The Doom Generation

The Doom Generation (1995)
★★ / ★★★★

Amy Blue (Rose McGowan) and Jordan White (James Duval) are most alive at night: partying, doing drugs, and getting caught up in stupid things that young people are entitled to experience. But things turn for the worse when Xavier Red (Johnathon Schaech) is slammed against Amy’s car by several guys who jumped him. Somehow Xavier manages to get inside the vehicle and the trio go on a road trip.

Written and directed by Gregg Araki, “The Doom Generation” is trashy and proud which makes it sort of fun. There is something devilishly magnetic about the rock ‘n’ roll, reckless lifestyle of the main characters. However, the messages it wishes to portray are largely inconsistent which makes it frustrating and confusing at times. Are images of doom and gloom supposed to inspire us to think about how we react to violence as a society as well as individuals? Are we supposed wonder about the level of violence intrinsic in all of us? Or is it all supposed to be for fun?

It should be noted that the last names of our protagonists are primary colors. Side-by-side, they complement each other looks- and personality-wise. Individually, they fascinated me somewhat. As I looked at them during the first act, I wondered what each of them is capable of. Are they people who are so insecure that they are hungry to impress or are they immoral beings? Surprisingly, when the two colors blend, through the intense act of sex, the material falls flat. On the contrary, it should demand our attention and allow us to see or feel the repercussions of their actions more clearly.

For instance, Jordan is rather obtuse intellectually and it takes him a while to process certain situations, but how does he really feel or think about, after having the chance to absorb the information, when he sees Amy, who is supposedly his girlfriend, engaging in casual sex with Xavier? He is shown looking lonely or sad but I did not have a gut reaction to his response. There is a gaping disconnect among what is on paper, the acting, and the viewers. Is he genuinely hurt by what he saw? It he surprised that he does not care at all and feel he must put up a front to reflect how people normally act in similar circumstances? Either way, we are not given enough information with regards to the nature of Amy and Jordan’s relationship. Jordan can look sad all he wants but I did not care all that much.

There are a few interesting images. The devil’s number, 666, are featured on signs in supermarkets and there are banners and graffitis that warn about the end of the world. They paint a metaphor that Amy, Jordan, and Xavier are traversing a hellish wasteland. With each place they visit, they end up in a fight and someone ends up seriously hurt or dead. Their luck is bound to run out.

With each encounter, someone almost always recognizes Amy. One of the most memorable is Brandi (Parker Posey). She considers herself to be Amy’s slave. Amy, fresh and cool with her big sunglasses, potty-mouth and chain-smoking ways, turns out to be a girl of experience. Still, random strangers recognizing her ends up nowhere. Eventually, it starts to feel like the trio are only together to inflict or experience bloody violence.

And then there is the smoldering sexual tension between Jordan and Xavier–the best part of the movie. They are never shown as intimate–at least not sexually with just the two of them. What they have is not exactly a chance to explore their latent homosexuality or bisexuality. Instead, it plays upon the idea of how their transgressions, usually driven by the continually unfulfilled id, will never allow them to reach happiness that is pure and true.

“The Doom Generation” features images of punk anarchy. Sometimes its sense of humor is sick but a little sad, too. There is a scene where Amy accidentally runs over a dog. It turns out that she and her friends show more reaction to a dog dying compared to seeing a person, a clerk at Quickiemart (Dustin Nguyen), getting murdered. Perhaps the writer-director wants us to recognize that there is something wrong with that.

6 replies »

  1. I rented this movie when it came out on VHS, because the box described it as an edgy dark comedy and because Parker Posey was in it. Man, I can still remember how awful this movie made me feel; it was almost as hopeless and disgusting as Kids. And the worst part was that my poor dog went over to the TV and whined when the dog who got run over was whining! I still don’t see what was supposed to be funny about any of it. I guess if Araki meant to strongly affect the viewer, then he succeeded. My best friend was always making me watch Araki’s movies because he was one of the few high-profile young gay directors at the time, and iirc all of Araki’s were depressing.

    • I’m not sure if I expected it to be a dark comedy. Knowing some of Araki’s work, he has a tendency to focus on extreme behaviors to underline the sadness or emptiness in his characters’ lives. That was the approach I had coming into this film and I think it worked some of the time. Most of the time, it just felt like I was watching crazy people doing crazy things.

      What did you think of “Mysterious Skin”?

      • I actually have not seen that one; I don’t think I have watched one of his movies since 1999 or so. But after I left the comment up there I went on IMDb to see what old Gregg has been up to and it looks like Mysterious Skin is supposed to be a pretty good movie. Do you recommend it?

        • I can’t speak for Franz, but I would recommend it; it looks to be one of the very few films to tackle such delicate subject matter and attempt to make a legitimate portrayal of the affects that kind of abuse can have on a kid and stay with them throughout their adult lives.

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