Culture Rover

#183 - Of the Night

Sasha Frere-Jones's article brought to mind a strange scene from Suki Hawley's 1994 classic indie-rock film Half-Cocked.

The premise of the film is that an improvised indie-rock band comprised of white kids from Louisville, Kentucky, who do not know how to play their instruments, steal another band's equipment and hit the road in the other group's van. They wind up playing some pretty great music on sheer punk-rock commitment alone and experiencing exhilarating highs and lows of the indie-rock road along the way.

The strange scene from the film has the band starving and in need of food so they shoplift from a local convenience store owned by an African-American family. It's an odd moment in which race (in the South no less) crashes in on a story that essentially ignores the topic.

Are we meant to think of the indie-rockers as clueless about race? Are we meant to identify with them against the economic system of capitalism? Is the scene intended to raise issues about race in the South to the viewer's mind? What is going on here?

The ambiguities, the uncertainty, and the weirdness of a scene in which indie-rock kids out on an adventure steal corporate junk food from a black-owned convenience store suggest again that Frere-Jones has unmasked a topic that demands more scrutiny.

Indie-rock and race: how did the twain intersect in the 1990s?

20 October 2007

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