Suburbia is a great film, and not just because it’s immersed in Punk “culture.” It’s a film that shows that the disenfranchised youth of America to varying degrees both rebel and retain the ugliness of contemporary America and its various ills and institutionalized producers of illness. We see this in Jack’s racism – unless he’s referring to how his Dad is an “Uncle Tom” by being a black cop, which isn’t necessarily racist but showing contempt for those who are oppressed but have become the oppressor instead of rebelling against said oppression – and in Joe’s homophobia. Of course we feel contempt for someone who when his friends have actual familial problems such as abusive parents and very-likely religious fundamentalists and hypocrites whines about having a gay dad, but this both is a expression of general teenage angst and dissatisfaction as well as showing that materially poor and culturally lacking societies produce the ignorance and psychological problems that help sustain such conditions such as racism, bigotry and religious orthodoxy. We see the dysfunction of a modern American home through the main characters alcoholic mother and the modern nightmare of the “American Dream” realized in at-least some fashion. That the ideals of ownership and the immense centralization of capital has created the dispersion of average American functionality and escape physically for those who cannot adapt by either escaping mentally or destroying their present or potential “mental self,” that is many traits that most would identify as a soul.
The Punks in no way are ideal rebels, and their form of rebellion and life style is in no way glorified or made to look heroic. Stealing to survive when one does not have legal access to food is not immoral, but they do perform immoral actions such as graffiti and vandalism that aren’t necessary or defendable. In some ways one can easily empathize with the red necks who are unwilling to tolerate and remain idle to petty crime happening in their community; however, their ugliness is depicted in Sheila’s father and mother and in the rednecks automatically siding with them (though the Punk characters don’t necessarily represent themselves as characters to doubt allegations against), particularly in the father’s severe abuse but also in the mother’s wish to remove the Punks who don’t look pleasant to her and therefore for her aren’t welcome at the funeral of a loved one. Though several of them in several ways are moral, none of them seem particularly intelligent which is an honest portrayal of many rebels or rather outsiders by circumstance who though they are taking the proper course of rebellion, they fail to do so in the proper fashion and for the proper reasons.
Kidnapping Ethan is an example of an unjustifiable action unless one brings the abhorrent state of our foster homes into account. It would not be a heinous deed if they continued to educate him, but considering they themselves are almost wholly ignorant of anything asides from the facts of modern American suffering and decay they have no interest in educating him so that he may have an opportunity to escape the American lower-class, or if he showed sign of leaving intellectual poverty leave America altogether.
Sheila’s suicide shows the completely understandable choice of wishing to leave this world in the state that this is in or wishing to end one’s personal torment derived from personal psychological trauma or malady. Those suffering from severe often can be helped, but considering the immense degree of moral and material degradation of our society, and the degree of misery and pain a human being can endure and experience needlessly and continuously, suicide is a decision that always deserves our understanding and sympathy, not judgment or contempt. Suicide is an act of bravery for those who no longer wish to be fate’s play thing and in almost all cases of self-caused death contempt should be placed not on he or she who took their life, but those around him or her who treated them without mercy and with great malice. And of course those with economic, political and religious authority who create the world we live in to some degree (of course because of determinism and materialism none of us make the world in the ultimate sense) must always be blamed for each individual case or representation of the effects of their greed, ignorance, hatred, apathy and selfishness. Until our lives are no longer contoured by ulterior motives, we will always have poor motives ourselves and many will wish to escape the hellish world unfit for Man to live in but constructed by his own design.
Both in the state of the teenagers and the deaths of two children we see that continued innocence and the potential to remain untainted by the horrors of the outside world are impossibilities. If we haven’t in some way been shaped by this evil as we grow then the only other alternative is to die young to retain one’s innocence. The child in all of us dies by the conditions of the world, and our ideal selves and sense of idealism perish with the current impossibility of ideal material conditions. Ghostly angels who were slaughtered by the poverty and sickness of the world and leaving only broken vestiges who despite potentially rebelling and leaving “the system” physically or intellectually can never escape from its scars psychologically. We never can escape from the hellish aspects of our lives fully because we must continue living. The film with Kevin Bacon in it where he becomes what he hates in some sense (Death Sentence) is a wonderful example of this as is Malcolm’s graduation speech at the final episode of Malcolm in the middle.
Death is the only ultimate escape but in it we can never escape because with death comes the obliteration of self. Until theoretically the invention of artificial intelligence there will always be the divide between self as actuality and self as perception through Ego. Our Ego both saves us from realizing our faults and ensures that we will continue to act according to them; Ego both being simultaneously the ability to forget or temporarily be removed from faults by being unaware of them and a fault of self-importance and need for unnecessary forms of self-validation in itself as well as a reason why selfishness is so predominant and even the most unoriginal and bland of individuals consider themselves important and cherished – one reason why religions such as Christianity and Islam are so popular.