A film about The Ramones — the band that popularized the “go start your own awful band” craze (and the concomitant brick wall band photo craze) — aired last night on PBS “Independent Lens.” Painful though it was, I watched all of it, and by “all of it” I of course mean “part of it.” I bailed at the part where the band (minus the recently deceased) gave acceptance speeches at the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Predominantly Male Fame.
How can anybody stand watching celebrities accept awards for celebrity? You’d think all the drugs and money and pussy would be reward enough. Greedy bastards.
I offer no opinion — although of course I have one — on either the artsiness of the rockumentary or the value of the Ramones’ contribution to Western civilization. But I do offer an opinion on patriarchy, and I don’t mind telling you that what chapped my hide while watching this film was its depiction of the lifeblood of rock’n’roll, the relentless celebration of women-hatin’.
Not that the relentless celebration of women-hatin’ is the ostensible focus of End of the Century; this is a fan-boy movie, made strictly to ennoble the objects of fan-boy worship. In fact, because the Ramones were a rock band, and rock, like all art and culture, exiles women to its periphery, End of the Century only mentions women a few times. But when it does, it abstracts them in terms of “getting laid,” a phrase that acknowledges implications only for the male rock star in question, and in terms of pussy-ownership, which is feminist for “it should be obvious by now who owns any given vagina, but the fact is, the owner is rarely the woman to whom it is attached, especially where rockdudes are concerned.”
It is no secret that rock’n’roll values women only as receptacles, but what may be less obvious is that this makes rock’s whole rebellion-against-The-Establishment ethos a total crock of shit. In fact, rock’n’roll, like any other cultural movement generated within a patriarchy, is just an intensified little microcosm in which the hegemony of the culture that spawned it is concentrated, exaggerated, and ultimately consecrated (such as in a fanboy rockumentary).
For white guys like the Ramones and their fanboys, rock’n’roll took off in the 60’s, when it became emblematic of revolution and free love. Few women in the 60’s, however, actually benefitted from all that grooviness. For them, “revolution” meant trading in matrimonial slavery to one man for a theoretical obligation to all men, and “free love” meant having to give it up on demand or risk being chucked out of the movement as a buzzkill and a drag and a square.
Surrounded by hordes of star-struck sycophants, rock stars were singularly well-situated to take advantage of the new fuck-friendly paradigm. But it was “free” and “revolutionary” only in the sense that it dispensed with some of the pesky social niceties that patriarchy had for centuries imposed on men who wanted to screw. For women, the result was the essentially same: men in positions of power were whippin’ off a piece with no responsibilities, and women were capitulating in the hope that it would raise their status . There were no openings for them in the band. The only openings were between their legs .
In other words, the culture that spawned rock’n’roll was as conservative and misogynist as any, and rock’n’roll, rather than rejecting society’s violent values of oppression in a true attempt to rebel against the hated Establishment, embraced them like a long-lost millionaire uncle. In fact, rock distilled misogyny into a media-anointed exaltation of the white male ego unprecedented in cultural history . They took the money, they took the pussy, and now they’re taking the car commercials. This ideology persists in 21st century youth culture, having been appropriated most notoriously by the hip-hop scene, which has trained its women to revel in the designation “bitches and hoes.”
Because rock’n’roll doggedly and conservatively seeks to preserve the male supremacist status quo, it isn’t surprising that the central crisis in the Ramones mythology is the episode of “woman stealing” that results in a permanent rift between the two principal Ramones. For millennia, the Stolen Woman motif has enjoyed uninterrupted popularity as literary device in the service of patriarchy (see Paris and Helen of Troy, Guinevere and Sir Meleagant, et al). Nothing reaffirms warm feelings about male supremacy like a Greek epic in which a beautiful woman has no say in her own sexual destiny! In the Ramones version, Johnny purloins Joey’s property , marries her, and the two never speak again.
A previous rock love triangle resulted in “Layla”; fortunately, in responding musically to their own melodrama, the Ramones spared us the guitar wanking ignominy and incessant airplay of the classic rock anthem by releasing “KKK Took My Baby Away.”
You know, the oft-predicted but seemingly never-quite-realized death of rock’n’roll can’t happen soon enough for me. Enough, already!
 Over the years, of all the patriarchy-obliging women who sought to improve their status by fucking rock stars, the only one onto whose person even a whiff of celebrity stench was able to more or less permanently adhere is Pamela Des Barres. She wrote a tell-all about her years as a receptacle for the egocentric spurtings of famous men. In it she calls herself a ‘muse’
 I am personally acquainted with old school rocker dudes who think Cynthia Plaster Caster is the bee’s knees, but have nothing for disdain for the talents of the “chick bass players” who started showing up in indie bands in the 90’s. You want approval? Worship the dick.
”Even though we were the worst band ever, we still insisted on blowjobs before every show, now that I remember it.” — A male acquaintance recollecting his glory days as a punk rocker in the early 80’s.
 A woman named Linda whose existence as an individual the filmmakers deem so peripheral to the story that they allow her to appear only as a disembodied off-camera voice, even though she is clearly sitting within a few feet of Johnny Ramone as he is interviewed.