The Decline of Western Civilization Part III | Chicago Reader

The Decline of Western Civilization Part III

The third installment of Penelope Spheeris’s documentary series on subversive musical movements, released in 1998, is by far the darkest—it looks into the lives of nihilistic Los Angeles gutter punks in the 90s. These are Spheeris's most tragic subjects: misunderstood, rejected by society, and often fleeing from abuse, the punks in this chapter of Decline can't stand living in the world but have at least managed to find one another. For these kids, surviving on the street usually involves self-medicating with drugs and alcohol—and many of them seem to realize that they won't make it to 30 this way. The bands Spheeris films appear to lead equally bleak existences, but they use their musical platforms to preach open-mindedness and acceptance.

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