Not too long ago, I started Grad School. Eek. At the request of a few buddies, and considering the fact that this is also sort of a movies blog, I now present a paper I wrote not too long ago. Notes and citations are near the bottom.
Kaplan, E. Ann. "Is the Gaze Male?" Feminism & Film. Wellington Square, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford, 2000. 119-138. Print.
Laderman, David. "Uh Huh Her." Punk Slash! Musicals. Austin, TX: University Of Texas Press, 2010. 121-138. Print.
We Don’t Put Out:
Objectification, Panopticism, and Collaboration in
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1981)
By the late 1970’s, in an unexpected but beautifully orchestrated turn of events, certain members of the punk rock community began to realize that punk had turned into its masturbatory, self-righteous, self-aggrandizing heavy metal forbearers. Punk now mirrored the commercial, decadent, and youth-centered music from the 60’s they heavily despised. It was as though they had woken up and recognized they now embodied the easily critiqued image of the punk rock poseur, donning an anarchy symbol as a veiled attempt at rebelling against their inevitable transformation into their parents. With Crass’ 1978 song “Punk is Dead” ringing in their ears, punk rock musicians began branching off, forming a variety of new genres, including new wave, post-punk, and hardcore.
With new wave taking hold primarily in the inner cities, and post-punk primarily propagating in the UK, hardcore flourished in the American suburbs, its stripped-down, no-nonsense approach to music speaking directly to the disenfranchised suburban sensibility. With this veritable rebirth of punk came austere, socially and politically minded lyrics; the sincere, forthright rage and intensity with which they sang about battling oppression of any kind being mirrored by their wild and abrasive, but simple, instrumentalization.
During this transitional period, Lou Adler, record producer, director of Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke (1978), and producer of the cult hit Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), teamed up with academy award winning screen writer Nancy Dowd to create the film Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1981). One of the first roles for both Diane Lane and Laura Dern, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains follows the exploits of an all-girl band, Lane’s character being the oldest at fifteen, as they carve out a space for themselves both under the ominous, repressive shadow of the burnt out, aging heavy metal bands, and along side the unwelcoming, already-insular, equally and ironically oppressive hardcore punk scene. Through an understanding of Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze, Michel Foucault’s theory of panopticism, and Coleman and Rippin’s theory on collaboration, a formal analysis of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains shows that it suggests that women cannot simply wait for men to remove the shackles of the patriarchy; that by recognizing, critiquing, and rejecting established systems of masculinized oppression, specifically that of objectification, as well as ending the practice of self-policing on behalf of the patriarchy, women will be able to make significant strides by collaborating with each other working towards ending their own subjugation.
Set in Charleston, Pennsylvania, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains opens with young, newly orphaned suburbanite sisters Corrine Burns (Diane Lane) and Tracy Burns (Marin Kanter) attempting to find their footing after the unexpected death of their mother. After forming a band with their cousin, Peg (Laura Dern), her given name being “Jessica,” the girls attend a concert headlined by a burnt out 1970’s heavy metal band, the Metal Corpses. Opening for them, however, is a British hardcore band called The Looters, whose heavily distorted music and anti-authoritarian attitude touches Corrine deeply enough that she sets her mind on opening for the Looters’ next show. Successfully convincing the tour’s promoter, Lawnboy (reggae musician Barry Ford), to allow her band, The Stains, to open for the next show, which does not go as planned. Their first set is poorly received, to say the least. After being laughed off the stage, Corrine berates the audience, setting up what is effectively the film’s thesis statement, telling the club that she’s “perfect, but no one … gets me, ‘cause I don’t put out.” Once they catch on, this phrase is later co-opted and pluralized by The Stain’s fans. The night’s excitement not quite over, before his performance, the guitar player for the Metal Corpses (Grateful Dead guitar player Vince Welnick) dies from an overdose, introducing to the film TV news reporter Alice Meeker (Cynthia Sikes), who comes to report on the overdose.
After speaking with Corrine and her sister, Meeker’s news report stirs interest in The Stains, and by the next show, they have more people to see them than the now-headlining Looters. Billy (Ray Winstone), Looters lead singer, wastes no time poorly handling these turn of events, in one fell swoop seducing Corrine, forgetting that he asked his agent to get a new opening band, and failing to rectify the situation when Corrine finds out. At the next show, The Stains fans overwhelmingly numerous, the band covers the Looters’ hit single, impressing the Looters’ agent, who quickly turns his back on the Looters and books a stadium show with The Stains headlining, the Looters again relegated to the opening slot. After the Looters perform their first song, the dejected Billy announces to the stadium filled with hundreds of Stains fans that they’ve been fooled, that the Stains are a manufactured gimmick. Convinced, when The Stains take the stage, a riot ensues, effectively ending The Stains’ career. After a disheartening post-mortem interview with Meeker’s male co-host back at Corrine’s hometown’s local TV new station, and turning down a chance simply to ride along with the Looters on the rest of their tour, Corrine spots a gathering of young girls, waiting in the TV station parking lot, wearing the outfit she’d championed as the leader of The Stains. Initially freeze framing on Corrine’s triumphant smile, the credits roll as dissolving-in stock footage from The Stains’ subsequent second, more successful, rise to notoriety flashes past, showing the band being featured on magazine covers, performing on an MTV clone, and rightfully finding their songs topping charts.
Throughout the duration of this film, the audience is subjected to numerous scenes of women being insulted, manipulated, and disrespected, sometimes by men, sometimes by other women, and sometimes by themselves. Consistently objectified, relentlessly interrogated, and senselessly self-policed, the environment in which the women of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains exist is not a healthy one. To understand how and why this environment has been established, and how the filmmakers use this to advance their agenda, one only has to look as far as feminist film critic Laura Mulvey’s landmark essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1978).
Mulvey starts by introducing Freud’s concept of scopophilia, “looking itself … [as] a source of pleasure” (Mulvey 2009: 16), or “taking pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight” (Mulvey 2009: 18). She then discusses how within the world of film, men find gratifying the act of “taking other people as objects [and] subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze” (Mulvey 2009: 17). Mulvey describes how film operates through the lenses of three different, all male oriented, gazes: that of the camera recording “the pro-filmic event,” that of the spectators viewing the film, and that of the characters within the film itself (Mulvey 2009: 26). With the male figures, be it the camera, the spectators, or the characters, taking over as the active observers, the passive, iconic images of women connote desirability and eroticism; they take on their “traditional exhibitionist role[,] … simultaneously [being] looked at and displayed” (Mulvey 2009: 19) by and to all three male gazes.
Expanding on the concept of male gazes, E. Ann Kaplan, in her essay “Is the Gaze Male?” (1983), explains that the gaze “carries with it the power of action and possession (Kaplan 2000: 121),” agreeing with Mulvey’s assessment that through this active male gaze comes the sensation, for both the spectator as well as the male character, of possession of the passive iconic female image (Mulvey 2009: 22). Kaplan goes on to say that this “sexualization and objectification of women is not simply for the purposes of eroticism,” “it is designed to annihilate the threat” that women pose (Kaplan 2000: 121). For Mulvey, within a patriarchal culture, this threat springs from women being a signifier for the male Other (Mulvey 2009: 15).
Mulvey describes how their ultimate difference from men, the woman’s lack of a penis, implies, in psychological terms, “a threat of castration and hence unpleasure” (Mulvey 2009: 22). However, the male unconscious is capable of avoiding this “unpleasure” by demystifying the woman through thorough investigation, “devaluation, punishment or saving of the guilty object,” what Mulvey calls “preoccupation with the re-enactment of the original trauma” (Mulvey 2009: 22).
From the beginning of the film until the end, the audience is inundated with instances of men doing all they can to objectify, demystify, or save the women around them. The film starts with a tracking shot quickly drawing towards news reporter Harley Dennis (Peter Donat), telling the audience that we “may remember Corrine Burns,” going on to describe and show stock footage of her unceremonious termination from her dead-end job as a fry chef during one of the station’s reports on her supposedly resilient home town of Charleston, Pennsylvania. After a clip of her questioning its resiliency, and being fired for saying as much, another clip, one of Corrine exclaiming that the town “died years ago,” is frozen just as her face screws up into a look of unadulterated resentment. Dennis goes on to say that the station has received more mail in regards to Corrine than they have “on any segment in the past two years,” pulling in over “eight thousand letters in ten days.” Unable to ignore this sort of response, they decided to follow up with her, interviewing her in her home.
The subsequent interview is shot in a series of dissolving, mostly static shots, Corrine’s face positioned on the left side of the screen, her eyes positioned up when she responds implying her interviewer either sitting or standing looking down on her, while the credits fade in and out on the right. Throughout, Corrine answers questions posed from a disembodied, authoritarian male voice, while smoking, though her mother died of lung cancer, and applying make up in a nontraditional fashion, rich red mascara highlighted by dark, thick black eyeliner. The voice comments on her smoking, informing her that each one takes a day away from her life. Corrine flippantly inhales deeply, and, grabbing two more cigarettes, mockingly pretends to take drags from them as well. He asks her questions about her relationship with her now deceased parents, her love life, and plans for the future, all of which she sarcastically responds to with increasingly indifferent and succinct answers, at one point dismissing the idea that she will grow older at all. The voice expresses his and his viewer’s concern for her, sternly asking her what she is going to do. She answers by initially avoiding the question, informing the voice that her name is not “Corrine Burns,” that it is “Third Degree Burns,” and that she is the lead singer and manager of The Stains, implying that this endeavor is, as the voice would term it, “what she is going to do.”
A great deal of Mulvey’s writings can be applied to this short scene. The disembodied male voice acting as the castration-fearing, male gazing character is just as guilty of trying to demystify Corrine via interrogation as the news station’s male-gazing-spectator audience, as shown by their overwhelming call to action. Their “concern” for her is just an expression of their attempting to save her, to protect this precious object that their news reporter has framed and presented as an emotional, tragic figure, but, as a direct result of her being framed as a self-reliant and outspoken young woman, also one that needs to be possessed and controlled. When presented with these concerns, these attempts to objectify and possess her, she defies definition, defends her right to do with her body as she pleases, and asserts her ability to construct her image, down to her very name, in a way that suits her. Within these early moments of the film, Corrine, now given the opportunity to control how she is presented to the world, as opposed to her first appearance on television in a segment not explicitly about her and filmed without her as the intentional focus, presents to the film’s audience everything they need to know about her. Corrine will define herself, she will decide what she does with her body, and her message of female self-reliance and resolute opposition to patriarchal rule override any corporeal needs, such as food, housing, and love.
A quick look at two major male figures in the film reveals that this objectification of women by the male characters is not an isolated incident. Before the Metal Corpses’ overdosing guitar player dies, Lou Corpse (John Fee Waybill, singer-songwriter of The Tubes), Metal Corpses lead singer, is shown in a variety of troubling sequences. A female groupie dropping him off at the tour bus the morning after a show, Lou is shown ambivalently holding what is implied to be one of his children, the mother of whom he speaks of as though she existed purely for his own sexual gratification the moment he takes a seat on the bus. In a scene mirroring Corrine’s first scene, Lou is being interviewed, talking about his life, smoking, applying make up. The major themes are reversed however, the interviewer being a silent woman, who is, incidentally, actually shown, and the interviewee, the male Lou, is dominating the conversation. In and of itself this wouldn’t be worthy of note, but in this scene Lou is discussing the lyrics of his infantilizing-ly titled new song, “Princess,” which he describes, while looking down on interviewer from his high perched makeup chair, as being about the time in a relationship “when you have to resort to a physical means of expression,” before stating that that sometimes he get so “filled up with emotion” that he “ends up hitting [his] old lady.” As though just then realizing that he has just admitted to assaulting his partner, Lou tries to qualify this statement, by adding that “some women are into that,” at which point the interviewer visibly recoils.
When we first meet Billy, he is on stage with the Looters, singing anti-authoritarian anthems, Corrine gazing longing up at what she clearly thinks of as a kindred spirit. Back stage after the show, Corrine watches from the shadows as Lou fondles and gropes a burnt out female groupie waiting for him, before threatening to fire Lawnboy if he does not replace the Looters with a different band. Lou slinking off, Corrine slides into the green room, where Billy, her hopeful new companion in the fight against oppression, is waiting. She asks if her band would be able to audition for him. Leaning forward, his own female groupie caressing his head, Billy’s eyes shoot up to meet Corrine’s at the word “audition.” Corrine stumbles over her words, looks momentarily dejected, but continues, asking Billy how he got his first break. Billy rolls his eyes, leans back into his groupie’s massaging hands, and remains silent. Corrine, determined as ever, begins to explain why she is asking. Billy having had enough, stands up, picks up his boom box, and orders his groupie to follow him as he swiftly exits the room, having never said a word to Corrine. After the initial implication that Billy might be an ally to Corrine, this scene solidifies that nothing could be further from the truth. The next morning, like Lou, Billy is dropped off by the groupie with whom he left, Lou looking longingly out of the tour bus window, yearning for his youthful days he sees reflected in Billy.
Billy yelled insolently at Lou while the Metal Corpses were on stage in the first concert scene, calling them “old farts.” But for all the good it does him, simply making him feel like a big man, it is though he has simply sewn an anarchy symbol into his leather jacket, and is defiantly yelling at his parents. Their only differences are the way they write their songs and clothes they wear on stage. Past that, they represent the same misogynistic ideals, using for sex the women who are charmed by their musical ability, and otherwise devaluing, or all out ignoring, the women around them.
It should be noted, however, that Mulvey discusses three gazes; the camera, the spectator, and the characters. Director Lou Adler never has the camera linger on any segmented body parts of the women present, chopping them up as an easy visual method for objectification. The breasts or posteriors of the women on the screen never seem to be a focus either, these features of the characters being featured simply as a by-product of being filmed. In the absence of an argument for an objectifying camera, and given the feminist nature of the film’s content, and thus lack of an argument for an objectifying spectator, this lack of two of the potentially objectifying gazes highlights all the more the third, the objectification occurring by the male characters.
It is not, however, only the men in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains that actively work towards the prolonged subjugation of women. Sadly, there are several examples of women policing each other, ensuring that their companions remain hyper vigilant in ensuring the relative tightness of their shackles. In order to understand how, one must understand first Foucault’s theory of panopticism.
The origins of Foucault’s theory of panopticism is Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon, a circular prison designed with the guard tower positioned in the center, so that the prisoners would be unable to tell whether or not they were being looked at, or whether or not said tower was occupied at all. “The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately” (Foucault 1977: 200). In this prison, a detainee “is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never the subject in communication” (Foucault 1977: 200). Foucault likened our current society to this panopticon, that we are all, in a sense, self-policing ourselves and each other, explicitly stating that “[o]ur society is one not of spectacle, but of surveillance” (Foucault 1977: 217). With an understanding of this, the relationships between certain female characters take on a new light. Past Corrine and The Stains, the richest female character for examination is that of Linda, mother to Peg and aunt to Corrine and Tracy.
Aunt Linda (Christine Lahti) is introduced just after Corrine’s interview with the news station. Posturing for the camera aside, Corrine needs a job, and, determined to find one despite her own phone having been turned off, she walks down the street to her aunt’s house. The first shot is of Linda is of her hands, positioned over a celebrity gossip magazine, her left hand applying the final acrylic nail to the right. While gossiping in the kitchen about neighbors with her friend Brenda (Janet Wright), who incidentally also continues to smoke while discussing the death of Corrine’s mother, Corrine comes in, and the two older women ridicule her. They make fun of her for being on TV, asking why, if the “TV star” does not have her own phone, she doesn’t just use her secretary’s. As soon as Corrine dials the number of the job listing she has found, Linda and Brenda turn up the radio and sing along to the Carol Cook song “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” Corrine complains that she cannot hear, and Linda exclaims that, maybe if Corrine got a job, it would improve her hearing.
It is at this point that Peg, comes and sits in the living room, just across from the kitchen, to read a magazine. Linda immediately insists that Peg must have something to do other than reading a magazine, calling her by the name she gave her, “Jessica.” Linda suggests doing her homework, taking her little brother for a walk, or cleaning her room. Peg glibly replies, clearly uninterested in the options, “so it’s multiple choice?” There’s a sharp cut from Peg’s face to Brenda’s as Brenda’s gaze drops from looking at Linda to focusing on the magazine she herself is reading. A quick cut to Linda, whose eyes dart from Peg to Brenda, then back to Peg. Linda says “Jessica…,” to which Peg simply reminds her that she is changing her name to “Peg.” Linda attempts to reinforce that her name is “Jessica,” and that it is a lovely name, a name that she gave to her. Peg simply responds with “that’s why its so lousy,” before rushing to her room and slamming her door. Corrine’s call ends shortly after, and she follows Peg into her room. The camera stays with Linda and Brenda, Linda explaining to Brenda that since Corrine’s mom died, “that one,” not directly referring to either Corrine or Peg, “has been like this,” making a hand gesture signifying insanity. Linda asks Brenda if the two of them were “like that,” and Brenda pours them some more wine as she responds that, no, they were not “like that.” Linda says “no,” mostly to herself.
In this short scene, Linda presents the audience with a look at an indoctrinated, self-policing victim of the patriarchy. She adorns herself with artificial, manufactured signs of societally mandated beauty. Linda ridicules Corrine for her dedication to her ideals, and her concerted efforts to spread her messages. She jabs at Corrine for not being responsible and having a job, yet turns up the radio nearly loud enough to make the phone call irrelevant, and tries to get her off the phone by claiming to be expecting a call. The lyrics to the song that Linda turns up loud enough to discredit Corrine to whomever she has called, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” at first appear to be empowering to women, with the first line being “tonight you belong to me, completely.” However, as the song fades, it ends up reinforcing the concept that women are weak hearted, weak willed, and defenseless. By singing along, the filmmakers are having Linda further align herself with the image of the double-binding, self-policing, patriarchal surrogate.
When Linda begins policing Peg’s actions, it is evident that her requests are coming from a well-meaning place. But the moment Peg begins to question her mother’s true intensions, and choose for herself what she would like to be doing at the moment, their relationship breaks down, and Linda’s dedication to the patriarchal rules shines through. When Peg sarcastically responds to her mother’s suggestions for an alternative afternoon activity, and the camera cuts to Brenda’s downward shifting eyes, the tone of the scene has permanently shifted. Brenda’s reluctance to look at Linda implies that she understands that this is going to have to be a learning experience for Peg. As though she is seeing her own childhood experiences play out in front of her, Brenda knows that Peg is going to have to be reprimanded for disrespecting Linda, and that Linda knows this, and that neither Linda no Brenda feel comfortable with this, either because they disagree with the origins of such reprimanding’s, or because they would both like to evade the responsibilities of adulthood. In this look is also Brenda’s knowledge that, simply by her being present for this moment, she is in effect acting as a physical representative of the guard tower in Foucault’s panopticon, her presence itself acting as the policing factor. When Linda looks to the downward-glancing Brenda, she does so not for support, but as though mentally gauging and acknowledging that she now has to perpetuate the abuse that has been acted upon her and her literal and figurative sisters. Linda says only the name “Jessica” in response to Peg, as though she were pleading with her daughter to not make her reprimand her, for her to recognize without Linda having to say anything, for her daughter to have already started self-policing. After Peg and Corrine have stormed off, and Linda talks about her sister’s death, instead of analyzing her own feelings about it, or even acknowledging that she has any emotions about the event, she dismisses herself and her emotions through making excuses to Brenda for her own inability to instill the self-policing instinct into her daughter by calling Peg crazy. After Brenda pours them some more wine, and Linda echo’s her response to whether or not they used to be anything like the two girls in the other room, her “no” she says to herself, acts not as an agreement, but as a reinforcement, as though she were attempting to convince her self it were true.
With all this opposition, had it not been for certain allies in her fight, certain support systems, Corrine’s message, Corrine’s goal to free herself and help the women around her free themselves from their societally secured shackles, Corrine’s warpath would have been a lost cause before she even prepared for battle. In their essay, “Putting Feminist Theory to Work: Collaboration as a Means towards Organizational Change” (2000), an essay describing an exploration into the efficacy of collaboration between like minded but unavoidably different people, Gill Coleman and Ann Rippin concluded that “[c]ollaboration both as a principle and as a strategy is central in bringing about generative organizational change” (Coleman 2000: 585). The filmmaker’s utilization of certain key characters assisting in the dissemination of Corrine’s manifesto was, in and of itself, a key element of her message.
Linda’s second appearance in the film is the best example of how this operates within the film. Occurring before The Stains’ disastrous final concert, positioned immediately before the agent who ends up choreographing their downfall really gets his hooks in, Linda’s second scene revolves again around the setting of an interview. The Stains end up walking by a television shop just as a report on them is airing. Reporter Alice Meeker, who has been following The Stains’ story throughout the film, is doing another in-depth story about the Stains, and their meteoric rise to fame. Near the end of this report, she says that there is one more person who needs to be heard in regards to the full story of The Stains: Linda.
Meeker starts by asking Linda simple demographic information questions, in the same, disembodied voice manor as the Corrine’s interview. When asked if she’s the mother of Peg, Linda responds that her daughter’s name is “Jessica,” before lying about her age and reporting that it has been over a month since she’s seen Peg or heard from her. Meeker mentions the tapes of the Stains that they showed Linda prior to the interview, Linda affirming that she watched the tapes, seen the footage of the girls dressing like the Stains, and heard their “don’t put out” motto.
Up to this point, Linda is reacting the way she would had the same Linda from the kitchen at the beginning of the movie had shown up to the interview. She won’t accept Peg’s new name, lies about her age in such a way that would put her as having had Peg at the same age that Peg is currently, and she’s leaning heavily on guilt trip vernacular, trying to appear like a good, concerned mother.
But it’s at this juncture that Meeker asks Linda whether or not Peg was “always this much trouble.” Linda grows a sly grin, like she is finally allowing herself to be proud, and in a sense reimagining the negative charge of the world “trouble.” She agrees, with a chuckle, and states “yeah.” But a quick second later and she is saying “no, no,” as if remembering that not everyone had the same little epiphany that she just had. Stumbling over her words a little, Linda says that she should “tell the truth here,” and she admits that she did not have confidence in Peg. The camera cuts to Peg, who is engrossed, her face a stone mask.
Linda reveals that her own mother and father never thought much of her either, her father telling her that she’s “nothing,” and that she ended up agreeing. In this segment, Linda is effectively admitting that she is ashamed about her mindless perpetuation of emotional abuse. When Peg hears this, it is as if the air has been sucked from her lungs, but just for a split second, then she’s back to coldly watching her mother. Linda talks about how proud she is that Peg is “having fun” and that all these young girls “think she’s great,” and effectively saying that she’s proud that her daughter was strong enough to break the cycle of abuse, and that she may be helping other girls break their own abusive loops. She plainly says she is proud of her for “getting around” what she “did to her.”
Linda does say that has one regret, that Marilyn, her sister, and mother to Tracy and Corrine, could see them “having fun.” At this point, “having fun” has fully adopted the alternative meaning, that of spreading hope, and the message that women don’t have to stand for subjugation, no matter its origins. Linda goes on to say that Marilyn was worried that she’d be failing her daughters by dying, but that Linda told her this wasn’t true, implying that she felt that her “hell raiser” sister had done a good enough job raising her daughters that she didn’t need to worry about the good they would go on to do. Then she holds up a picture of Marilyn, saying “now you’re on the tube, you’re not a flop.”
Meeker was not the only true ally The Stains had, however. Lawnboy, the show promoter, booker, and bus driver, had several small, charitable moments with Corrine. Lawnboy, being the only person of color in the entire film, is, much like the women in the film, a subjugated individual. Corrine taking an instant liking to him, since he recognized her from television and without hearing her band gave her an opening slot on the tour he was promoting. About halfway through the film, Lawnboy reveals that the only reason he is driving the bus is to get enough money to get his brother out of prison, his brother being incarcerated simply for smoking marijuana. He too is attempting to free his sibling from an unjust, socially constructed prison, albeit his brother is in a literal one. They have an equal share in one of the films primary messages, that freedom, power, agency cannot be gifted by the aristocracy.
The judicial system could decide to free Lawnboy’s brother, but the ingrained systematic racial prejudice that put his brother, and thousands of other black Americans, in prison in the first place will not have been fixed by this. The Stains were consistently given more and more leeway, provider with bigger and bigger venues to perform at, but every gift from someone in a privileged position directly contributed to their eventual downfall. At best, an aristocratic power figure can give room to the proletariat to grow and define themselves. With all these similarities, Lawnboy seems like an excellent candidate for “ally.”
It is important to note, however, that it is the alliance with Meeker, and not Lawnboy, that proves successful. While Corrine’s plight mirrors that of Lawnboy’s, the fact that he only formed an alliance to assist in his own battle hindered both his ability to rely on Corrine, and hers to rely on him. Unfortunately, all of Lawnboy’s attempts to make money to free his brother were consistently thwarted, regardless of how hard he tried. The headlining Metal Corpses breaks up because of privileged over indulgent drug use, the Looters consistently disrespect him and his van, and even Corrine writes him off, signing a deal with the Looter’s agent and cutting him out of the picture. Lawnboy acts as a reminder that if she is do progress her mission, she must collaborate with others whose goals match with hers.
With Meeker’s help, their notoriety grew faster and their message spread to a wider audience than they could have ever hoped for. While many women attended, only one in particular at the Stain’s first show was instantly enamored. And with Meeker’s help, at each subsequent show, the Stains fans grew exponentially. When Meeker interviewed Linda, based on Linda’s eye positioning, it appeared as though they were sitting on the same level, Meeker creating an environment where Linda felt comfortable enough to have her epiphany that she was proud of her daughter.
Driving this message home, during that second Linda interview, when Linda help up Marilyn’s picture, showing it to the new station’s spectators, she was not just playing in to the cliché that, with the understanding that only important people are put in front of a camera, so anyone in front of a camera must be important, all people really want is their 15 minutes of fame. Linda was implying that only by communicating with one another, producing things for each other, and promoting one another’s work, will change take hold. When Linda showcases the powerful woman who helped shape the band that is changing the world, she may be effectively showing the world another martyr for the cause, but she is also paying tribute and honoring all the strong women from the past that have promoted critical thought and action.
Mulvey optimistically wrote “the alternative cinema provides a space for the birth of a cinema which is radical in both a political and an aesthetic sense and challenges the basic assumptions of the mainstream film” (Mulvey 2009: 16). As a film exploring the nuances of a changing underground-musical landscape, one from rock and roll, heavy metal, and traditional punk rock to that of hardcore, new wave, and post-punk, even if it hadn’t been shelved by Paramount for three years (Laderman 2010: 121), the alternative treasure that is Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains may have faltered in finding footing. Furious for being left out of another transitional period, another musical revolution, especially one which claimed to rally against oppression, Corrine Burns spoke for a generation that didn’t hear her until the century she was born into was almost at a close (Laderman 2010: 121). When Corrine talked about these male rock stars making “such big plans for the world,” it would take until revolutionary riot grrrl musicians like Kathleen Hanna and Courtney Love hit a nerve with young women across the nation that people started getting angry, in a big way (Laderman 2010: 123), that “they don’t include us.” Mulvey wrote that we derive pleasure from identifying with images (Mulvey 2009: 18). While, as Aslan states in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, “no one is ever told what would have happened" (Lewis 1952: 51), one cannot help but imagine how different things would be had the young women of the 1980’s found themselves identifying with Corrine Burns.
Coleman, Gill, and Ann Rippin. "Putting Feminist Theory to Work: Collaboration as a Means Towards Organizational Change." Organization 7.4 (2000): 573-587. Print.
Foucault, Michel. "Panopticism." Discipline & Punish. New York: Random House, 1977. 195-228. Print.
Kaplan, E. Ann. "Is the Gaze Male?" Feminism & Film. Wellington Square, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford, 2000. 119-138. Print.
Laderman, David. "Uh Huh Her." Punk Slash! Musicals. Austin, TX: University Of Texas Press, 2010. 121-138. Print.
Ladies and Gentlemen … The Fabulous Stains. Lou Adler. Paramount Pictures.
Lewis, C.S.. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. United Kingdom: Geoffrey Bles, 1952. Print.
Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Visual and Other Pleasures, 2nd Ed. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 14-27. Print.