Thursday, April 17, 2003

"Like Soldiers Fighting Some Kind of Insane War”

Last week, myself and a few friends got together to watch the Gopher hockey team route New Hampshire at a local tavern. After many rounds of Summits, we did as we usually do; argue about meaningless nonsense and attempt to expose weaknesses in each other’s tastes and preferences.

Several of those in attendance are fans of Punk Rock Music and scornful of pop. I am from the opposite camp who thinks that punk is irrelevant and annoying and am frankly sick to death of the entire genre and the exalted place it inhabits amongst critics.

We also spoke of Quincy and how he lived on a boat and seemed to score with young hot chicks and generally how ridiculous the entire show was, in a fun way.

So...imagine my surprise when I found out (via the cockeyed absurdist’s blog) that there was an entire episode of Quincy dealing with Punk Rock Music (I love calling it that, it sounds so stilted and buttoned up).

I found this synopsis from someone who has spent considerable time thinking about this (I know, pot and kettle and all that....)

Here's the premise: A kid named Zach gets stabbed in a punk-rock club called Ground Zero, and Quincy is called in to investigate. The main suspects are Zach's girlfriend Abigail (the nice girl who somehow went terribly wrong) her truly evil punk friend Molly, and Molly's seemingly mute boyfriend who's name we never know but he wears a headband under his poofy blonde hair and sports Adam Ant-type streaks on his cheeks. Then there's Quincy's girlfriend, Emily, a psychologist doubling as a Tipper Gore-style moralist who coincidentally has counseled Abigail and her mother.

The Cockeyed absurdist referred to the episode as “One of the more bizarre cultural misinterpretations of all time”. To which I say, what exactly did they misinterpret?

From the snippets I’ve watched, the writers nailed the genre pretty well. Listen to the song. All the elements of a typical Punk Rock number are there: it’s atonal, plodding, groove less, unstructured and loaded with teenage sneer. The only problem was that the actor portraying the Punk musician had way too much meat on his bones. Disaffection from society usually meant disaffection from conventional bourgeois mores too, like eating.

Against my better judgment, I did a little googling and found that this episode of Quincy is infamous amongst the hipnoscenti and those that actually think Punk Rock Music is something worth defending. They point out cultural flaws in the costumes “Head bands, why punks didn’t wear head bands!” And perceived flaws in the way the Punks apartments are decorated (beads! one site sniffed). The overall take is one of ironic bemusement at how square the squares “take” on punk was.

Again, aside from some small costume details, what exactly did the writers get wrong? Note this exchange between Sam and Quincy at the autopsy:

"Someone carved 'X's in his arm," notes Sam, Quincy's famous assistant as he discovers the etching in Zach's skin. "Probably self-inflicted," answers Quincy. "Why would anyone want to do that?" asks Sam. "Why would anyone want to pretend everyday is Halloween?" answers Quincy.

To those in the know, this exchange was patently absurd, as if asking why a normal person would intentionally maim their own body and walk around with goofy clothes was a preposterous thing to ponder. I say it’s a good question, one not answered by any of the defenders of this dark genre.

There is another scene where Quincy and his gal, Dr. Emily Hanover, appear on a talk show to discuss Punk and what it means. The host wants to know what separates this youth subculture from the various ones that had preceded it. She answers “relentless negativity,” as accurate a description of Punk and it’s adherents as I’ve heard.

The episode wraps up beautifully with Quincy dancing cheek-to-cheek with Dr. Hanover to the sounds of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

Swaying to “In The Mood”, Quincy asks Dr. Emily Hanover why anyone would "want to listen to music that makes you hate, when you can listen to music that makes you love."

Good question, that.

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