Style: Degeneration X

Popular culture is going taboo-busting crazy. As the new millennium looms, are we too jaded to notice? By Stuart Husband

Are people driven to extreme forms of expression by the passing of millennia? The lead-up to the year 1000, according to writers of the time, was peppered with "panic terrors" at the prospect of Satan's imminent arrival, but, this time round, most of the "apocalyptic stirrings" have been split between suicide cults and practitioners of the arts, who seem to be hurling themselves through every taboo-busting barrier before the nines turn to noughts.

Take films. There's this week's concentration camp caper (Roberto Begnini's Life Is Beautiful), a forthcoming cannibalism movie (Ravenous, with Robert Carlyle), and a real sex movie, The Idiots, which director Lars Von Trier claims is the first non-porn movie in which the actors really get it on - the fact that they're pretending to have Down's Syndrome while doing so supposedly adds to the frisson. Perhaps the most shocking thing about these movies is that they don't set out to shock as John Waters' Pink Flamingos did; they just tell it like it is, in a post-Jerry Springer "We-eat-human-flesh-get-used-to-it" way. Referring to the idea that the mainstream had moved towards him rather than the other way around, Waters opined recently: "Everyone's as sick as me now", perhaps a little regrettfully.

Certainly, the mainstream now encompasses TV series like prime-time show, The Lakes, with its scenes of gang rape and dismemberment in the traditional Sunday night costume-romp slot; and the C-word, once A Curse Too Far, turns up in a future episode of Sex And The City. (The week after next if you want to set your videos.)

On the literary front, we can look forward to the paperbacks of Gordon Burn's Fred and Rosemarython, Happy Like Murderers, and Gitta Sereny's book on Mary Bell, Cries Unheard. In fiction, the heroine of Jen Sacks' Nice coolly murders troublesome boyfriends - a sort of feminist answer to American Psycho (the movie version of which goes into production this year).

Is this a pre-millennial phenomenon? Richard Landes, executive director of the Centre for Millennial Studies at Boston University thinks so: "When you approach such a significant date, future concerns drop away. There's more freedom to express things you wouldn't dare to." Novelist William Gibson takes a more dystopian view: "I think it's the desperate thrashing of a world that's lost direction with the end of what you might call the modern programme."

Of course, the public's hunger for unpalatable imagery may have as much to do with the approaching millennium as with the realisation that the public's appetite for gore and sex is keener than anyone suspected - a trawl on the internet turns up 2,053 sites devoted to necrophilia and a whopping 24,775 for incest. However, the Moral Majority may win in the end - Raoul Glaber, a monk who lived at the end of the last millennium, reported that people were so grateful not to be Armageddoned, that they donned white robes and began an orgy - of church-building.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

    SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

    Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

    £85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

    Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

    £55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering