Editor’s Note: The Other F Word was released by Oscilloscope Films on January 31st, 2012
I should preface this review with a disclaimer that the punk scene was never one I belonged to, and I have no interest in debating the politics of punk versus poser. What I can do is speak about the film from the perspective of a film critic, husband, and as a father of three children. I have always felt like a bit of an outsider, and I know what it is like to go in to a parent teacher conference and wonder if I would be asked to present my “adult credentials” at the door. My inner torment may manifest itself in different forms of expression, but I can relate to the pain that these punks turned fathers feel the need to express, and the compromises that must be made in service to that “other F word”, fatherhood. So what happens when an anti-authoritarian movement of nihilistic adolescents succumbs to the unyielding march of time? That is the question that The Other F Word asks as it explores the lives of the cultural “revolutionaries” of the punk music of yesteryear. They are a little older, a little greyer, and life on the road just isn’t what it used to be. So what was the key moment in this radical shift in ideological severity? When did the dangerous and nihilistic become Suburban driving slackers? When did they trade hard drugs and fast women for Rolaids, hand sanitizer, hair dye, and the other tools needed maintain the “punk” lie as the unrelenting bitch of time takes its toll? One would have to have a pretty good reason to continue the charade and completely betray their youthful anti-idealism.
When did the dangerous and nihilistic become Suburban driving slackers? When did they trade hard drugs and fast women for Rolaids, hand sanitizer, hair dye, and the other tools needed maintain the “punk” lie as the unrelenting bitch of time takes its toll?
I would be willing to venture that none of these guys had any idea of the emotional impact that having a child would cause. Standing in the hospital room and hearing the first cries of a child after a long and arduous labor (I suppose my wife would be the better candidate to describe the process as arduous as I’m sure it was more than a little bit harder for her than it was for me) is an emotional singularity the likes of which defy description. It is as though you have passed over some unseen event horizon, and time has been stopped for what feels like an eternity. It is during this short window that the entire nature of your existence up to that point is rewritten and in an instant your idealism (or anti-idealism) washes away in an unfathomably beautiful moment of transformation. This has happened to me three times, and each time the impact was as powerful as the last. It is at that moment that you realize that you would be willing to sell your soul, give your life, and do absolutely anything to protect and nurture this new life that you were partly responsible for bringing in to existence. As existentially tortured as I may be about the nature of the universe, as much contempt as I hold for all of the institutions that we are born in to, as much as I may think the world is broken and civilization is ultimately doomed, at that moment those things all melt away and life becomes a wholly different animal. It is because of my deeply personal connection with the content of this film that it I will be the first to admit a certain lack of objectivity about the material. I relate entirely with the father issues that these men have been trying to overcome their entire lives, and I know what it is to take that negative energy and turn it in to something beautiful when you have your own children. Perhaps I’m an easy mark for the content of this film, but as an easy mark I can say that it hit on some deeply personal emotions and in that way it was successful.
I imagine that each of the fathers in The Other F Word would have similar explanations for that divine moment that is the closest thing that an agnostic person can have to a spiritual awakening. Suddenly life on the road loses its appeal, and you are violently uprooted from your previous nihilism because it is difficult to believe in nothing when faced with such overwhelmingly pure and unconditional love for this new person. Suddenly you are responsible for a new life, and that responsibility brings you back to earth. You undergo a major self assessment and start to put together the pieces of what went wrong during your upbringing so you can try and break the cycle. This would ring especially true for the Generation X’ers that were the focus of The Other F Word as they seem to come from an entire generation of absentee fathers. If their fathers were considerate enough to actually stick around, they more than likely had issues of emotional availability or suffered from alcoholism or drug abuse.
As we get to know these aging icons of an adolescent cultural movement that is long past its peak of relevancy, we can plainly see the pain that they still carry with them. It is this pain that drove their adolescent nihilism, and it would eventually be directed toward ensuring that their kids had a better shot at life than they did. The Other F Word touches on the social issues that would be partly responsible for the violent need for self expression through the punk lifestyle, but teenagers really don’t need a quantifiable reason to be pissed off when they are already marginalized and filled with raging hormones and unfettered aggression. Each of these guys seemed to suffer from some deeply rooted father issues, and these issues would ultimately drive them to become better fathers themselves.
As we get to know these aging icons of an adolescent cultural movement that is long past its peak of relevancy, we can plainly see the pain that they still carry with them. It is this pain that drove their adolescent nihilism, and it would eventually be directed toward ensuring that their kids had a better shot at life than they did.
Each of these men that have continued touring long after the expiration date of their adolescent angst are essentially feeding in to the machine that will commoditize anything that isn’t nailed to the floor. They are selling their idealism for houses in the suburbs and betraying their angst for a healthy 401K. They are quickly realizing that a decision has to be made between life on the road and raising a better kid. Technology has shifted the dynamic of professional musicianship, and the days of sending out an album and touring a few days a year are long over for the working class midlevel bands. It is at that point that they must make decisions that their younger selves would never had approved of. They are essentially forced to submit willingly to the commoditization of their subculture, and they start to find out that it isn’t quite as terrifying as they thought. Maybe they came to some sort of realization that they would never make a permanent imprint on the world through power chords and profane lyrics. Maybe they figured out that when the raging hormones of adolescence die down and they become decreasingly marginalized with age that they wouldn’t have anything to be pissed off about. Or maybe, just maybe, they could change the world by breaking the cycle of bad parenting and become better dads.
Oscilloscope puts together a handsome cardboard foldout with black and white collages of subjects of this documentary with their kids, and juxtaposes those images with pictures of their younger, angstier selves. A lot of thoughtfulness and care is put in to the packaging and it would make a nice addition to any DVD collection.
It includes a feature length audio commentary with Jim Lindberg (Pennywise/The Black Pacific), Art Alexakis (Everclear), director Andrea Blaugrund Nevis, and producer Cristan Reilly. The commentary track is entertaining at times, with some great stories of the punk days of yesteryear. I can see how the track could be slightly grating to someone without kids, but the same thing could possibly be said about the film itself.
The included short outtakes from the film are good for a couple of laughs, and acoustic performance outtakes of “Father of Mine” (Art Alexakis) and “Swing Life Away” show how deep their childhood pain runs, and how they use that pain to their advantage and rebel by breaking the cycle.
The Q&A session from the SXSW Film Festival premiere really doesn’t contribute much to the power of the film, and can probably be skipped unless you are interested in hearing obvious answers to obvious questions.
It also contains two music videos from The Black Pacific, “Living With Ghosts” and “The System”, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
[notification type=”star”]70/100 ~ GOOD The Other F Word touches on the social issues that would be partly responsible for the violent need for self expression through the punk lifestyle, but teenagers really don’t need a quantifiable reason to be pissed off when they are already marginalized and filled with raging hormones and unfettered aggression. Each of these guys seemed to suffer from some deeply rooted father issues, and these issues would ultimately drive them to become better fathers themselves.[/notification]