Twenty-three years ago, a cinematic meteorite slammed into the American landscape. The 1986 DIY film was Heavy Metal Parking Lot and it portrayed nothing more than its namesake; the unruly Schlitz-drinking, ape-drape-adorned metal heads meandering in a Landover, Maryland parking lot before a Judas Priest concert (with opening act, Dokken, of course). The VHS tape became a veritable cult classic, rumored to have been passed around locker bays and garage-band tour buses alike. It was a strange view at a largely unseen America and nearly anthropological look at the North American metal-enthusiast in the wild. With every cut-off jean jacket, wizard-emblazoned Camaro-hood and Aquanet-infused hairhelmet, Heavy Metal Parking Lot yanked up America's skirt, revealing to the world the secret of what it was like to be a real kid in the 1980s.
Last Saturday, in the spirit of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, I set off deep behind the Orange Curtain to witness Monster Jam, the truck-smashing, car-crashing showcase of undersized trucks with oversized wheels, in an attempt to become the male Margret Mead of 21st century monster truck culture. Twenty-three years ago, I met my first monster truck fans. I still remember the monster truck fans of my youth, that same era which spawned the metal frenzy and pro-wrestling hero worship (for examples, see The Wrestler). I thought of those kids on the playground with dirt under their nails and Cheetos stains at the corner of their mouths. The ones with the moms who smoked menthols at soccer games and dads who drank straight from beer pitchers at Pizza Hut.
Where were they now?
The parking lot, perhaps?
At least that was the plan. The perimeter of Angel Stadium quickly proved otherwise as the hopes for Dodge Ram vans with aluminum-foiled windows vanished in lieu of F-150 dualies. With a huge set of pendulous truck balls.
This wasn't the parking lot I had in mind.
Gone were the charcoal Weber grills that reeked of lighter fluid and burnt hot dogs. Instead, goateed dads helmed hi-tech BBQ consoles, slowly roasting sausage links and sipping Coors light. Gone was the guy smashing a 40-oz in the street or high schoolers drinking Goldschlager from airplane bottles. Instead, young moms in Ugg boots and hoodies chased their kids who tore around the parking lot in Escalade Power Wheels.
Young dads in Volcom socks sat with their sons on the tail-gates of Silverados. Like the Disney-owned stadium, complete with food court flotsam of Panda Express and Ruby Tuesdays, Monster Jam was destruction for the whole family.
Rock 'n' roll minus edginess to the power of homogeny.
Although the aesthetic anarchy of the Heavy Metal Parking Lot may be gone, perhaps the need to make fun of everything has disappeared with it. Perhaps there in the Monster Truck Parking Lot, a new set of rules was forged for the 21st century.
Was this the decay of '90s snark? The death of Irony? A new era of authenticity in the burgeoning Obama age?
It was just big ass trucks and big dangly truck balls.