James Dean misled us. Rebellion without cause isn't sexy after all. In fact, in hindsight, it just looks like a bunch of impetuous foot-stomping, particularly to those of us who are too busy spot-cleaning stubborn laundry stains and paying our life insurance premiums to make a big show of going against the grain.
Yes, of course the governments of the world are a big joke, society is full of shit, rules are made for breaking, common wisdom is anything but wise, blah blah blah. You won't find any arguments from us there. But that doesn't mean we're going to run around setting shit on fire. Walking on the wild side, shunning conformity -- that kind of unfocused lashing out sounds so exhausting. Who has the kind of time and money it takes to exercise their free will anymore?
Maybe if we were loaded and had lots of handservants to keep us organized and vacuum our floors and watch our kids, then we could lounge about, chain-smoking and questioning authority and such. Surely filthy rich capitalists have the resources for extracurricular sticking-it-to-the-man types of activities. Yes, once we're landed gentry, then we can challenge the dominant paradigm at our leisure, just like Karl Marx and his tony surrealist friends!
In the meantime, though, we'll be scrubbing out these goddamn laundry stains, and we'll leave telling truth to power to the powerful.
But you know what's even more chafing and tedious than causeless rebellion? The preening and posturing of self-proclaimed, causeless rebels. Unfocused irritation with the straight life is all well and good -- who doesn't quietly seethe at the water cooler of life, or cringe and claw at the scratchy fabric of the societal necktie? We all walk around, secretly hating each other for conforming to the rules and social cues of some odious "other" demographic, after all. We spy a gigantic SUV and lament the curse of magnetic cause ribbons and terrible Tex-Mex restaurants and water parks filled with obese children weaned on blue slushies. We glimpse a Birkenstock and grit our teeth to think of tedious free-range yuppies stocking up on overpriced backpacks with built-in espresso machines at REI, humming "Fire on the Mountain" while thumbing through sub-zero goose-down sleeping bags to take car camping in Joshua Tree.
We all quietly, secretly think of ourselves as rebels, while dismissing those around us as blind members of the herd. Our choices are independent and quirky, while theirs are clearly byproducts of some pathetic desire to fit in.
But to create a lifestyle around it? To loudly, actively proclaim yourself a rebel? To demonstrate your anti-everything status with such clichéd, conformist signifiers as a leather jacket, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a pointy goatee, and a penchant for chicks in cutoff jeans? That's just silly.
An excerpt from Heather Havrilesky's review of FX's Biker drama, Sons of Anarachy.
Can be found HERE