Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Doom Generation (1995)

Title: The Doom Generation (1995)

Director: Gregg Araki

Cast: Rose McGowan, James Duval, Johnathon Schaech


The Doom Generation is a film with characters that exist on the basis of two basic primal human needs: food and sex, that’s all these kids think about, that’s all these kids need. At one point, Amy, one of the main characters in the film tells one of the boys “You’re like a support system for a cock!” Referencing the guys none stop sexual advances. The story for The Doom Generation is all about these two teenagers, Jordan White (James Duval) and Amy Blue (Rose McGowan), both of whom feel like they don’t belong in society, like they don’t fit. They are the traditional outcasts. Jordan is kind of innocent in a way, with a look of naiveté on his face while Amy is imposing, intimidating and strong. It kind of feels like Amy has got the ‘cojones’ in the relationship. Everything changes when they decide to go to a convenience store to buy munchies and cigarettes and for no apparent reason; the scene quickly escalates into a full fledged massacre, complete with decapitation and all. Joining the gruesome twosome is a guy named Xavier Red (Johnathon Schaech) whom they decide to call ‘X’ for short. So Amy, Jordan and X decide to go on a cross country trip, running from the law and surviving as best they can by holding up convenience stores along the way, Natural Born Killers (1994) style.

And speaking of Natural Born Killers, this is the film that The Doom Generation mostly resembles, and it makes sense that it should be influenced by it, Natural Born Killers made a huge impact in the world when it was first released in 1994 because of its relentless levels of violence. The Doom Generation is like a low rent version of Natural Born Killers. It’s got the violence and it’s got the sex too, but there are various differences between the two films. For example, Natural Born Killers is about two lovers on a murder spree through America, but the film is a comment on the way the media influences people, how they distort the truth, how they’ll make heroes out of villains. The Doom Generation plays with the same premise of murderous lovers (all three of them) but it takes the opportunity to comment on human sexuality, namely: threesomes, bisexuality and homosexuality. So in a very palpable way, The Doom Generation is also an entirely different film than Natural Born Killers. But of course, this being a Gregg Araki film, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it touches upon human sexuality in one form or another, this seems to be one of his favorite themes. Or rather, what distinguishes him as a director, it’s his staple. The opening credits say that this is "A Heterosexual Movie by Gregg Araki" which couldn't be further from the truth! 

The Doom Generation is part of Araki’s “Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy” a series of films that focuses on the lives of troubled teenagers in America. This trilogy is composed of the films Totally Fucked Up (1993), The Doom Generation and Nowhere (1997). All three are about bisexual/gay teenagers. In The Doom Generation Jordan and Amy are heterosexuals, but Jordan has bisexual tendencies, so when ‘X’, the loose cannon of the group makes some advances towards Jordan, suddenly we’re talking about a threesome. Throughout the whole movie there’s this sexual tension between all three characters to the point where you just know that at some point something’s gonna happen between the three, so if you’re not comfortable with these type of scenarios, don’t bother with The Doom Generation. Gregg Araki, the director of this film had identified himself first as a homosexual, then as a bisexual. They guy even married actress Kathleen Robertson who starred in Nowhere, so the guy plays on both teams. This is probably why many of his films have such a strong bisexual element to them. On The Doom Generation, the three main characters want to live to the beat of their own drum, they don’t care about society’s rules, they want to do whatever the hell they want to do, but how will the world react to their behavior?

Totally Fucked Up also deals with that issue of how the world perceives gays. In The Doom Generation we meet a group of true blue Americans who find homosexuality repulsive, and so suddenly Jordan, Amy and X find themselves in the clutches of these people who don’t accept the trios’ sexual exploits. This is a theme that’s prevails in many of Araki’s movies, the fear of gay bashers. Those individuals who hate gay people so much that they are willing to incur in violent acts against them. Similar characters were also displayed in Brokeback Mountain (2005), a film in which a group of gay bashers kick the living shit out of two gay lovers, even going as far as killing. One of the saddest things in the world is not being able to accept others for being who they are. I mean, you don’t have to agree with another person’s lifestyle, but to incur in violent acts against people who are not like you is something I’ve never agreed with, and neither does Araki. In The Doom Generation, a group of gay bashers are represented as being 100% American, even going as far as singing the national anthem as they are bashing the skulls of gay people, as if saying, this is the kind of people America is producing. Araki also displays them with a Nazi swastika on their chests; so to Araki, gay bashers are on the same level of evil as Nazi’s. I understand the allusion, because Nazi’s where basically individuals who wanted everyone to be like them, they didn’t want blacks, or Jews, or people who weren’t Catholics, so that comparison is completely valid in my book.

At the same time, Jordan, Amy and X also represent America, if we put their three last names together, they are Red, White and Blue, so these three murderous, sexually adventurous individuals are also a product of the U.S. of A. Araki is probably wanting to say we are all products of the same messed up society. This is also a theme that is a constant in the movie. “This world is fucked up” “I sometimes feel the city is sucking away at my soul” and “Ever feel that reality is more twisted than dreams?” are just some of the many lines of dialog on this film that accentuate the status quo of society. Also, throughout the entire movie, you’ll see these big signs that display messages like “Prepare for the Apocalypse” and “Welcome to Hell”. When these kids buy something at a convenience store, and they do visit a few of them, the total for their purchase is always 6.66, no matter where they go! As if pointing to the fact that these kids are cursed somehow, or as the title suggests ‘doomed’. All these elements add up to a not so subtle way of establishing the films pessimistic (or truthful?) outlook on the world and the way the young people of the 90’s perceived it, funny how things don’t change much from decade to decade, though I think this is something normal, everybody, no matter what generation they are from think the world is ending.

Ultimately, this trio of knuckleheads might not come off as the most likable of characters, in fact, they do some downright despicable things, but I don’t think Araki was trying to portray wholesome, goody little two shoes on this movie. In fact, he was going for the polar opposite of that. He was going for the most messed up teens he could think of, it feels as if Araki was trying to point a finger at the kind of people that are emerging from the society we live in; people with no morals, no rules and no fidelity to each other.  Amy, Jordan and X function without a conscience. “Guilt is for married old people!“  They are in many ways like animals, existing on primal needs. And this strong sexual need isn’t displayed in the film as something that comes only from men, though Amy criticizes X for only thinking of sex, she herself has been with a large number of people, most of which she doesn’t even remember! So it’s like everyone on this movie is a sex maniac! So my friends, this is one of those movies that explores a side of sexuality that because of its controversial nature is addressed in films only sporadically, last time I saw a film about a threesome was Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and on that one too things go down the drain, I guess the point these type of films are trying to make is that threesomes just don’t work. At one point or another jealousy will show its ugly head and things will just get sour.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5


B.A James said...

This film features a cameo appearance by heidi fiess.

Franco Macabro said...

Everybody who runs a pub a liquor store or a convenience store in this movie is a cameo!

Kev D. said...

I always wondered what the deal was with this movie. Thanks for the info. I probably still won't ever watch it... but at least now I'm informed :)

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Rose McGowan (as the bird was in 1991 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

eddie lydecker said...

Francisco, strickly speaking, in your heart of hearts, dont you think that films like "The Doom Generation" and "Natural Born Killers" are directly and perhaps even wholly and exclusively responsible for the total breakdown of American society, and i really do mean that its movies like this (and literally nothing else at all) that are causing America to fall apart at the seams (at least in terms of social deterioration), proving just how powerful (and negative) the medium of the moving image really is.

Unknown said...

This film began my cinematic crush on Rose McGowan. She certainly makes quite an impression in this film!

Not my fave Araki film (that would MYSTERIOUS SKIN), but it was the first one I saw of his. Love the soundtrack, like starting things off with NIN blasting over the soundtrack. Very cool.

I like his followup, NOWHERE much more. It was a little less in-yer-face, but still had his over-the-top style. He just dialed it back a little.

Have you ever seen SMILEY FACE? It's a pothead comedy he made starring Anna Faris. Very funny.

Franco Macabro said...

Eddie I don't think that movies are totally responsible for the breakdown of American society, movies like these simply comment on the way the world already is. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, this is true.

Movies alone do not cause American to socially fall apart at the seams, other matters, way more serious than movies cause that. Human nature always takes the course it wants to take on its own.

I do agree with you on one thing though, the cinematic medium is a powerful one. It could be used for more useful purposes that's for sure, with films that talk about more relevant themes, but it's not. More often then not, movies without substance are made. Movies that talk about more relevant issues are fewer.

When we watch movies like these, with characters who are not wholesome or inheritly "good" we are not meant to copy their behaviour, we are meant to learn from their mistakes, which is what I always take with me with movies such as these. These are not heroes, these are villains, messed up kids. I guess we are meant to analyze where they went wrong, so we wont be like them.

Franco Macabro said...

J.D.: Yeah, I saw Smiley Face, I included it in my post on Cannabis Cinema, I laughed my ass off, it's a truly funny movie, quite possibly one of the funniest pot head movies ever, I laughed with that one way more than I did with a lot of the Cheech and Chong movies.

I will try and review Totally Fucked Up and Nowhere for the 90's Blog-A-Thon. I've yet to see Mysterious Skin, but I got it on my list.

Totally agree on Rose McGowan on this one, she's wowzers...there's a scene where she's taking a hot bath which left a lasting impression on my psyche!

Franco Macabro said...

Kev D: I recommend it only if your in the mood for one of those movies thats got a very acid vibe going for it, dark...everything is ugly, twisted, violent...Rose McGowan's character has the most obscene dialog ever, it's actually quite entertaining when she says things like "Why dont you go passionately fuck yoursel?" ha ha...

B.A James said...

You should also do a review on the film
Devil in the flesh(1997),another film with Rose mcgowan.

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks for the recommendation James, Ill keep it in mind.


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