Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Two Sides of Gen X figure Christian Slater

"Eat your cereal with a fork, and do your homework in the dark." - Hard Harry Hard-On

Nothing quite typified early 90s angst and the Generation X ethos like Christian Slater's character in the cult Gen X film Pump Up the Volume. Slater had come on the scene a few years earlier as J.D. (Jason Dean) in the 80s satire Heathers providing an alternative to the Hughe-esque portrayal of youth via Ferris Bueller and company. Slater's characters resonated just as much with young Gen Xers - who were yet to be identified as anything other than slackers - as Hughes' characters had, getting more deeply into the dark side that had been only hinted at with characters like John Bender in A Breakfast Club. And, Slater's real-life dark side emerged even more quickly than Robert Downey, Jr.'s, and pegged him as the troubled youth that adult society was just beginning to view a bit more suspiciously. The duality that came in characters like Mark/HHH in PUTV perfectly typified a time and an age group, and Slater has survived, back with an amazing bit of nostalgia and staying power, most recently coming up for air in the dark new hit TV show from USA - Mr. Robot. How appropriate that it comes from the USA Network, where we all watched so many edited "R" movies in the late 80s, hoping that an f-word or bit of nudity might slip by the censors. Looking back at Slater's career, pop culture writer and commentator Soraya Roberts has penned a great piece for Bright Wall, Dark Room on "The Two Christians."

“You see, no one wants to hear it, but the terrible secret is that being young is sometimes less fun than being dead.” It could be a Heathers line, but by then J.D. had already blown himself up. Pump up the Volume is a lot less violent than the film that made Christian Slater famous, but is still a darker addition to a genre defined largely by John Hughes’ saccharine take on adolescence. “I like all those John Hughes movies but I always thought they were a little too – well – pink,” director Allan Moyle told The Los Angeles Times in 1990. “They could’ve been tougher.” Where those movies were primarily about what it feels like to be a kid, Pump was more in line with Heathers, emoting primarily through words. Slater stars as Mark Hunter, an innocuous bespectacled high schooler who has just transferred to Arizona from New York. Unable to connect with his fellow students, he plugs in a radio and an anonymous new persona—Happy Harry Hard-on—to get through to them. “I wanted a marriage between two of my favorite outsiders – Lenny Bruce and Holden Caulfield,” Moyle said. Through his rants about society to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” Harry’s pirate radio show becomes an outlet for the students’ collective anger at Hubert Humphrey High. A sort of prototype for the zines and blogs of the ‘90s (and social media now), Harry’s show democratized the marginal voices around him. “Spill your guts out and say shit and fuck a million times if you want to, but you decide,” he says. “Fill the air, steal it. Keep the air alive – TALK HARD!!!!
Here's Triple-H with the ironically inspiring motivational speech about suicide.

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