Since when did straight-edge become a Krishna-consciousness movement among hardcore musicians and fans? In the early 80’s, straight edge was a moniker for asshole neo-Nazi bastards who got their kicks stomping gays and kicking the shit out of normal punks. They were skinhead scumbags who thought that abstaining from drugs, booze, and sex gave them a license to attack anyone who did not share their views. In “10,000 Saints,” the leader of a straight edge band is not only an ascetic vegan, but, unless I misheard a crucial line at the end of the movie, a gay as well. What kind of horseshit revisionism is this? I remember what kind of shit these straight edge Nazis were up to, and they were not selling Hare Krishna flowers at the airport.
That’s really the only thing I have against “10,000 Saints.” Aside from the whitewashing of this White Power movement, the picture is pretty straight-up in its depiction of two generations of Alphabet City dirtbags. Ethan Hawke brings an unconventional self-awareness to his character, a 100% failure of a father and husband who sells dope for a living yet still has a sense of perspective about who he is and where he is not going. He makes no excuses for his mistakes, but neither is he delusional about any possible redemption waiting for him up around the bend. His son Jude is a born loser whose best friend Teddy dies from a drug overdose, but not before impregnating their mutual friend Eliza. Jude moves to New York, where his father lives, and befriend’s Teddy’s half-brother Teddy, leader of a straight edge rock band, who offers to marry Eliza, ostensibly to give his brother’s child a home but actually as an act of denying his gayness. Granted, the story is lame, but the underlying themes are explored with honesty and insight.
There really was no reason to drag the battle for Tompkins Park into it, especially as the film-makers made a botch of recreating the riots. Unlike “Medium Cool,” the filming of which accidentally fell into the Chicago police riots of 1968, “10,000 Saints” would be exactly the same movie had it taken place a few blocks away from the park or few weeks away from the riot. The important thing about this movie is the way the relationships between the hippie and punk generations are depicted, although the fact that it takes place mostly in New York goes a long ways towards bridging that generation gap. Imagine Lou Reed being Ray Cappo’s dad and you’ll see what I mean. New York was always punk, so there was less of a gap between a group like the Velvet Underground and Youth of Today. While its true that Ray Cappo was a vegetarian hare Krishna who espoused the straight edge philosophy, this was a few years after the straight edge movement in hardcore music softened its racist, homophobic viciousness. And maybe that is one of the points here that I overlooked. Even so, the film-makers should have addressed the history of the straight edge cult, and not let audiences believe it was a peace and love movement from the get-go. Even at its most embraceable, straight edge was a rat cult for rat people.