The Other F Word (2011)

The Other F Word (2011) movie poster

director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins
viewed: 06/03/2013

Punk and parenting.  Two terms that aren’t so often thought of together.  In this case, it’s specifically the perspective of fatherhood.  And it’s something that piqued my interest, because as little as I may look it on the outside, I still consider a significant aspect of who I am as punk, or influenced by associated ethos.  And, of course, I’m a father.

I guess this is where I thought this documentary could be very interesting.  Maybe the focus would then be more on “alt-parenting” or something.  For a lot of my friends who have become parents were ones who maintained lives outside of mainstream culture and balked at having parenthood shift them anywhere back into it.  It plays out in kids growing up shunning corporate entities, especially fast food.  People shun the icons of the toddler track: the Barneys and Doras, Barbie, all the plastic junk, television ad nauseum…  That said, parenting ends up being one of life’s great equalizers.  You suddenly find that you have more in common with the family that just had a baby a week after yours rather than your friends with whom you’ve been close for years.

It’s not a bad documentary, not a great one either.  It has the style of a television show, with some shots speeded up as it cross-cuts certain sequences.  It does manage a story arc with one dad telling the story of losing his son in a tragic traffic accident and another quitting his band to focus on being a parent.

The thing is that some of these guys are more punk than others, some more rock star than others.  There is a reasonable variance, covering smaller bands versus some of the bigger ones, and also covering Ron Reyes, former singing for Black Flag who hasn’t been in music the same way in decades.  The heart of the film focuses on Pennywise singer Jim Lindberg, who apparently has been documenting his life as a punk rock dad in writing.  He’s a good guy, articulate, family-focused.  I never listened to Pennywise, so I don’t know what else to say.

Director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins also speaks with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Mark Hoppus of blink-182.  Lindberg and Pennywise spend months and months on the road, playing pretty big venues around the world, not necessarily a rock star, but not exactly punk rock either.  The life of a musician is harder and different now with digital music.  It means that the way to make money is to play shows, not record albums, and so it is worth acknowledging the hardship.  But I was definitely struck by the fact that it’s less about being a punk and much more about being a musician, a touring professional musician, rock star or no.

I was thinking how it would be more interesting to interview the punks who aren’t musicians about parenting.  You certainly don’t need to sing or play guitar to find yourself in some strange places as an adult with a little one.  And also I am sure that some of the original punks have fully adult children by now and that too would have been an interesting angle.  And in going for the “f word” of fatherhood, focusing on the male experience seems limiting too.

It’s not to say that I didn’t find it kind of interesting.  I realized that I have met a couple of these people back in the day.  But being a parent has been a whole world of difference and it’s certainly interesting to hear how others have come to rationalize and realize the trappings of punk rock adulthood.

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