Girl, It’s Me & You Like Sid & Nancy

Posted by: Coco Buchanan

The title of this post was taken from the lyrics of some Crazytown song that I vaguely recall from the late 90s/early 2000s.  Why ANYONE would consciously model their relationship after Sid Vicious & Nancy Spungen implies a level of high school angsty, trashy, provincial attitudes that I do not remember having the slightest bit of tolerance for since 1997.  But, anyhow, there was a recent article on Jezebel arguing that Nancy Spungen was sort of a victim of a sexist punk rock scene-I think it was in response to this article in NY mag.

 While I totally don’t doubt that she most definitely was a victim, in a sense, and perhaps I’m just missing the point, but, honestly, I don’t remember her having produced anything or being particularly outstanding for anything, other than having dated and having been eventually murdered (allegedly?) by Sid Vicious.  Not that I think she should be demonized in the way that she definitely has been over many years, but I just fail to realize why she should be any kind of “hero” either.  Not just that, but I also do not understand why a Malcolm McLaren-pre-fabricated band, nor any of its members should be particularly revered.  Sure, Vicious’s cover of My Way was pretty awesome, and I still enjoy some of the music of the Sex Pistols for better or worse, but, honestly, to idolize or admire any of these people is kind of ridiculous. 

Punk Rock, according to NY Mag’s Karen Schoemer and Legs McNeil (former editor of Spin, and creator of Punk magazine), was

Loud, yes. Obnoxious, yes. But that was the point. The first wave of punk directly confronted a culture it despised. And Madonna hadn’t come along yet to turn bitchy aggression into an art form. ‘You’ve got to remember, Donny and Marie were on TV,’ says McNeil. ‘We were tired of being nice. It was like, fuck you. The left had become as oppressive as the Republicans. They invented that political-correctness stuff. Punk was supposed to piss off everybody and make people think.’

OK, Johnny Rotten, we get it dude, you’re irreverent and flying in the face of established social conventions.  But, really, there’s only so much being contrary, whining and booger-flinging can accomplish.  Also, it really rubs me the wrong way when people get all up in arms about how they’re being oppressed by political correctness.  As though somehow unexamined and unchecked free-for all racism/sexism, etc are somehow a better option.  Though I’m definitely not on board with heavy-handed and excessive use of euphemisms, sometimes assholes need to be called out THAT MUCH.  Sorry that in the context of institutionalized racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. in the West, it’s an inconvenience for some people to be a bit more conscious of others.

 So when Legs McNeil (former editor of Spin, and creator of Punk magazine) asserted that Nancy “wasn’t any more fucked up than Dee Dee [Ramone] or me,” I mean, to me, that’s not really a grand endorsement.  Wasn’t Dee Dee Ramone a right-wing nutjob?  Or was that Johnny Ramone?  Self-proclaimed right-winger or not, it’s kinda like saying, well, Pol Pot was no worse than Hitler.  Though I do “get” the point he was making-namely, that because Spungen was an aggressive girl, she was more demonized than her male peers, even though she did the exact same stupid shit everyone else did in that “scene”.  But that’s the thing-it was stupid.  Or at least, pretty limited in its scope, at best-I mean, at what point does it simply become self-indulgent and self-centered, as opposed to creative and subversive?  Plus, it’s kind of a stretch to lump Spungen in with people like Yoko Ono or even Courtney Love.  Both of those women were artists in their own right.  But again, as far as I know, Spungen never produced anything.  She was barely an adult.  Spungen was 20 when she was killed, and from what I understand, had serious mental illnesses. 

Just as it is erroneous to paint her a “hero,” in my opinion, it would be a mistake to paint her as a complete victim, just.  There is definitely something to be said about this:

‘[Spungen] was honest about being a prostitute as well, which I thought was refreshing. The punk scene, like any other scene, had its little hierarchies. There were groupies that had been around for a long time because of their looks. In order to be a groupie you had to be tall and skinny and have fashionable clothes. There were a bunch of girls like that on the scene. And then here comes Nancy. She’s not trying to be cute or charming. She wasn’t telling people she was a model or a dancer. She had mousy brown hair and she was a bit overweight. She basically said, ‘Yeah, I’m a prostitute, and I don’t care.”

 Certainly Spungen, though troubled, was pugnacious in ways that challenged the normativity of mainstream culture and within the punk rock scene.  However, had the punk rock scene been more of a movement, perhaps Spungen could’ve been more “important,” so to speak.  I think this quote from actor/screenwriter Victor Cochillio says it all:

‘There was a lot of hope at that time….The music was catching on, bands like Talking Heads were breaking out. A lot of us were thinking, Hey, we may not have to get regular jobs. A lot of it hinged on Sid. He seemed to be the last one carrying the torch. When he died, we all felt like it was over. A couple of bands didn’t even want to gig. What was shunned was now persecuted. It was almost as if the war was over and we’d lost.’

Really?  Punk rock and all it stood for hinged entirely on Sid Vicious?  Using Cochillio’s analogy, if there really was a musical and social “war,” self-indulgent junkies can hardly be deemed soldiers, much less torch holders.  So I dunno, yes, Nancy Spungen struggled against the misogyny within her own subculture plus the misogyny in the dominant culture.  But was that which Spungen was ultimately trying to achieve in the context of that subculture all that meaningful?

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