The her ‘General introduction’ defines subcultures as

The
modern image we have of subculture stems from ideas from the late twentieth
century. Those ideas and theories where formed from the youth subcultural
groups of the nineteen sixties. These groups included teddy boys, rockers, and
the mods. A subculture is defined to be “a cultural group within a larger
culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger
culture.”  However, there are various
interpretations of this definition, which are influenced by different factors.
Later theories regarding subculture go on to question the idea of a post
subcultural state. However, the concept of a subcultural narrative is still
relevant. Subcultural narrative is based on a person’s opinion of a subculture
and their interactions with the same subculture. In the films, Trainspotting
and The Filth and the Fury, both Danny Boyle and Julien Temple, explore themes
of deviance. Deviance is defined as “the fact or state of diverging from usual
or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behaviour. This
definition lends itself to be easily applied to the subcultures explored in
both films, these being the punks of the 1970s and the skagboys of the 1980s
and 1990s, as both subcultures have both violent and criminal tendencies, which
can be considered acts of deviance.

Sarah
Thornton, author of The Subcultures Reader, in her ‘General introduction’ defines
subcultures as “designate social groups which are perceived to deviate from the
normative ideals of adult communities” whereas Webster’s online dictionary
comments that “Members of a subculture often signal their membership through a
distinctive and symbolic use of style, which includes fashions, mannerisms, and
argot.” This can be applied to Danny Boyle’s film Trainspotting, however
whether the ‘skagboys’ and characters in the film can be a considered a
subculture has been questioned recently. On one hand, the early examples of
subculture, particularly the mods and rockers, are much easier to define, this
is due to them having more noticeable and clear traits, that make them an
obvious part of a subculture. One example is clothing, the fashion choices worn
by the mods and rockers, act as a uniform and have become common knowledge.
This makes it easy for these subcultures to be portrayed in film and television
over the years. A modern audience is familiar with the smart tailoring worn by
the mods. They are well known for their parkas and love of Italian scooters
such as Lambrettas and Vespas. Whereas the rocker had a much more masculine
style, consisting of Jeans, chains and of course, leather jackets. The rockers
preferred a more powerful and perhaps masculine transport also, favouring
motorcycles such as Harley Davidsons. Phil Cohen, in his essay, Subcultural
Conflict and Working-Class Community, considers music to be a defining factor
of someone’s subcultural identity. A certain genre of music is favoured by a
subculture and its members. The mods were known for listening to British beat
music and ska, such as the kinks and most notably The Who, whereas the rockers,
again preferred more powerful sound, listening to a heavier style of rock,
including Led Zeppelin and ACDC.

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A
subculture that formed later, yet still had an obvious music theme and distinct
clothing choices, was that of the punk era. This subculture is presented in
Julien Temple’s 2000 film The Filth and the Fury. This is a Rockumentary, like
that of Quadrophenia which followed the mods and rockers. The Filth and the
Fury, follows the sex pistols and the attitudes towards them. The word
“deviate” is relevant here, as it relates to the mods, rockers, and punk
subcultures. Whilst the mods were not particularly well known for any violent, rebellious,
or criminal activity, it is however commonly considered as alternative and
there is well documented conflict between the mods and the rockers on the
seafront in Brighton, the most notorious example was in 1964. This revealed a
violent side of both the two subcultures and suggests them to be somewhat
criminal and therefore can be considered deviant. The mods, where also known
for their use of narcotics, including amphetamines, which further fuels the
idea of them as deviant. Whereas the punks were explicitly known for their
rebellious and criminal nature, particularly the violence towards mainstream
society, making the punk subculture easily identifiable as a deviant
subculture.

In
his piece, Subcultural Conflict and Working-Class Community, Critic Phil Cohen
begins to analyse subcultures, particularly in relation to the idea of an
unrest or conflict between the younger and older generations subculture, he
refers to this as ‘youth’ and ‘parent’ culture. Cohen implies that a person’s
identity with a subculture forms during their adolescence. When a youth may
feel an active rift or separation from their parent’s culture, whist remaining
a part of their community and having a sense of solidarity with their parent
culture. This relates to the mods and rockers subcultures, many of their
members are aged in their mid to late teenage years, which further supports
Cohen’s studies, as again commented on links to subcultures forming during
adolescence. However, the punk subculture doesn’t support Cohen’s theories as
this subculture is seen to be moving away from the conflict between ‘youth’ and
‘parent’ culture, as an allegiance with the punk subculture tended to develop
in early adulthood, specifically the early twenties, rather than the adolescence
of the mods and rockers, this is highlighted in the film, The Filth, and the
Fury. Both the Sex Pistols and their fans, are of this age group, as they are
shown to attend various concerts during the documentary. Whilst the conflict on
Brighton seafront in the nineteen sixties suggest the mods and rockers to be
more violent in natures. A distinctive ‘them’ and ‘us’ style divide seems more
appropriate when thinking of the punk subculture, as it further emphasises the
violence and conflict provoked by the punks towards mainstream society. This
includes the police, which would make the punk subculture a deviant one, rather
than just the member’s parents or parent culture.

Julien
Temple’s film, The Filth and the Fury, the band, The Sex Pistols are presented
to be the inventors and instigators of the subculture. To some extent they are
blamed for the violence and deviance that is associated with it. During the
film, several news reports are given, the first reports on a “new teenage cult”
and is compared to the subcultures of the nineteen sixties. The reports refer
to the members as “troublemakers.” Later in the film, Johnny Rotten, comments
on the band’s first few years. He goes on to mention the first lyric they ever
wrote, which was the infamous “I am an anti-Christ, I am an anarchist”. The
film continues, following the bands rise in popularity.  As their popularity rises, so does the media
attention. Most it appears to be negative, this is potentially due to the
nature of the band and their lyrics, this arguably creates the punk subculture,
which the film presents to be like a cult. Throughout the film, there are
examples of footage of the violence caused at the Sex Pistols concerts, one
band member, describes it as “a little bit of a scuffle”. This appears to be
him accepting the violence as normal and therefore condoning it amongst the
punk subculture. Therefore, to some extent The Sex Pistol’s condoning of
violence at their concerts, promotes the punk subculture to be a deviant one.
This further portrayed them as violent and promoted them amongst the subculture.
The members of the punk subculture can be considered rebellious and deviant, as
they are being deliberately so, however with other subcultures the link isn’t
as transparent. One example of this is the ‘skagboys’ presented in Boyle’s film
Trainspotting, they cannot be considered completely deviant as their actions
are fuelled by an addiction to heroin, rather than a spite for society.  Furthermore, the subculture of the skagboys
themselves can also be brought into question, as whether they can be classed as
such is debatable. This is due to it developing much later than other
subcultures, as well as having less easily classified characteristics. 

The
idea of a Post-subcultural time, stems from Rupert Weinsierl and David
Muggleton’s essay, what is “Post-subcultural studies” Anyway?’ In which they describe,
how Post-subcultural theories, focus on an individual’s thoughts and feelings,
rather than the beliefs formed by a subculture. In their essay they explain “contemporary
youth cultures are characterized by far more complex stratifications than that
suggested by the simple dichotomy of “monolithic mainstream”. In this quotation
they are highlighting the key idea of subcultures acting as more than just an
alternative to the mainstream society. They are a fully-fledged culture, these
discredits earlier theories of a ‘youth’ vs ‘parent’ culture. A point that
further supports this is that members of youth cultures in earlier periods
would now be the parents to members of post-subcultural or subcultural groups.  

The
1996, book to film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, directed by
Danny Boyle, follows the day to day lives of a group of heroin addicts,
commonly referred to as skagboys, living in Edinburgh in the late nineteen
eighties. The film follows, Ewan McGregor’s character Mark Renton. However,
what is interesting about this adaptation, is that the audience is given a
unique and very personal insight into the lives of the five main characters.
Renton narrates most of the film, which is based strongly on the ‘skagboys’ and
the subculture surrounding drugs and drug use. 
The online Webster’s Dictionary defines drug subcultures as “examples of
countercultures, primarily defined by recreational drug use,” Due to their
continuous drug use, it is easy to consider the characters in this film as
criminals, and therefore deviant. However, the circumstances that lead them to
heroin addiction should be taken into consideration before any sweeping
generalisations are made about both the characters and the drug subculture in
general.

Boyle’s
film opens by introducing Renton and his friend and fellow addict Spud, played
by Ewen Bremmer. The pair are being chased through the streets of Edinburgh, by
figures of authority. Presumed to be either police or security guards, this is
indicated by the suits worn by them. Though is not mentioned explicitly, an
audience presumes the pair to have robbed a video store, as tapes fall from
their person whilst running. This initial scene presents the pair as both
deviant and criminal, traits which are often assumed of someone who is a part
of a drug subculture. The film continues by introducing Renton and the other
skagboys. During which the infamous ‘choose life’ speech is heard, this
highlights Renton’s distain for the mundane, everyday activities he is no
longer a part off, due to his addiction. Personally, I feel, Boyle chooses to
introduce us on a person level with the characters, so the audience views them
as people, rather than just criminals or junkies. Undoubtedly Boyle doesn’t
spare any details regarding their criminal activities, however we still learn
to view the characters as people, with different strengths and weaknesses. Sick
Boy, played by Jonny Lee Miller, appears to be the most intelligent, and is
particularly articulate when discussing films, specifically James Bond. The use
of Renton as a narrator throughout the film, not only gives more personal
information an audience may not know otherwise. It also appears like that of a
voiceover in a documentary, he reveals an intimate but mature sense of self.
Whilst appearing almost authoritative, similar perhaps to David Attenborough.
It’s his voiceover, that makes it easy for an audience to side with him.
Therefore, he can’t be considered a representative or archetype of drug culture
and deviance, but rather as a sensitive human being with both negative and
positive qualities.

Again,
there is definitely a strong argument that Trainspotting, should not be
analysed from a subcultural perspective, as perhaps post-subcultural theories
are more appropriate. The characters in Boyle’s adaptation, don’t conform to
the typical requirements more traditional subcultures have. Fashion being a
good example of this. The group seem to only share one common interest, that
being heroin use, and how it has influenced them to view society from a
different perspective. Therefore, they should not be considered a subculture,
especially not one like the mods or the rockers.

An
important part of Post-subcultural theory, is again individualism. This should be
considered when analysing Trainspotting. From the beginning of the film, it is
clear the different characters all have different opinions on many different
topics. To say they didn’t agree on everything, would be a massive
understatement. This is symbolized at the end of the film, by Renton’s
betrayal. During which he steals the money the group made from selling drugs
and flees to Amsterdam. He only leaves four thousand, an equal cut, to his
closest friend Spud. The drug deal is the most deviant act during the film. It
is the most illegal act the group take part in. Therefore, due to this it’s
arguable the group are deviant. However, Renton is initially opposed to the
deal, but is forced into it by the most aggressive and violent member, Francis
Begbie. Played by Robert Carlyle.

Carlyle’s
character is perhaps the most paradoxical. The opening scene of the film,
reveals how he is completely against taking illegal drugs. His line “no way
would I poison my body wi’ that shite, all thee fucking chemicals” highlights
this view clearly. However, Boyle creates irony here, as a pint, a shot and
cigarettes are all present in the foreground whilst he makes this claim. Even
from the start of the film, Boyle presents Begbie as being very anti-drugs.
This separates him from the rest of the group. However, it also acts to argue
the taking of drugs isn’t criminal, as the biggest criminal is anti-drugs. The
drugs do not make the skagboys deviant, but rather the act of taking them makes
them deviant. As despite the strong association with the skagboys being a
deviant group, there are more deviant people not part of such groups.
Therefore, trainspotting should not be judged as a film about subcultural
deviance, but rather as a film from a post-subcultural perspective, who’s
characters all differ regarding deviance and perhaps morality.

Both
the Filth and the Fury and Trainspotting reveal an insight into two different subcultures
and question whether they should be classed as subcultures. They also reveal an
insight into themes of deviance regarding said subcultures. In the Filth and
the Fury, the punks are portrayed to aim to be as rebellious and deviant as
possible. Their actions centre themselves deliberately on deviant acts, whereas
the Skagboys in Trainspotting, aren’t centrally focused on deliberate deviant
acts. Therefore, Boyle’s film is more about people, than the drug subculture.
There has been some critical opinion, that Boyle condones the use of heroin,
however he instead gives an insight into the culture. It is the voiceover by
Renton that makes the characters feel human. Therefore, to summarise
Trainspotting allows an audience to come to its own conclusion on members of a
drug subculture, and where they are in fact deviant. 

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