Thursday, February 21, 2008

Frances Bean Cobain Is No Grunge Chick

When Kurt Cobain commited suicide in 1994 grunge ruled the world. The chic set was not comprised of child-sized women with gym-toned arms, spray tans, colourful dresses and enormous sunglasses (hard as that is for us to fathom, in the waning bling era). It was made up of angsty characters with artless bed-hair and rumpled band tees. The guys wore flannel shirts and bedrooms were wallpapered with posters of the Seattle 'big three' (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana). For both sexes, Doc Martens were the shoe of choice. If women emphasised their bodies at all it was with tight black jeans (yech, do you remember?) personalised with sew-on patches or even (shock horror!) permanent marker doodles. I actually remember the girls in the year above me painting their nails with liquid paper and drawing on their thighs.

And this is the chic set.

The suicide of Kurt Cobain sent shock waves through the teenage world. A string of copycat suicides followed (look up 'copycat suicide' on wikipedia and it's mentioned in the first paragraph- the world's premiere example). Grunge-heads mourned, sobbed, tore their stringy hair out, wrote angsty poetry, listened to 'Lithium' on repeat, constructed eerie Kurt shrines, channelled the singer with Ouija boards and started short-lived Nirvana-rip-off garage bands. It didn't pass for about a decade - every year as the anniversary of Kurt's death approached youth counselling organisations began to get nervous and heightened their feel-good efforts. An orgy of teenage self-harm had become naturally associated with Cobain's final day: a certainty, like exchanging presents on Christmas.

Amidst all the sadness- the cries and howls and curses- a few whispers of hope could be heard. Kurt had a daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, whose mother was none other than riot-grrl Courtney Love, notorious boozer and frontwoman of nascent rock band Hole. At that stage Love was better known for her on-stage presence than for public benders or a propensity to show up paralytic at interviews and flash her boobs (Cobain, when prompted to count his blessings, once stated that he had 'a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy' - how Love's press has deteriorated since then). Kurt was gone, but his legacy lived on in handbag-sized baby daughter Frances Bean. Die-hard fans speculated, with moist eyes, about whether this tike would take those alpha music genes and make the most of them. For a while it looked like the dream was still alive.

This Elle shoot from 2006 is positively heaving in its eagerness to style Frances Bean as a grunge girl in the making. That was two years ago - since then hip hop and electro beats have tightened their stranglehold on the public imagination, and Kurt's daughter has grown up and started to look more womanly (earlier this year she declared to People magazine: 'I am not my parents'). This month came the clincher: Elle competitor Harper's Bazaar published a very feminine, very high-fashion, very 'now' spread featuring the adolescent Child of Rock. The theme? An homage to some of Frances' favourite characters from musicals (she's not quite grown-up, after all).


Beauty and the Beast


The response has been very positive - until now a great portion of the music-loving public didn't know what this girl looked like. FBC has exploded into mainstream awareness in a puff of glamour, satin, ruching, perfect makeup and and skyscraper heels. Not as a grunge-revivalist ingenue, but who cares about that anymore?

Well actually, some people do. When these shots were first published on Gawker the comments were a mixture of surprise, encouragement and good old-fashioned covetousness (mainly directed at that yellow Zac Posen dress in the middle). But one response in particular- from a guy- stood out for me. He was clearly a grunge-head, with a picture that just screamed 'hanging on to the nineties for dear life': stringy-hair, baggy clothes, sitting on the floor in a dirty apartment. I wish I could remember his screen name (Lithium4Life or kurtNkrack or something like that). His comment?

'She's almost ripe'.

Ooer... disturbing.

Kurt Cobain is a legend, and the seismic impact of Nirvana cannot be denied and may never be duplicated, but his era has passed. Anyone still hanging onto grunge like a security blanket is probably a little... well, maladjusted.
Who can blame this little bean for wanting to distance herself?


Anonymous said...


I hate that she is giving in to the glitz and glam, but its her life, IMO she should do music, she'll probably kick herself in the future for not doing it, she definitely has music in her veins.

Anonymous said...

I am younger than her and i wasn't even around when Nirvana were but i am a grunge chick. Whoever still hangs onto grunge is right we don't have to just let it die! WE ARE THE NEW GRUNGE GENERATION!

Anonymous said...

Ha. Well, I'm a grunge chick. But, everyone is different. As long as she's being true to herself...that's all that matters. Kurt followed his dream and went his own way. I think his daughter's entitled to do the same. And honestly, she's right. Let's not sit here and worship her. She's 'famous by default'. Let her become who she wants! I'm personally a musician. I'm her age. She's currently not a musician. And that's ok. I honestly don't blame her given the circumstances.....

Anonymous said...

I think that it is a shame that she is wasting the legacy her father left her...Kurt would never have gave into the glitz and glam...when I see the only offspring of the grunge god and goddess turning into a "bling" princess, I want to puke...not only is she trying to say that grunge is dead, she killed it.

Anonymous said...

she hasnt killed grunge im a grunge girl and if it was dead i wouldnt be a grunge girl i worship nirvana and kurt but i agree also that we are the new genertaion of grunge kidz and she can do what she wants but if i was courtney i would try to make her see sence about who she is becomeing ...change !!!

jazzyhap said...

Kurt is, and always will be the voice of a generation. We didn't want a superman, in fact, we wanted the opposite, someone that could be hurt, like us.

Yes, there is now a new generation, and this is a different time, and maybe we are watching Frances Bean a little too closely, but again, we are not looking for her to be superwoman. In fact, we want her life to be as normal as she would want it to be. Frances Bean has millions of "aunts and uncles" who want only the best for her. She has nothing to prove to anybody but herself.

With Love. To Frances Bean Cobain
Generation X