Posts Tagged ‘counter culture’

I had nothing pressing to do Tuesday afternoon, so being the Netflix junkie that I am, I sat down to entertain myself with a movie.  While admittedly I pay the fee every month pretty much just to keep LOST on permanent loop, I have developed a passion for British mysteries and the occasional feature film.  I decided on the Oliver Stone mindfuck “The Doors”.

I saw the movie when it came out in ’91 after having devoted the previous ten years of my life to in-depth and intricate study of the life and times of Jim Morrison. ( My parents probably shoulda thrown a flag on the play when I was reading The Lords and the New Creatures at 13 and making notes in the margins….)At the time, my reaction to the film was like everyone else in the theatre: “Wo…”  For two hours.  I won’t get into an indictment of Stone’s disregard for the truth in favor of ticket sales-that’s not my point.  What I want to discuss is why the Doors?  More specifically, why Morrison?  Why nearly 45 years later (that’s over FOUR FREAKIN’ DECADES, friends) are so many of us still enamored with the Myth of Morrison?

The Doors rose to fame during a very turbulent time in our history; everything was changing.  The relatively new concept of television brought the world into your livingroom every night at six.  Long-established social rules and mores were being rewritten.  We were in the middle of daring to travel off-planet.  What a time it was; political and social movements that make Ferguson look like a Sunday school picnic took place constantly, and a younger generation was being made more aware of what they believed all the generations that had come before them had done wrong, and were doing it very publicly, keenly searching for that missing element that would set things “right”, whether it was through turning the accepted social conventions upside down or becoming disciples of Dr. Leary.  The Doors music at the time was like nothing else out there, and Morrison’s voice was so different, so distinct.  But, let’s be real; you can listen to LA Woman just so many times.  I mean, really -unless you’re stuck in the 60’s (or, hell, even the 80’s) there’s much better music out there today.  Is it because Morrison was one of the founding members of the 27 Club?  John Keats was 25 when HE died but he didnt make the cover of Rolling Stone.  So, what really IS the source of Morrison’s staying power?

I think it has to do with what Morrison was, away from the music.  It was never the music that drove him; he was uncomfortable with fame-so uncomfortable, in fact, that early on he couldn’t even face his audience.  Undeniably gifted, Morrison’s REAL talent lay in the words he wrote- he truly was a 20th century poet.   His lifestyle of excess and his premature death fulfilled a need in the psyche of Western Consciousness. He assumed a role no one else would and became everything we weren’t, a Picaresque hero in a time of violent change.

The role of the rogue in western literature has played a prominent part since the ancient Greeks portrayal of Ulysses.  It survived through Chaucer and Boccaccio, on into Shakespeare and beyond, resonating with readers who identified with that same small part within themselves that they could never present to the world at large.  Social constraints, regardless of the age, dictated particular behaviors be condone, while others vilified to one degree or another. Across time, those that chose to operate outside those boundaries have drawn our attention and even our admiration.  Who among us hasn’t secretly desired to be an outlaw, ? To indulge even for a moment in the stereotypical sex drugs and rock n roll?  Of course, the vast majority of us would never actually do that if offered the opportunity, but damn! we sure do think about it!  Like Jimmy Carter, we lust for it in our thoughts and maintain our life of respectability.  But, it is through those rogues that we live.  In them, we fulfill our fantasies of a different woman every night, of thumbing our nose at rules and regulations, of spending and indulging like frat boys on vacation in Aruba with Daddy’s American Express.  Those rogues that we privately admire and wish to emulate give us the chance to do so vicariously, without exposing ourselves to that same judgement we’re trying to escape.

Morrison’s lifestyle was one of absolute, unapologetic excess.  He made no excuses for who or what he was; he never blamed his parents, his girlfriend, his band mates.  He didn’t drop acid and claim it was because of a rotten childhood.  He never went on Dick Cavett and said he slept around because a bad relationship left him empty.  he did what he did because-like every other rogue before him- he WANTED to.  He wanted to push the limits of society- he wanted to test the boundaries of his own consciousness.  He wanted to see how far he could go on stage before the cops clamped down.  He tested Life in all its limitations and pushed way past all acceptable barriers.

By the time he died, Morrison had become the Messiah of the Counter Culture.  He epitomized the Dark Cinderella; the rocket ride to fame with an equally meteoric fall.  He represented everything that every misunderstood teenager wanted to be, do and say- and couldn’t.  Watergate came and went and by the time the Reagan Era came round, lines were clearly drawn, regarding what was “socially acceptable” and what wasn’t; what Mainstream Society would condone and what it wouldn’t.  The lines have blurred considerably since then, and in some cases, for better or worse disappeared altogether, but we as individuals still wrestle with that dark side of ourselves, that side that we hide from everyone else, try to keep at bay.  But, we see it in Morrison.  We let it play out when we hear the stories, read the biographies, or watch the movies.  It’s ironic really.  The man that sought to break on through to the other side, allows us to keep that side within ourselves contained.  Who knew?