Okay, so that screengrab is fake. For now.
But here’s a thing: If you’ve ever been interested in how rebellious art goes from being genuinely dangerous and a threat to people in power — as Pussy Riot is, which is why they were sentenced to two years in jail — to being rebel culture, available for people to consume, this is going to be interesting to watch.
Because the reactions to the Pussy Riot sentencing have been both impressive and empowering — people marching and demonstrating! People using we are all pussy riot as a call to action to make and do performances that can threaten power in new ways! — and really typical and disappointing. There are $100 dollar Pussy Riot t-shirts selling (actually selling!) on eBay, and countless others quickly mass-produced and available at lower price points. A bunch of staffers at a popular website went out and got matching hooligan tattoos (apparently in Russian?) to show solidarity with the women who were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. Lots and lots of tweets went out celebrating them.
Which is great, and I get it. Especially if you’re someone who learned about how to read the injustice of the world through a lens of punk rock (or any sort of art, really), then Pussy Riot is very exciting and important. But I also wonder when the line between solidarity and appropriation gets crossed. Because on some level, hooligan just sounds cool. Some of the urge to identify with Pussy Riot comes from the fact that making art dangerous, and using art to become such a threat to the established power that they lock you up, and getting branded a funny word like hooligan, is all just inherently fucking cool. And so some of these things that people are doing to identify with Pussy Riot are to let some of that punk-rock cool rub off on them.
Which I also get, because it sounds cool to me. Hooliganism motivated by religious hatred? That sounds awesome. Fuck you.
But it gets really easy, after that, for the cool to mean more than the statement.
This is how you end up with Paul Ryan proudly declaring that Rage Against The Machine is his favorite band. Because fuck you, i won’t do what you tell me is a libertarian sentiment, too, you know? The proud defiance overshadows the rest of it, and then it becomes possible to buy the image of the rebel without paying a price higher than $14.99 for it.
This isn’t a lecture. I get it — Pussy Riot is inspiring and amazing. Who doesn’t want to support that? But it’s a reminder, too: there are three women who are about to spend years in prison for the statement they make. If you’re going to claim them as your own, make sure you’re living up to it.