Mass Culture & its Subculture

In his essay questioning the ambiguity of Anger’s film Scorpio Rising, Juan A. Suarez draws attention to the fascination that was embedded in the popular culture growing through the 60s. Suarez frames the film as an example of the motorcycle subculture that grew as a response to discontent with the present mass culture which normalized the notion (or need) to settle for life after war – marriage, job, house, children, and so forth. The motorcycle subculture dominated the youth, primarily because they were the first to drive against their own families’ expectations. Suarez analyzes the bikers’ behaviors through their clothing, claiming that the leather and denim is significant in that it “suggested the ‘open range’ and their being untamed by social and communal way,” (119).  The clothes and appearance created what Suarez notes as the S&M aesthetic, portraying the youth as dangerous, aggressive, and popular symbols as forms of rejection.

The significant element of the motorcycle culture as seen through the film and examined by Suarez is that it allowed for a turn by the queer community. The difference and transgression that the bikers represented replaced an image of the “sad young man” which to that point, was a prominent description of queer individuals. Suarez writes that the subculture “offered a more empowering and affirmative gay icon” which replaced the passiveness represented by the sad young man (122). This allowed for a sense of legitimization of the queer community, replaced now with acceptance rather than dismissal. Suarez examines Scorpio Rising as one of the films that portrays both positive and negative images of the mass culture it appears to criticize. Although the ambiguity is present, Suarez illustrates the film as a form of popular artform that was able to create shifts within popular culture and influence social images that have yet to escape a discriminatory and misunderstood attitudes.

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