9 Jul 2024

Johnny Rotten as an Abject Antihero (1)

Johnny Rotten: Now and Then
"Since he has nothing, since he is nothing, he can sacrifice everything." - Julia Kristeva [1]
Watching YouTube footage of 68-year-old Johnny Rotten on his latest speaking tour of the UK is profoundly troubling for anyone who once loved him [2].
For he appears to have morphed into an abject end-of-pier entertainer wearing a Ukipper tie, retelling old stories and performing karoake versions of his own songs whilst looking - if we might borrow a line from yesteryear - like a big fat pink baked bean.     

A once charismatic and amusing individual is now literally revolting; transporting us to a place where integrity collapses and memories of the past are confronted with the gross reality of the present. 
But perhaps we should be grateful to him for this: for mightn't it be the case that Rotten, in his very abjectness, draws us unto him and teaches a vital lesson? Indeed, does he not even grant us a perversely-morbid pleasure of some kind; a violent and painful passion? 
Has Rotten not merely become fat, old, and boorish, but Christ-like?     


[1] Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (Columbia University Press, 1991), p. 19. 

[2] Click here to watch Rotten encourage an audience to sing and clap along to 'Anarchy in the UK' on his I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right spoken word tour (2024). The video was recorded by Dror Nahum at Albert Halls, Stirling, on 14 June and uploaded to his YouTube channel the following day. 
For a post that might be said to anticipate this one on Rotten, written over ten years ago, click here
And for a follow up post to this one, click here

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