Sound And Vision: Gregg Araki
In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors.This week we look at The Micronauts' The Jag, directed by Gregg Araki.
Gregg Araki never really played by the rules, not even in the boundaries of New Queer Cinema, a movement that itself was built upon the destruction of rules and boundaries. The Living End was a seminal film in New Queer Cinema, tackling the AIDS crisis in a deliriously blunt, raw and cathartic way. This was a film made out of anger, rightfully so, addressing the people who left the queer community to die. The Teen Apocalypse Trilogy that followed was equally angry, born out of existential dread and discomfort with societal pressure. But there is a burgeoning sense of playfulness there: the style of Araki became as colorful as his off kilter characters.
All of this is not to say that Araki mellowed with age: there is still a sharpness to his films, and a willingness to push against the boundaries of societal expectations. Splendor, for instance, was lambasted by some people within the queer community for focussing on a relationship between members of the opposite sex. It aged well, tho, being quite forward and joyful in its depiction of a polyamorous bisexual relationship. Kaboom also still feels fresh ten years later, in how the characters celebrate their queerness outside of labels. Attraction and desire is universal in the worlds of Araki, even in a film that is chock full of doomsday cults and secret witches. Araki was once again at the vanguard of how we depict queer sexualities.
Case in point, his music video for The Jag by The Micronauts: a joyful polyamorous pansexual pharmacy play party, in garish colors and with many a fishbowl lens smeared with Vaseline. Like films like Kaboom or Smiley Face it is silly, but don't mistake it for slight. While the anger of his earlier films might have been replaced somewhat, there is something exhilarating about seeing such an early example of enjoying sexuality in its many facets, celebrating desire without regard to gender, just like in Kaboom. Araki knows this is political, because society makes it so. He might not raise his voice to shout, he raises his voice to celebrate. And that might be more deafening in some cases. The Jag might look like an artefact from the nineties, the playful politics of this video still need to be heard today.