Depoliticized Punk

A few days ago, the punk3jj3 blog addressed the issue of the genre’s ‘death’ at the Junos, approaching the issue with a refreshingly novel tone. Instead of mourning the genre’s new hybridity and dilution, the blog looked at how other genre’s have adopted parts of punk DIY culture in their aesthetic expression, paying tribute to the longevity of the genre’s influence. While this does not necessarily indicate the revival of “authentic” punk culture, it provides insight into the ongoing evolutionary process being undergone in the music industry.

03-lightsJuno nominee Lights, though punk3jj3 notes that her makeup, hair and tattoos harken back to a punk-esque aesthetic, plays music and maintains a media image that is non-threatening and highly attractive to common viewers. I would opine that the traditionally countercultural aspects of punk (and Riot Grrrl) – tattoos, grungey clothing, jagged, unkempt hair – are no longer subversive and thus cannot be associated with the genre except in retrospect.

Riot Grrrl’s lasting influence on female fashion and music is evident within the present day music industry; from haircuts to attitudes to outfits, the ‘angry women in rock’ aesthetic is prevalent. Though these attributes cannot solely be traced back to Riot Grrrl roots, it is fascinating to observe how female punk subculture is appropriated and toned-down for mainstream audiences. These characteristics exist almost entirely apart from the political agendas that were so central to Riot Grrrl culture. Authentic ‘angry women in rock’ culture cannot exist apart from its ideological functions and social circumstances, however once musicians adopt subversive political messages, their entire existence becomes problematic and they risk their media popularity. The result, of course, is what we’ve seen at the Junos; rockstars appropriate countercultural symbols to suit a specific image whilst avoiding the political connotations that were originally attached to these symbols.

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