I am writing about how the metrosexual murdered subculture. In addition to the narcissism and the consumerism and the ‘neo liberal individual’, that caused the ‘radicalism’ of subcultures to fade away, I am trying to articulate something about how subcultures e.g. Punk, Mods Skinheads drew on a ‘retrosexual’ model of ‘traditional’ machismo but they could not sustain it. This was due to metrosexuality emerging, in part through the homoerotics of pop music and its imagery and the way male fans and male stars became such obviously commodified objects of desire. Also subcultures could not maintain their ‘macho’ cohesion due to the homosocial/homosexual dynamics of all male or male-dominated groups. The army is rare in that its ‘homoscial’ environment is strictly regulated, and occurs under the shadow of war. Male subculture groups were more anarchic and as we now know, have dissolved and disappeared for the reasons I have just listed.
I hope I am on the right lines. I am using this quote from Mark Simpson’s Male Impersonators:
‘Eventually of course, they stabilise (eg Heavy Metal) but that is also the moment when they go out of fashion- i.e. lose their power over (hip) young people. To be effective rock and roll has to appeal to the ‘kids’ desperation to escape the mortifying squareness of heterosexism, a route out of the crushing sex/gender Scylla and Charybdis* that await them on their voyage into adulthood.’ (Simpson 1994: 207)
This great quote made me think not only of the ‘mortifying squareness’ of heterosexual adulthood that I feared and resisted as a teen – and that I still do, but also of just how camp some of those macho pop stars and subculture heroes were. Buster Bloodvessel the rotund Ska singer, looks like a cross between Matt Lucas and Fred off Coronation Street!
My favourite punk pop star who really showed us that ‘traditional masculinity’ had no place in pop music or youth subcultures, is possibly David Bowie. And Simpson writes about him beautifully in Male Impersonators too. You know, Hugh Laurie can stick his L’oreal moisturiser up his tight retrosexual ‘clearly heterosexual’ ass. I am sticking with the beautiful things of ambiguous gender and sexual identity.
(*aka ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’)