Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies
d. Todd Phillips / 1994 / USA / 90 mins
Viewed at: Pitchfork.com/tv
When I was writing about The Hangover a couple of weeks back, IMDB reminded me that the film’s director, Todd Phillips, was also the man behind Hated, a terrifyingly intriguing portrait of self-proclaimed punk rock messiah and all round bad guy, GG Allin. And I began to wonder, how exactly would this film sit with fans of Phillips’ crude but rather conventional series of male-orientated comedies, from Road Trip (2000) and Old School (2003), to Starsky & Hutch (2004), School for Scoundrels (2006) and this year’s The Hangover. Without embarking on some large scale social experiment, I guess I’ll never know.
But I wont dwell on that question anyway, because lets face it, very few people will claim to ‘enjoy’ this documentary and fewer still would be able to resist the off button when the shit hits the fan(s). There are those, of course, who are already fans of GG Allin, avid subscribers to his naïve nihilism and narcissistic brand of megalomania. Others still, like myself, are intrigued by a figure of frankly mythical proportions who stood out as a fatalistic beacon in the constant mire of transparent punk rock posturing.
In Hated, at least two of the talking heads (including a former bandmate) refer to GG Allin’s onstage antics as a freakshow, a circus act, and it is from this perspective that he gained most of his notoriety; slashing, bashing and defecating his way into the annals of punk rock folklore. But what Phillips tries to present here, I think, is less ‘GG Allin as freakshow’ and more ‘GG Allin as damaged man’. On the one hand, Phillips allows Allin time to discuss his personal philosophies, on the other he provides graphic visual documentation of Allin’s scatological obsessions and almost unwavering commitment to violence, which, if not directed towards himself is doled out to anyone within arms reach, be they male or female.
In many ways, Allin was both an anarchist and a nihilist in the proper sense of the words. Undoubtedly unhinged, he was of society but against it, for control but against order. From another perspective, he was simply an extreme individualist, a libertine who actively sought to alienate himself via unbiased physical, mental and moral violence. When Allin himself states that if he didn’t act that way on stage -if he wasn’t ‘doing what he does’ – he’d likely be a mass murderer, you’d better believe he truly means it.
Strange as it may seem, however, there were elements of Hated that actually made me feel sorry for Allin. In many ways, he was surrounded by a group of people, led by his brother Merle, who were simply riding on his coattails, unwilling to condemn him nor provide unequivocal support for his actions. Despite being vaguely disapproving, they seemed happy to go along for the ride, hesitant to recognise their implicit involvement in Allin’s destructive outbursts. Some of the most sane reactions, however, come from Donald ‘Dino Sex’ Sachs, the slightly unhinged nude drummer for The Murder Junkies, who sees GG Allin’s actions as a symptom of late 2oth century American society.
Indeed, Allin seems to have been as much a product of American society as Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy. He lived his life according to his own rules, but remained lost in a maze of nihilistic masochism and narcissistic rage. He spent a lifetime railing against convention and yet, in death (as Phillips so poignantly states in the film’s postscript), he left this mortal coil not via the onstage suicide he so often promised, but in the most conventional way possible for a man of his ilk. Allin the rockstar died a typical rockstar death: overdosing on a cocktail of drugs and drink during a party in a New York apartment.
WARNING: Much of the following is oh so very much NSFW (or any other situation, really)!
And for a bonus, here’s GG Allin vs. Jerry Springer: