SLC Punk approaches punk in an unbelievably lucid, intelligent, deliberate way, and it is the only source of mature commentary on punk that I have ever come across in my life. Punk is a phenomenon that has deserved commentary for so long, but which is so frequently written off as simple rebellion; punk is much more involved than mere rebellion, and much more worth understanding as a cultural phenomenon, because what lies at the root of it is ostentatiousness itself, being itself, singularity through volume. Punk is an act of violence that refuses to be overlooked, it is refusing to be overlooked by being violent--violent inasmuch as a color and style of hair that not only clash with what is generally accepted but which attempt to subvert and destroy all norms, so that identity can begin to exist.
The word "poser" surfaces quite a bit in this film, and the roots of its meanings are traced with a deft hand. A poser is not "real", not "legitimate", does not consist of the new and inimitable stuff of individual identity; a poser borrows from the world to define and decide himself, limiting himself to only things he has encountered rather than originated, too timid to ever admit that something exists inside him, something real and genuine. It is the denial of this inner-reality that makes someone a poser: the fear of the self, which leads an individual to steal a proven identity or characteristic that he has learned. The complexity of the complete meaning of this term is brought home near the end of the film, when the protagonist screams at the corpse of his recently deceased friend, "Only posers die!!" We are left with a question as to whether or not someone could ever use the word "poser" without doubting the integrity of his own identity, that is, without suspecting that he himself were something contrived and, with that, illegitimate. The usage of the term itself is, furthermore, self-defeating, as it attempts to "correct" some personality trait by criticizing it as feigned or dishonest.
And this all lies at the heart of the identity struggle that is punk, though punk is by no means limited to a quest for identity. The blanket term "rebelliousness" is only a conveniently vague term to be used in the forgetting of more specific aspects of punkhood: to refuse to become "cannon fodder for all their wars" is to will self-determination, to need freedom, to not be told what to do, to not be made a soldier in a foreign war or in a law firm. These enclosing, limiting things are abrasive to a punk, who demands complete autonomy and asserts it with random attention-grabbing acts and accoutrements (hair, violence, music, drugs, clothes, obnoxiousness, etc).
Stevo stood outside and gave a short monologue in which he declared, "Don't pity me, I don't like pity... I like pain! Tell her I like pain!" Nothing could have illustrated more clearly the punk need to be understood as tragic: tragically pained, tragically neglected, tragically perservering and strong and resilient and doomed. Stevo was a masochist because Stevo pitied himself. Stevo preferred to suffer. Stevo considered pain a making-real, a thing of true identity.
The end of the movie left me somewhat displeased: "How could he reject punk? What a sellout!!" I thought. This was a guy who spent so much time claiming to be real, swearing his allegiance to his self-loathing and his cult of style, renouncing it all and changing teams. Bad taste in my mouth. But his final monologue did offer some consolation, when I gave it some more thought, in that he was no longer the same person, and to persist in his lifestyle would be to become a poser.
But that still left me with the end impression that punk was being wrongly rejected in some way, that it was being turned down as an adolescent phase, which is entirely unfair: to not become mundane, to reject the system that might compromise your humanity and identity, that is no ignoble thing. There was some implication that punk was being rejected, although it may be said that this message was specific to Stevo's life.
The reason why I object to any overarching rejection of punk is because I find it to be a sort of value system: while it may be said to be wrong for a given individual, it cannot be said to be merely wrong.
Highly recommended. The first half of it is actually an (oddly narrated, but effective) comedy, and the second half a more serious drama.