When I told my kids I was going to see Duran Duran at The Capitol Theatre, they said something like, “Isn’t he the DJ from Z-100?”
By Annabel Monaghan
When I told my kids I was going to see Duran Duran at The Capitol Theatre, they said something like, “Isn’t he the DJ from Z-100?” I was reminded once again about how deeply I have failed my children in their cultural education. Duran Duran was as important to the 1980s as pesto was to the 1990s. Which is saying a lot.
To illustrate: a Duran Duran song called “Friends of Mine,” whose chorus proclaimed “Georgie Davis is coming out…,” prompted a girl in my ninth- grade class to go downtown and legally change her name to Georgie Davis. That’s what a big deal Duran Duran was. It seems crazy now, but at the time I thought, “If I had different parents, I would totally change my name to Rio.”
Fast forward to present day. Duran Duran takes the stage, and I am stunned. Thirty years have passed. I’ve changed in a hundred ways. I’ve even lost touch with Georgie Davis. But there they are, frozen in time. Simon Le Bon with his puffy lips and tight white jeans. Nick Rhodes with his Flock of Seagulls hair. For a moment I am 15 and they are 25, setting the tone for all that is ahead of me.
My teenage dreams were scripted by Duran Duran’s videos. I longed to zoom through the Caribbean on Simon’s yacht while he lip-synched into the wind. Or even to wear body paint while being chased through the jungle by a guy who was hungry like the wolf. And if that meant ending up with a man who violently tipped over a table every time he left a café, then so be it.
“For a moment I am 15 and they are 25, setting the tone for all that is ahead of me.”
On this night, my blissful time travel is interrupted by their new videos. As I watch the images that are projected behind the band, my middle-aged sensibilities are ruffled. One video shows cartoons of impossibly shaped women who seem to bend over an awful lot. They are the sort of women a teenage boy might create on the computer, before he understands the laws of physics. (Gravity may actually explain why they’re bending over so much.) I crinkle up my face and share my disapproval with my husband. He offers me his warm beer.
The next video seems to have a little storyline and stars real-life women, doing real-life things. Well, if in real life women get together and immediately strip down to their underwear and make out. Later they get drunk and many of them pass out. A catatonic woman is delivered via luggage cart to her hotel room. She is literally dumped on the floor. Never have I understood so clearly the roots of the word “objectified.” Maybe that’s the point? Is Duran Duran being ironic? I can’t tell, but I miss the whole next song thinking about it.
I was supposed to be dancing. The music was so good, couldn’t I just be cool with the misogyny? I wondered when I’d gotten to be so uptight. And, worse, I wondered if these were the images I grew up watching and thinking were so cool. I started to rethink my whole relationship with Duran Duran. It felt a little like the moment you realize your parents aren’t perfect.
I went home and re-watched all of the old Duran Duran videos with my middle-aged eyes. Good news: it’s not me; it’s them! To my delight, the tone of their ‘80s videos was more comic than sexual, and the women seemed in on and aware of the joke. The women were active and aggressive and cool, if a little underdressed. My memories of this band are in tact, and I will preserve them as they were in the ‘80s. And next time, I’ll just keep my eyes closed and enjoy the show.