Patrick Strudwick: How rebellion became suburban

Today our prawn cocktail culture holds up Lady Gaga as the cutting edge

Related Topics

Did you hear that sound on Saturday night? It was the dull thud as British culture slumped into clinical depression. The TV presenter Alex Jones performed a tango on Strictly Come Dancing to "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The song's principle theme is sodomy. There were few traces of it on the primetime show. Instead, in all the "glamour", we saw the once-banned anthem of sexual subversion wrapped in clingfilm and served up as a teatime treat.

Gay sex has become cheesecake. We're all suburban now. How do we know? Even Holly Johnson himself, the leader singer of Frankie, tweeted about the performance to provide his followers with a link to the footage. But at least he began his career by ripping Britain's polite face off. Today's gay pop stars have scarcely uttered a rebellious syllable between them, beyond, "I'm gay". Will Young pouting prettily as he warbles about heartache? Joe McElderry beaming dreamily as he is marketed by the X Factor machine?

That isn't a sign that progressive values have won. It is a sign that they have lost out to the flattening commercial juggernaut. Few can afford to take risks now. And as Bjork once said, "If you don't take the risks you don't get the treats".

This suburbanisation of culture is the inevitable offspring of the baby boomers. They indulged their creative whims only to oversee a financial implosion that clamps youngsters' every true artistic impulse. Never mind the Sixties, even the Seventies and Eighties expose our ring-road blandness. Grace Jones, David Bowie and Boy George tossed gender into a skip as Andy Warhol dismantled the notion of artistic production. Today our prawn cocktail culture holds Lady Gaga up as the cutting edge. But the only edges she's ever cut are off the T-bone steaks in her infamous meat dress.

And which movement perfectly traces our dullsville decline? The YBAs. They are no longer the Young British Artists, whose unmade beds and animal cadavers made Brian Sewell spew. They are now, simply, crashing bores. They are Damien Hirst running a seafood restaurant in Ilfracombe. They are Tracey Emin voting Tory and whingeing about tax. And they are the Chapman brothers, who seek to reverse the most progressive movement in history: the Enlightenment.

Who do we have left doing anything inventive? Grayson Perry, perhaps, and Kate Bush, whose new record, released today, managed to jolt even the most jaded of music critics. But they are both in their fifties. Our twentysomethings have less chance of damming the suburban tide than at any time since the war. Rising unemployment and disabling loans have seen to that. We should not be relaxed about this. We should gasp violently like someone in a Holly Johnson song.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Campaign Manager, Stevenage

£34000 - £36000 per annum: Charter Selection: This market leading organisation...

Senior Insight Analyst - SAS

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Senior Analyst Vacancy - Urgent Requriem...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
People hold the iconic rainbow flags at Pride  

Let's stop LGBT people 'coming out of the closet'

Chris Godfrey
Tulisa Contostavlos arrives to face drug charges at Southwark Crown  

How was Tulisa's case ever allowed to proceed?

Ben Rose
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform