Patrick Strudwick: How rebellion became suburban

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

Share
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

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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
9.4 million people watched the first of the three-way debates at the last election. The audience for the one on Thursday is likely to be far lower.  

David Cameron needs to learn some new tricks – and fast

Steve Richards
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor