Punk Subculture in the Media


According to the www.thefreedictionary.com, term “Punk” means – “A youth movement of the late 1970s, characterized by anti-Establishment slogans, short spiky hair, and the wearing of worthless articles such as safety pins for decoration”. (FD 1) During the 1970s, the punk subculture developed in the US, UK, Australia, and South Africa mostly around punk rock music and expressed itself in various styles of clothing, hairstyle, cosmetics, jewelry, body modification, etc. This group seeks to challenge and of course outrage the establishment of the so-called prejudice. (Kates 493-513)

The term Punk is very familiar to everyone, with the utterance of which a rebellious, typically dressed group of angry young people in colorful tattered clothing come in front of the eyes. Punk is a subculture having its origin in the 1970s. A subculture generally typically arises as a group of people having something common in them and different from the rest of the society so that they are distinguished distinctly from the others. “subcultures are groups of people that have something in common with each other…which distinguishes them in a significant way from the members of other social groups” (Gelder and Thornton 1).

The Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain

The Punk movement has given birth to many memorable things apart from the rock bands and one of them is the Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain. Again it has taken shape in Texas, the synonym of punk movement and ideology. The Alamo Drafthouse is an American chain of cinema founded in Austin, Texas in 1997. Now it has eight screens in Texas and the head office is still in Austin.

Tim Karrie and the league founded the “Alamo Drafthouse chain in a parking garage with the address of 409 Colorado St” (Thompson 625-640). First, it started as a second-run movie theatre.

The Alamo Drafthouse has some unique features in itself which attracts the attention of people repeatedly. It has a seating arrangement with cabaret-style tables in front of each row of seats with an aisle in between which allows waiters in black clothes to walk quietly. The theatre serves food and drinks inside the theatre including cold beer. People write orders in papers which the waiters take away. First, the theatre started showing the silent movies which were accompanied by local bands giving a live performance with the movie as it proceeded. It had attracted people by providing matching dinner to them while showing the food-themed movie ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ (Williams 765-774).

Alamo Drafthouse started running First run movies in 2001 when they opened a closed four-screen art house as an Alamo Drafthouse theatre. After this, the first theatre stopped showing second-run movies and concentrated on themes like documentaries, cult classics, audience participation shows, etc. In 2003 the chain moved further northwards. Alamo Drafthouse in Lake Creek shows new movies on all of its seven screens (Thompson 625-640). Till today the cinema chain continues to expand and it has declared in 2009 to “expand to Odessa – Midland, Amarillo, Corpus Christie as well as Houston” (Williams 765-774).

It might have been a violent period during the punk movement, but that is not the only aspect to be remembered about it. It has given rise to new ideologies, literature, music, and a memorable movie chain like Alamo Drafthouse.

Alamo Drafthouse movie chain in Texas is unique in its originalities. It has certain features and functions which distinguish it from the other theatres. Originally established in 1997 by Tim and Karrie League in Austin, Texas, it was started for showing second-run movies. The following features make them distinct from other theaters:

  1. The Alamo Drafthouse theatre serves drinks and food inside the theatre which is not found anywhere else.
  2. The seating arrangement in Alamo Drafthouse is modified in a form that it can hold the food and drink in front of the people. Every alternative row in a normal movie house has been replaced here with a table on which the menu cards are placed. People can take a seat 45 minutes earlier than the scheduled time unlike elsewhere as it becomes easy for the waiters to take orders. Once the movie starts the orders are taken as written on pieces of paper and placed on cardholders kept on the table. There remains enough light to see the menu and write it down but that does not hinder the movie show. The waiters come only when there is an order placed in the cardholder and pick the orders quietly.
  3. Alamo Drafthouse allows certain days of the week for parents to take infants in for free. For making the infants comfortable the sound is kept lower and light is kept brighter so that they do not get afraid.
  4. Another unique feature of Alamo Drafthouse is the Open screen night which allows the viewers to carry their DVD or tape to the theatre. Those are shown on the screen for eight-minute each. Sometimes on special occasions, the screening of each tape or DVD is prolonged up to 20 minutes.
  5. Alamo Ritz holds terror or horror movies every Tuesday for $1 only. It is a delight for lovers of such movies.
  6. Theatres are generally for showing movies. But Alamo Drafthouse apart from its unique arrangement of food and drink inside the theatre draws the attention of people by holding numerous interactive and special events and festivals around the year. One of the famous shows is Rolling Road Show which involves showcasing films at famous outdoor locations (Ham 331).

The Alamo Drafthouse has so many other features that make it different from a normal movie theatre. It is not viewing cinema but experiencing every angle of it to the fullest.

The setup of Alamo Drafthouse is so appealing to the crowd that anybody watching a movie in it keeps coming back over and over again. First of all, it allows people to choose from the number of options their suitable date, day and movie. Secondly, it provides an experience of having dinner while watching movies which can’t be expected elsewhere, and lastly despite serving food and drink there is a minimal disturbance in the movie because of waiters passing by. Alamo Drafthouse also tries to keep the disturbance due to any problematic crowd to the minimum. One more thing; when there is a chance of participating in the activities instead of becoming a silent viewer people have enough reasons to come back (Ham 324).

Alamo Drafthouse mainly draws an interactive an appreciating crowd. It can be realized when somebody visits the same movie in Alamo Drafthouse and another theatre. People here are known to cheer the special moments in the movie heartily whereas in other theatres it is silent watching. Though his might distract the attention of some people who concentrate on the movie more but watching a movie here is an experience unique in itself. Sometimes rowdy crowd does disturb the movie but there are efforts to control them also to minimize the inconvenience of others (Ham 322).

Alamo Drafthouse has been a part of the Punk movement. The Punk movement members have voiced themselves through music called punk rock. First of all Texas itself had seen the rise of many punk bands and has a deep relationship with the movement. The Alamo Drafthouse also is in Texas, thus a relation between the two starts here only. For a state or a city that has been influenced so much by the punk ideology, it is natural to have its influence in every intelligent property established there. Austin itself had its native origin bands. Alamo Drafthouse had a participating crowd throughout and because of being influenced by the punk movement the crowd was hugely appreciative of punk rock.

Alamo Drafthouse had been holding shows for rock music along with other activities apart from movies. It presented a good stage for the punk rock bands who expressed their ideologies through rock music and the crowd had loved them. The punk rock bands could perform wholeheartedly and achieved tremendous popularity from this place. This theatre has therefore a deep-seated impact on the evolution of punk rock. Alamo Drafthouse and punk rock music are inseparable.

An ideology and a series of different forms of expressions

The punk subculture complies with the definition. They have many features common in them regarding the “mentality, ideology, culture, ways of dressing up” (Hine 154) and they are different from the other common people of the society. The punk subculture is not only a name or a group of easily distinguishable people. It is an ideology and a series of different forms of expression. These forms of expression include literature, music, dance, film, visual arts, and fashion. All of them have their origin in Punk rock. The Punk subculture surfaced as a movement and had reasons to surface. If the background is not explored, there are chances of misunderstanding the Punk movement.

The history of Punk subculture

The punk subculture took its origin in the mid of 1970s in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. The urban youth got frustrated with the economic recession, insecure future due to lack of surety of job, housing, etc and they wanted to let out their anger with the system in some way. This frustration gave rise to the Punk subculture which mainly attracted and was adopted by the adolescents who found an expression to their natural rebellious nature through the Punk subculture. After its emergence, the Punk subculture has spread over the globe acquiring different forms at different places.

The punk subculture has influenced and has been an important part of the History of subcultures of the 20th century. This subculture opposes any kind of authority, expresses hatred against suppression, refuses to obey orders, and opts for a more bandage-free life (Williams 765-774).

The place of origin of Punks is much debated. Many of the previous philosophical, political, and artistic movements and youth cultures had influenced its emergence. The Punk subculture is a result of all of them combined. According to Jon Savage, the Punk subculture is a “bricolage” of all the youth culture of the west existing since World War II, which he describes as “stuck together with safety pins” (Savage xvi)

The Punk movement had its aesthetics and culture. The aesthetics were influenced by several different genres of modern art and culture was influence by different genres of literature, books, and authors. Their music, the punk rock, for which this subculture gained so much attention and was the voice of their protest against domination, followed the rock and roll genre and something more added to it. Punk rock got the media attention to a large extent in Britain first then in the United States where it originated got its share of media coverage.

The earliest precursor of punk rock was the Protopunk, who made the Garage Rock popular, gained notice in the 1960s in the Northeastern United States. In between 1974 and 1976, the first punk labeled music scene was seen in New York City. Then a similar scene was noticed in London in 1975 where the unemployed youth started adopting the punk attitudes of New York City and then in Los Angeles. These were considered as a hub of Punk movements from where they spread over other important cities like Boston and Brisbane (Jeffreys 16).

Proliferation and diversification of the Punk subculture began around 1977 when branches like “2 Tone, Oi!, No Wave, New Wave, and Pop-punk” (Williams 765-774) surfaced. The punk movement got a polishing in the 1980s when the Hardcore Punk evolved and the latter introduced questionable behaviors in the Punk original movement were opted to be rejected by the believers of Punk ideology. In Britain also a parallel movement was started alongside the hardcore movement called Streetpunk. Hardcore and Street Punk rapidly spread to the other parts of the world just like the original movement did.

In the 1980s and 1990s, these two movements gave rise to several new styles and produced different music scenes complying with its attitudes like the Alternative rock and the Indie music scenes. In the 1990s Punk movement in the United States underwent further refinement with the rejection of the flaws of the Hardcore punk movement.

Though the main voice of the Punk movement was a punk rock which brought them to the media attention there are other facets of significant specialties which need to be focused on. These are the features that were distinct from the rest of society and fetched considerable attention due to their typical nature. These features include “Punk ideology, fashion, dance, literature, film, etc” (Ham 318-338).

Punk ideology

Punk ideology has its base in political events. They are generally stated to be the left wings or the progressive people. But actually, they cover politics as a whole as some parts of them held the right wings view too. As it had originated out of frustration they are always anti-establishment and advocate for more and more personal freedom. They stress a lot of viewpoints some of which are anarchism, Do It Yourself principle, anti-authoritarianism, nonconformity, direct action, not selling out, socialism, anti-capitalism, anti-racism, and anti nationalism. They even included anti-sexism, vegetarianism, and animal rights. The right-wing believers had a view like Neo-Nazi views and some like the Horror punks were apolitical (Jeffreys 67).

Part of Punk ideology talks of nihilism. In Britain, they made statements with slogans like “no future”. In the United States, there were nihilistic views but a little differently. Punk nihilism was expressed through self-destructive attitudes like getting involved in drug-related activities and mutilation of the body with razor blades.

Punk fashion

Punk fashion had made a great statement with the vividly colored outfits and hairdo of the punk followers. That was something that made them visually distinct from the others. There was no need to state that whether someone is a punk or not because of their never seen before dressing up. Their fashion included tattoos, cosmetics, typical jewelry, body modification along clothing and hairstyle. They dressed up peculiarly in ripped clothing sometimes attaching them with safety pins of tapes, used black bin liner as dresses, wore tight drainpipe jeans or tartan trousers, kilts, and skirts, painted and marked the regular clothing loudly with a marker.

They have deliberately used rubber, vinyl, or leather clothing in public which was thought to be signs of transgressive sexual practices. They used to wear razors and safety pins as jewelry along with ear studs. Their footwear was also typical with converse sneakers, skate shoes, or brothel creepers. Punks were famous for their hairdo, which cutting hair into different dramatic shapes like standing spikes and coloring them with unusual streaks of hair color. Punks were anti-racism and to signify that they sometimes wore symbols of crossed Swastika (Niessen 115).

Refinement in the punk subculture

There was refinement in the punk subculture in the 1980s which brought forward people who thought believing in punk ideology was against fashion. They wanted the punk movement to make statements through their ideologies or the music. The Hardcore punk scene had its members dressed up in a plain manner rather than dressing peculiarly or making spiked-up hairdos (Kawamura 176).

Punk visual art

Punk visual art was very unique in its type. Generally used for album covers or concert flyers, punk visual art tends to create empathy for suffering people and contempt for people making others suffer. They use images of suffering to create awareness against social injustice and economic disparity and rouse people against it. Likewise, they use images of human selfishness to portray the inhuman attitudes dwelling in the society. The punk movement had rejuvenated stencil art and collage. The leading examples of punk visual art were presented by Crass, Dead Kennedys, Jamie Reid, Winston Smith, etc. the Punk movement had given rise to the Stuckism art movement which had its first major show in 2004 at the Liverpool Art Gallery (Ham 318-338).

Punk movement and dance

The Punk movement had given rise to a dance type of its own. They gave rise to Pogo dancing and moshing styles. Protopunk bands like The Stooges had introduced stage dive and crowd surfing during their performances. All these styles were combined to form a hardcore dancing style later. One unique dance form was “wreck” which was introduced by Pyschobillies which involved people punching each other while performing.

Punk movement and literature

The Punk movement had not neglected the literature. A significant contribution has been there to the prose and poetry fields by the movement. In the form of punk zines, they expressed their opinions regarding a wide range of topics. There were underground punk presses that were used to print their work on interviews, criticism on culture, politics and other topics, gossips, etc. Worthy of the mention punk zines were “Punk Planet, Maximum RocknRoll, Cometbus, Flipside, Search & Destroy” etc. (Thompson 625-640). These are not the only example of punk literature as there are comics like Love and Rockets, novels, biographies, and autobiographies which were written by the punk members.

Considerable poetry has been produced during the movement; names of some of the well-known punk poets are “Jim Carroll, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Reagan Butcher, Seething Wells, John Cooper Clarke, Attila the Stockbroker” etc. (Ham 318-338). Among them, Jim Carroll had been recognized as the first known autobiographical writer. The literature genres like street punk and steampunk had been hugely inspired by the punk subculture.

Punk videos

Punk films are not something uncommon as punk skate videos and punk rock music videos were always been there. Punk-themed films have been made with the unique feature of featuring stock footage and videos of bands performing between the films. Many of the punk bands have performed in the movies like the Sex Pistols and Ramones. The former took part in the movie “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” and the latter took part in the “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” (Williams 765-774). The group social distortion participated in “Another State of Mind”. Autobiographical films like “Nancy and Sid” were also made featuring the lives of Sid Vicious of Sex Pistols and Nancy Spungen (Ham 318-338).

Musical documentaries

Musical documentaries were also made regarding the rise of punk bands as in the “Filth and the Fury” which features the story of the Sex Pistols. This film had featured the nihilistic “God Save the Queen” played by the band during the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II leading to their arrest (Thompson 625-640).

New genres formation

The punk movement has led to the formation of genres like No Wave Cinema and Remodernist Film movements. There have been renowned punk filmmakers like Jon Letts and Derek Jarman who have gained attention. Films that draw pictures of the punk movement and different aspects related to the movement are “24 Hour Party People” featuring punk rock and “Threat’ (Ham 318-338) which talked about the Straight Edge punks with militant outlook.


The punk movement has its origin in New York City and then subsequently spread to other parts of the world. It has relation with many other places. But the relation it has with San Antonio is something unique. San Antonio is situated in Texas, are the second-largest city in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States. It has a population of about 1.3 million. But not for the geographical location of the population, it relates to the punk movement because of its vibrant cultural history. The Punk movement started asserting its beliefs through rock music and San Antonio has been always been a city of rock music.

The punk rock and the San Antonio city are almost simultaneously uttered. San Antonio has a vibrant art community with some of the best cultural institutions. It holds some of the cultural events which are looked forward to by participants throughout the year, especially the rock bands. It has many museums, lots of enjoyable restaurants and colorful nightlife too. These features make the City highly adored not only by the punk people but also to the general tourists (Ham 318-338).

San Antonio holds cultural events around the year. Some of these events are “Cinco de Mayo festivals, Fiesta, New Year’s Eve, Fiesta de las Luminarias, The Passion Play, Michelob ULTRA River Walk Mud Festival” (Thompson 625-640), etc. the festivities invite the rock bands in the stage to perform and the performances are highly enjoyed by people. The punk rock bands are extremely popular here. The name of San Antonio has almost become synonymous with Punk rock music.

The state of Texas and San Antonio has seen several performances of punk new wave acts that were noticed at the national level and performances of rock bands like the Hardcore, Cowpunk, etc along with several other art forms related to punk ideology. The Sex Pistols performed in San Antonio in 1978 in the event of “christening”. That was a memorable performance for punk rock lovers. San Antonio has a famous venue called Tacoland where there have been several performances of punk rock bands.

Punk movements were generally associated with notoriety and violence, it was tough for them to get the venue to perform. So, the bands adapted in Texas to play in varied venues which included house parties also. Until the 1980’s the punk rock was not so much noticed by the media. But after this time and varied performances in Texas, they started getting adequate attention.

Texas has itself given rise to punk ideologies and thus is inseparable from the punk movement. The Do It Yourself ideology has mainly come from the punk movement of Texas. Punk rock bands hailed from throughout the state with San Antonio being the home of some memorable ones like “Butthole Surfers, Bang Gang, Marching Plague and Rejects” (Williams 765-774).

Works Cited

FD. ‘Punk’.TheFreeDictionary. 2008. Web.

Gelder, Ken and Sarah Thornton. The subcultures reader. London: Routledge, 1997.

Ham, Lane. Reading Early Punk as Secularized Sacred Clowning. The Journal of Popular Culture 42.2, (2009): 318-338.

Hine, Thomas. The Great Funk: Falling Apart and Coming Together (on a Shag Rug) in the Seventies. Boston: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

Jeffreys, Sheila. Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West. London: Routledge, 2005.

Kates, Steven. Out of the closet and out on the street: Gay men and their brand relationships. Psychology and Marketing 17.6, (2000): 493-513.

Kawamura, Yuniya. Fashionology: An Introduction to Fashion Studies. Auckland: Berg Publishers, 2005.

Niessen, Ann. Re-orienting Fashion: The Globalization of Asian Dress. Auckland: Berg Publishers, 2007.

Savage, Jon. Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture. London: Viking, 2007.

Thompson, Paul. From conception to consumption: creativity and the missing managerial link. Journal of Organizational Behavior 28.5, (2007): 625-640.

Williams, J. Patrick. Teaching and Learning Guide for: Youth-Subculture Studies: Sociological Traditions and Core Concepts. Sociology Compass 2.2, (2008): 765-774.

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