(for my own good)
By Michael Frighten
I am writing to you from Cycle 24. Back in 1995 Ian Spence wrote this whole book about the effects of solar activity on pop culture. In a nutshell, he said that every 11 years the sun waned from its solar maximum to its solar minimum and as a result pop culture waned from punk to hippie. That’s all. The year 2018 sits at the tail end of Cycle 24, which spans from 2010 to 2021, and the cycle so far has been characterised by hippie fashion, music and art. Spence suggests that, somehow, teenagers are more in tune with the magnetic fields that correspond to the sun’s activity, like we’re pigeons or something. As the polarities switch, we gravitate towards loose clothes, psychedelic drugs, peace, spirituality, and then eleven years later clothes get tighter and we all get a lot angrier. I hope this all makes sense.
The oddest thing about the Sekhmet Hypothesis is that it’s SO visible. Measure out eleven years back from 2010 – it’s 1999, the dawn of a punk cycle, and the most influential popular film of the decade comes out in the form of The Matrix. The first draft was written twelve years earlier. Keep counting back, all the way to 1955, and you can’t avoid finding more examples. Maybe even more examples than there are exceptions. In the current decade, the hippie overtone is a little harder to point to, because we’re so much closer to all the possible evidence. Maybe streetwear is a bit looser, and maybe rappers like Childish Gambino have changed a lot, for instance from Camp (which I love) to Kauai, because the internet, and “Awaken, My Love!” (which I don’t). Put ‘you better shut your mouth before I fuck it’ next to any line he wrote post-2011 and the latter will sound hippie in comparison. Now that I’m looking for examples, I suppose the success the Marvel Cinematic Universe relies on a hippie looseness and lightness of touch. The Sekhmet theory doesn’t explain why I’m still having to watch Zack Snyder superhero films post-2011, but it does at least explain why they don’t make bank.
BUT, I don’t feel like some of us belong in cycle 24 anymore. It’s stuffy and boring and I want to break things. No more weed, none of that weak shit. In all seriousness, sections of our culture seem to be getting more punk, and I’m finding myself pulled towards them. Yet at the same time, if these are the early signs of cycle 25, I know for a fact that I can’t handle 14 YEARS of punk. That’s too long. I’m only just beginning to notice the new cycle pulling on me, and already I’m finding being a heavyweight of punk culture to be exhausting.
Looking around, the alt-right is starting to be a big deal these days, right? Tommy is free and counterculture just got a sexy new face, like Doctor Who if instead Peter Capaldi regenerated into the opposite of Doctor Who. As if neoliberalism being the norm wasn’t fun enough, I can’t wait to see Tommy’s Britain. But Tommy IS a punk, and the recessive pigeon genes buried somewhere in my DNA can’t help being drawn to him. Maybe even admiring him.
I’m thinking – and you might be too – that this is a phase, like part of growing up, to do with gaining independence. I suppose my only counter-argument, and maybe the greatest proof of Ian Spence’s theory, is that I can FEEL it. In my bones or somewhere like that, I can physically feel the magnetic field turning towards punk and you just can’t argue with that.
I don’t have time for hippie shit anymore; I care about trying as hard as possible to be rude and un-self-conscious. And above all funny. The change doesn’t feel positive, it feels aggressive. Like, I’m not just starting to worry less about what other people think, I’m also starting to find it really funny when they don’t think much of me. That’s what it feels like from the inside.
Maybe I’m just a bit sensitive.
To magnetic fields, that is. I think I’m in the first lot to be affected. The younger you are the more sensitive you’re supposed to be.
I guess this whole article is just to say that I ate a slug for a laugh yesterday night, and I’m starting to worry that I’m not intelligent enough to survive the forthcoming. It’s weird because a year or two ago I would have given anything to be moving in the direction I currently am, and eating slugs. I hated being the way I was before, so in a sense Cycle 25 is arriving to set me free. I wish it wasn’t all starting to feel a little thin.
Michael Frighten enjoys spending time with his family and not listening to music on the bus.