So I get to go to these really great CATE lectures and last week saw Blood and Guts in High School by Laura Parnes, as well as some webeisodes she's working on called County Down.
The video piece is considered a "re-imaging" of a book by the same name written by Kathy Acker in the late 70's. Parnes called it a visual period piece that was talking about now. I haven't read the book, but from the discussion I was struck by fact that the significant difference between the Janey in the book and the Janie in the movie is that Janey is truly rebelling, while Janie is complicit with authority. Janie is wearing rebellious garb and has rebellious thoughts and phrases but ultimately is passive. This is the difference between the attitude in the 70's and now. This is reinforced by clips from historical events from the late 70's like the Jonestown Massacre, Moral Majority, Three Mile Island, etc.
Janie is seen wearing a variety of punk outfits, but the defiant clothes and hairstyles serve to highlight the unexpected vulnerability, confusion, and loss in her conversations. The defiance she shows to authority is fleeting and misdirected, and is always mixed with strange attempts to be understood by them. Every tableau has Janie mainly interacting/conversing with one other person who then takes on symbolic significance; a psychotic reverend, her father, an indifferent nurse, a policeman, a teacher criticizing her writing, a peer/coworker criticizing her mannerisms. With every male authority figure there is explicit or implicit sexual tension which highlights the power dynamic. This is especially interesting in the last tableau, where Janie tries half-heartedly talking to the police officer about her rights and in response he laughs. The scene shows Janie and the police officer in her cell, fully clothed, in a series of frozen and increasingly intimate and vulnerable positions. Janie eventually wakes up and sees that the police officer has been shot and she runs away.
I might be romanticizing the piece by taking from it issues I'm interested in, but to me the poignancy of the piece is in the portrait that it paints of the American "young people." The self-consciousness that Janie has and the confused mixture of defiance and desire to be accepted she shows towards authority figures, the appearance of rebellion which contrast with the passivity and compliance with authority, these are all things that make Janie a prototypical Everygirl (Everyman) from now.