21st century america’s piece de resistance
By KIRA ROYBAL
Katana-cut cheekbones, glazed hollow eyes, shimmering purple-gray under eye bags — no, I’m not talking about Johnny Depp circa the Winona Ryder days. I’m talking about Kris Kidd, the “Wi-Fi obsessed wild child always on the hunt for his next fix,” as put by the LA Canvas. He is the 21st-century American pièce de résistance, or at least a really good appetizer — not that he would eat anything anyway.
Allow me to backtrack for a moment. Who is this person, you may ask? Writer, model and photographer Kris Kidd is a native of Norwalk, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. At five feet, 11 inches Kris Kidd stands as an actualized Giacometti sculpture — an emaciated, but recovering, bulimic. The 21 year-old always has a Marlboro Gold cigarette dangling from between his thin lips, a concoction of high alcoholic content in one hand and his iPhone in the other. Over the years he developed an affinity for pills, heroin, and cocaine (Here you can imagine some fusion of Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction and Laura Brown from The Hours). In his seedier moments, Kidd would not have thought twice about buying Adderall from your hyperactive younger brother — or so that classic analogy goes.
Kidd is, in a sense, the Hemingway of our generation (after all, he believes the best time to write is when he’s drinking). Only time will tell if his writings become classics, but at the very least, he is an up-to-date Holden Caulfield caricature, providing commentary on the anxieties of our generation through the eyes of someone living in and creating today’s youth culture. Kidd began documenting every unpleasant and questionable aspect of his life at the age of 14 with a blog titled Loose Tooth//Lost Youth. Earlier this year, he released, through the Altar Collective, a compilation of Enter the Void-esque autobiographical essays appropriately titled I Can’t Feel My Face. The title refers to “the sensation he gets when he’s high off his ass on amphetamines,” as explained in the short story, “On Writing a Book, or Whatever,” which is not actually included in his book. In it, he tackles highly intimate topics such as loneliness, bulimia and his father’s suicide all while maintaining a snarky, snotty and rather self-centered Los Angeles/big city-inspired tone.
Raised in standardized and often suburban “American Dream” contexts, we are often made to feel as if we live in some post-apocalyptic world. I’m not suggesting that a nuclear bomb was dropped, but aren’t the best days supposedly behind us? They had The Beatles and Woodstock. They had had Andy Warhol and CBGB’s hey-day. They had the golden age of space exploration and Stanley Kubrick. What do we have? Instagram? American Apparel? Though we young Americans are the most politically progressive generation, we are also more inclined to trust institutions than both the Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers before us, according to the Pew Research Center. Yet, we are living in the aftermath of the first, second and third waves of feminism, anti-racism and numerous other -isms, lodged between the pressure to continue the resistance and to be content with our predecessors’ progress. The Millennials are akin to the youth of the ’50s — partly satisfied with the stability and peace offered by the American Dream and partly dreaming of running off to New York City to party, drink and write with Jack Kerouac. We are raised by two generations of revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries, and are expected to not only be individuals but also be the right kind of individuals. “Aim for your dream job, but don’t forget about our future grandchildren; your body is your own, but fergawdsakes a tattoo is not going to help you get anywhere in life; we will always be there to support you, but you need to man-up and deal with your problems.” Millennials are left walking down a road littered with potholes, believing they know what the destination holds but also confused as to whether it will be something authentic and memorable.
“I am the product of a painfully adequate home — picket fences and red doors and all that shit. I don’t need you to show me any ink blotches because I know exactly what I am, and I did this to myself.” So goes one of the most striking revelations in the first of Kidd’s essays in I Can’t Feel My Face. Growing up in the suburbs — so close, yet so far from the city — instills a certain type of mindset within a person. Boredom and loneliness brought on from being encompassed by miles of beige houses with falu-tiled roofs are constant obstacles. There’s no better way to conquer this Herculean labor than to pass the time with Adderall, heroin and plenty of alcohol, not unlike the 1950s greasers who filled their time with smoking, drinking and DIY car racing.
As Kidd asks in the same essay, “Is it still considered heroin chic if I’m actually using heroin? No? Whatever.” Included in this list of fashionable and self-destructive things to do before you turn 27 is “not eating and exercising or eating mounds and purging them.” Los Angeles County is the home of Hollywood, glamour and beautiful people, so join the bandwagon. His essay, “Ko Phi Phi,” delves into the psyche of a bulimic — a manifestation of modern anxiety and the desire to fulfill the role of a “gorgeous body.” Kidd “memorized the best angles in the bathroom mirror from which to see how badly [he has] disintegrated…[He] watch[es] [his] thighs touch, and [he] might scream…” The disease is not solely the stories of girls who do not love their bodies enough and who are negatively influenced by advertisements and models. It is a lifestyle, über alles. In an interview with LADYGUNN, Kidd explained that “Drugs are actually boring,” — their primary purpose is to “make you skinny.”
Outward image — clothing and style — is another crucial determinant in how one will fulfill the persona that he or she adopts and embodies, especially now that it is more or less standardized due to the growth and accessibility of the mass media. The Los Angeles scene provides “many” options. Are you going to be a washboard abs gym fanatic or an emaciated androgynous James Dean look-alike? Herein walks the skeletal Kris Kidd trying to complement his cozy cocaine-snorting middle class life with elements borrowed from thugs, murderers and warm beer, which he discusses in the “Fruit Roll Ups” essay. Ultimately, he decides people of different backgrounds do not mix as well as portrayed in the movies, therefore becoming an living emblem of Warhol’s commentary on the power of Hollywood: “People sometimes say the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen in life that’s unreal.”
The most significant and heavy event in Kidd’s tumultuous life was his father’s suicide in the family’s backyard in July of 2009, when Kidd was 15 years old, and he provides paradoxical accounts of it in his book. In “Balloon Animals,” he is “deciding what color [he’s] going to dye [his] hair,” while his father is “zipped into a body bag.” However, in “Between Seasons” Kidd appears more responsive, “kneeling next to [his] father in the wet grass of [their] backyard with [his] hands pump-pump-pumping away at his hollow chest.” What accounts for this broad range from apathy and disconnection to an attempt at miraculously reviving a man who shot himself in the head? Kidd is lodged between two worlds: The glamorous escapism of drugs and glittering city nightlife and the reality of his social relationships. The alcohol, drugs, distorted body image and social media function as a kind of retail therapy; he “shops around” for these to avoid confronting the instability present in his life.
Kidd is one of the few commentators on our generation who is actually from our generation. He understands what it’s like to place half of yourself within the cyber world and the other half in Warhol’s unreal reality. We inhabit a perfectly contorted world as designed and shaped by previous generations who expect us to uphold the merits and fix the flaws of their system. This leaves Millennials as suburbanites and commuters to and from the city who value the existence and relationships designed for them, while concurrently searching for the novel and the exciting — an escape, no matter how self-destructive. Like the youth during the ’50s, we are seemingly complacent and satisfied, we are surrounded by, and embrace, the tragedy and seediness that harbors beneath the surface of the white picket fence American (Internet) Dream.