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February 16, 1995 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-02-16

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6 - The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, February 16, 1995

Take the skinheads to 'Romper'room and teach them how to play nice.

By Alexandra Twin
Daily Film Editor
Chances are, you will never find a
t-shirt that reads "Skinheads make
better lovers" or "I shave, therefore I
im" or even "I shaved my head and
propagated violence and all I got was
this lousy t-shirt." However, this fact
should not indicate that the cult(ure)
of skinheads is any less interesting
and worth investigating than the cul-

Ho me
Entertainment
Center.
ture of say, Miami. Like the retired
'rents who flee evil New Jersey for
the solace of Florida's warm waters,
skinheads too are disillusioned, badly
dressed and in need of a lot of
sunblock.
They're also the subject of last
year's cult hit "Romper Stomper."
Easily one of the best films of 1993, it
was released to solid reviews and a
few art houses in large cities. Draw-
ing on a spare set and style, contrasted
with prominent, emotive perfor-
mances, the film chronicles the brief
misanthropic adventures of gang
leader Hando (Russell Crowe), his
epileptic girlfriend Gabe (Jacqueline
McKenzie), his little brother Davey
(Daniel Pollock) and their group of
young, broke, clueless rebels; these
are skinheads who hide under their
fierce monikers and mantras, who use
intimidation, theft and Asian-bashing
as a means of entertainment and sus-
tenance.
Hando and Gabe meet in a bar.
She's a petite blonde, with large, seri-
ous eyes who's just run away from
her rich, abusive father. He's pure
trouble, all bourbon eyes and sexy
and edgy and ready to smack anyone
who gets too close. She needs a place
to stay. He needs to get laid. They
stare at each other across the bar,
transfixed for a moment. The next
shot is of them tongue-tied against a
wall in the subway station, as Hando's
groupies play games and with each
other in the background, alongside
the filthy wall.
There is a sense of reckless
abandonment in their actions, but
also a feeling of degradation and

mostly desperation. Like the kiss
itself, which seems compromised
by and harshly juxtaposed with the
dirt and violence around it, their
love seems ill-suited. They are a
perfect mismatch. He's proud to
have acquired such unexpected loot
and she's happy to know that she'll
have a group to live by for at least a
few weeks. They are sweet and dorky
together, doomed but delirious for
the moment. Call 'em Romeo and
Juliet from Hell.
Following this episode, normal
life resumes. This essentially consists
of breaking into stores, inspiring fear
and trying to find cool, free parties
with lots of loud punk music playing
in the background. There are some
punk-looking girls, but this is mostly
a boys' game where the taller, meaner
and more tattoos you have, the better.
This is survival of the fittest.
The group want to be anarchists,
but are probably closer to existential-
ists; they go where the day takes them,
should it choose to. If not, they go
somewhere else.
They spend a great deal of time
picking on the transplanted Asian
minority. It is partly out of fear, but
also out of a lack of anything to do.
Finally, the repeated attacks become
too much and the Asian group fights
back. It is at this point that the
skinheads must flee their home and
seek cover elsewhere.
It is here, in their flight, that the
film takes off, casting a manic shadow
on the mere implications of the first
half. The film draws the parallel be-
tween the gang's brief, frantic flight
from the mob and their lifelong, fran-
tic flight from society to stellar effect,
offering a portrait that is neither sym-
pathetic nor wholly reprehensible. It
is doubtful that anyone watching the
movie would ever want to be like
these people -their excesses and
devil-may-care attitudes and actions
don't reek of glory or fun or excite-
ment - yet few viewers will leave
condemning them either.
In their retreat, the loose tendrils
of unity that they've managed tamus-
ter over the years begin to unravel;
they unfold as Hando loses bets with
reality, casting Gabe and the last
shreds of hope far away. As their
group dissolves, so does a bit of the
bias against them. In the end, they
seem to be just another group of lost
boys.

Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie and Russel Crowe are seen here In the 1993 film "Romper Stomper," a bit of art on skinhead culture.

Although the film does not con-
demn this group, it doesn't romanti-
cize them either. The hints of Nazism,
generally associated with the skinhead
movement, are present here, but
mostly in the personification of
Hando, who is clearly the group's
extreme. He wakes Gabe after their first
night together with a reading from
Hitler's "Mein Kampf." He wears his
swastika as proudly as Joe Patriot wears
the American flag, yet he doesn't really
know what it all means and it doesn't
really matter. It's just an emblem for
him to latch onto.
Russell Crowe plays Hando with
the kind of impassive, brutal, random
determination that makes your skin
crawl. Yet, he's appealing - hand-
some and misguided and definitely
once destined for more than this.
JacquelineMcKenzie's Gaberemains
something of a mystery, aloof and
wide-eyed, yet dead set on doing
whatever is necessary to survive. Per-
haps most disturbing of all is Daniel

Pollock, who plays the conscientious,
unassuming Davey with aquiet resig-
nation that contrasts sharply with the
bristly discontent of the others. The
news that Pollock ended his own life
only months after the completion of
the film intensifies the performance

to the point where it is painful to
watch.
Yet this film is not a documen-
tary and these characters are not
meant to stand as a microcosm for
skinhead society. It's also not a
musical-comedy extravaganza fea-

M0
Misery is an o
By Kirk Miller
Daily Books Editor
E-mail threat Jake Baker had only
two faults; he was bad with names
and got too chummy-with a Canadian.
However, Mr. Baker has provided the
occasional Internet surfer with a road

bsessed Debbie

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map to unusual computer stalking. A
quick peek into the darker reaches of
the Internet shows that there are many,
many people living in their own bi-
zarre fantasy worlds, and writing about
real people in ways that would send
the FBI into a tizzy. These are the fan
club newsletter writers, the few, the
proud, the deranged.
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Fan clubs started popping up on
the Internet a long time ago, but with
this wacky information superhighway
fad almost everyone has their own
home page, digest or monthly news-
letter. And some of these make Mr.
Baker appear quite sane, especially
when considering the intimate details
people are sharing about Debbie
Gibson.
Remember Debbie Gibson?
"Shake Your Love" (shake my what?)
"Electric Youth" perfume? The stir-
ring Debbie vs. Tiffany debates? Well,
Debheads, anything is possible, in-
cluding a rabid fan base with its own
monthly newsletter devoted to every-
thing Debbie. It's called "Between
the Lines" and it's available through
e-mail subscription at btl@egbt.org
or for a few bucks through the mail.
"Why the hell would I want to
know about Debbie?" you might ask.
Good question. It appears as if there
are a lot of proud owners of "Out of
the Blue" who just can't let the little
singing sensation grow up. Every
month several people write in de-
scribing their experiences with
Debbie, random (and some eerily not-
so-random) run-ins, critiques of her
discography and her recent perfor-
mance in "Grease" during its run in
England. Most likely the goal is to
unite the forces of Debheads into one
loving community, like Waco.
But these folks are marching to
their own foolish beat. Most issues
contain pages-long ramblings detail-
ing every movement Debbie made
during the week, sometimes uncom-
fortably close to stalking. A writer
for pro wrestling magazines wrote in

turing cross-dressers and ballroom
dancing meant to shake up the'
skinhead stereotype. What it is is an
engaging, serrating and ultimately*
satisfying story. Whether it reso-
nates as something stronger than
that is up to you.
Gibson fan
to mention, "It's very satisfying to me
to search for and find an item of
Debstuff." Debstuff? He later added"
... the next day I bought the 'Any-*
thing is Possible' cassette, not for the
music, but for the photos." Paging
Mr. Woolery, we have a possible love
connection!
But Deb's power goes beyond
mere sexual obsession. One fan was
so enthralled with her music that he
gave up drugs. "After all," he ex-
plained, "Debbie taught me that 'any-
thing is possible."'Others have found
her to be their long lost, silent com-
panion. "I know you have no idea
who I am," one woman admitted.
"But I feel like your best friend."
Even more amusing was another
writer who had his own Debbie Gibson
newsletter. "It's funny," he wrote.
"I've been job searching and I put on
my resume that I publish a Debbie
Gibson newsletter. You would not
BELIEVE how many people ask me
about that ... Someone mentioned
that one of their friends sat next to
Deb on an airplane. I think I would
just die to get a seat next to her on a
plane ride, it would be so cool to talls
to her for five hours."
Five hours? About what? The bit-
ter debate over using "Deborah" in-
stead of "Debbie"? This was actually
a debate for the past few years, but
according to a "close friend" of Debg*
she now prefers "Debbie." If you heat
from the source, it is word.
So if you fear that your obsession
might lead you to prison, remember
that you can always find a safe haved
in stalking the stars. Shake your love,
Debbie. We'll be watching you.

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