Last semester, I wrote a paper on the commodification of grunge subculture. Basically, I argued that the true elements and ideologies of grunge subculture were over looked and the focus was on making money. Well, today it was cemented for me.
I was browsing my Twitter feed and saw that Billboard tweeted an article that talked about how someone created a shirt with Kurt Cobain’s suicide note printed on it. I had a variety of responses to this. The first was one of complete disgust at the thought of someone thinking that it was appropriate to put someone’s suicide note on a shirt. Something like that is so personal and heartbreaking and to even think that making light of that is completely disrespectful.
But at the same time, I think it demonstrates a few of the challenges that our generation faces. We so desire to have heroes and idols that we’re willing to look up to people without an understanding of who they really were. We create idealized ideas of what these people represent but most chose to focus on this idealization as opposed to who the person really is. Kurt Cobain was a brilliant songwriter and he wrote music that impacted and shaped a generation. However, he was also a very broken man who struggled with addiction and substance abuse for many years. He struggled to raise his family — even to the point of feeling as if the only way out was to end his life. Yet his face is plastered on shirts sold at young adult clothing stores and his quotes are created into typography photos that are shared by young teenagers on their Tumblr pages in an attempt to show the world that their deep.
But I guess at the heart of this issue is what I’ve been learning about in my publishing class. We talk about the public presentation of the self which can in many ways dictate how we want to be perceived. In this case the desire to be perceived a certain way online dictates why young people use Kurt’s image, words and lyrics. Yet the challenge comes in identifying with something that you have no knowledge about. Before you identify with something, it’s important to understand what you’re identifying with and why.
In the planning for the now classic Nirvana performance, MTV Unplugged Kurt said that he wanted to be remembered as a songwriter. That’s why he chose to arrange the songs the way that he did. It would seem that he has done that because his lyrics and words have been memorialized by many. However, memorializing the darkest and lowest point of his life is not the best way of creating a legacy.
If you wanted to take a look at the Billboard article, I’ve linked it here.
Until next time.
Peace & Harmonies,