Play-Writing About Punk Rock
I recently exchanged e-mails with a fine young cannibal who asked my advice on the punk rock to make some dialogue in his work-in-progress (I know not what for) sound more authentic. The general topic was "who is punk?" and "what is punk?", two questions that would depress me if I cared enough, because they're unanswerable and playgrounds for screw-heads who think or pretend they know the answers.
Everything is punk and nothing is punk, ok? Like ART and Ward Churchill's Native American Identity it's up to each person to determine what's real or not. The arguments therein are for children in age and maturity.
He mostly wanted to know about the NYC bands of the 70s, especially Blondie, the Talking Heads and the Ramones. What most remember as the CBGBs scene was a collection of bands bound together mostly by location and shared artful weirdness. Some bands did nothing new or different, some only something different, while only a rare few were true innovators. I'll include Suicide but I mostly refer to the Talking Heads and (especially) the Ramones.
Writing dialogue about what is and is not punk is silly. First of all, who cares? Punk is mostly a look and a sound, whatever that may be. It's one thing to read about punk genealogy and another to have characters on paper or screen talk about it. Watch SLC Punk and The Anarchist Cookbook. Dissecting punk carries the same weight as debating the tensile strength of various ethnic nose hairs.
Second, there's no easy answers as to what is and is not punk. It's an argument with no resolution. It's waiting for godot with spikey hair and a bad attitude.
Third, punk isn't that important. Dogma deconstructed Catholicism and was interesting because religion is about the existential question, a huge subject. Punk rock is just, uh, music. Sure you can live your life surrounded by all things punk, but you can also wrap your life around model trains, gardening or a diaper fetish.
I advised this person to make the dialogue funny, mocking the characters for taking something so trivial so seriously. I haven't heard back. Good night and good luck.