects of culture - music, literature, art - the rebellious is now the mainstream. Is anyone shocked? Perhaps the new wave of conservatism that is sure to arise to remind us that too much freedom is just too much, will be?
But why do you need to subvert anything?
Because that is how people and culture progresses.
But how do you do it now? If you're naked, I've already seen it. If I don't understand it, I've already googled it. If you dress crazy, I already bought the t-shirt. So how do you do it now? How does culture go beyond the rebellion of forty years ago? How do we advance through subversion?
I don't know.
John Waters thinks the only way is to be unique, to be truly different and unafraid. Tavi Gevinson, the teen fashion blogger who dresses herself like an old lady, agrees. Personally, I think THIS is fairly subversive. And changed my perception a bit.
I have just finished reading Green Wheat, a novella by Colette (yes, Gigi, Colette). It was first published in the early 1920's in weekly sections in a Parisian newspaper edited by her husband. Before the concluding segment ran, it was pulled, due to the outrage of it's 'frank' portrayal of teen sexuality. Of course, reading it now, the concept seems laughable. I wasn't even sure if they had really done it, because it seems so concerned with modesty.
To be frank, I am amazed that anyone is really, truly 'shocked' by anything Lady Gaga does. Is the generation a few years below me shocked? What does 'shocked' mean in this instance? Already it has over taken my perception of what that means. While differences that were once SHOCKINGLY immutable have merged, the concept of Difference, of The Other, will remain forever I think.
So Subversion remains to be Difference.
But how do you achieve that now?
Perhaps shocking people into something new or provocative is not necessary any more. Perhaps provocation does not really apply to kids who have got it all from the web. Perhaps, (returning to Tavi and Generation Y), because our resources are so vast these days, changing people's minds comes through the alteration of the individual experience, not the collective cultural shift, as culture is so fragmented and (ironically) flat.
We all know the saying that, 'A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,' so too does culture advance first by the alteration of perception in one mind. Culture can now advance in many different directions at the same time. (Are there really sub-cultures now, or just many cultures that form the greater culture? Is this Altermodernity?)
Instead of trying to shock all of us, should artists, designers and so on instead try and coax groups of us? Because, in the vastness of the Web, of the changing world, how else do you touch the mind of the individual? In a smaller, closer, more specific way, internal rebellion occurs. And what is more mind-altering than the rebellion you wage against yourself?
I leave you with this absolutely amazing trailer for a film called Wild For Kicks. Well, aren't we all wild now?