The Decline of Western Civilization, Part III | Chicago Reader

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86 minutes · 1998

Documentary, Music documentary
Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, Wayne's World) calls the population defined by this 1998 ethnographic study "street punks." They're mostly teens who, estranged from their parents, crash in abandoned buildings and spend much of each day drinking and asking strangers for money. They also share tastes in fashion and music—some of which is presented in subtitled performances and discussed in interviews with band members. Spheeris, who includes her offscreen questions, evidently sympathizes with her subjects, though this doesn't stop her from pointing out their hypocrisy. One scene takes place in the apartment of a young man confined to a wheelchair; the many people partying there express their compassion for him, but opportunism is a big part of their motive for hanging around. Spheeris seems to suggest that her subjects' lifestyle is a form of activism but that they need nurturing anyway—a contradiction many of them acknowledge and embrace.

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