Pump Up the Volume (USA, 1990)
Directed by Allan Moyle

Rewatched 22.10.14

One of the things I most appreciate about Pump Up the Volume, Allan Moyle’s energizing and fun anti-establishment teen-rebellion movie from the 90s, is that its script allows its lonely and angry high-schoolers their own stories told in their own voices, unmediated by authorities, teachers, or even by the era’s victim-narratives or its homophobia and certainly not by the cynicism of many professional film critics and cinephiles. The young gay kid who talks to Happy Harry Hard-on on-the-air has had some bad things happen to him, but he doesn’t blame himself, or his sexuality. He doesn’t blame anyone really. He just wants to know what to do next.

Here’s an excerpt from Moyle’s script:

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, oh god!! ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, oh yes. Time out! This is good, this is really very interesting.

Chris – Hello

Happy Harry Hardon – Hi it’s me you’re on the air. Are you willing to tell my listeners what you told me here in this letter? Do you think they’re ready to handle it.

Chris – I’m not ashamed.

Happy Harry Hardon – So tell us what happened.

Chris – This guy I knew, he invited me up to the ridge and I wasn’t really sure why, but I was really happy because he’s a pretty cool guy, he’s an athlete and everything.

Happy Harry Hardon – First of all where was this and how old are you.

Chris – It was just before school. I’m sixteen.

Happy Harry Hardon – Go ahead.

Chris – So we get up there, we take our shirts off and we start fooling around and then I sought of told him how much I liked him, he just smiled and said he knew it. But then, he says why don’t we take our pants off and get a tan, so I did it, but he stalled.

Happy Harry Hardon – Go ahead.

Chris – Then two of his friends showed up and they were drinking beer and laughing and they took my clothes and threw them up in the trees. I didn’t know what to do. I started to cry but they just laughed at me so I stopped and they just started calling me things. I don’t even care about that. I know I’m into guys, but this was different.

Happy Harry Hardon – So what did you do?

Chris – Everything, everything they told me.

I feel bad that I didn’t even do anything. Now he wont even talk to me, he wont even look at me. I’m pretty confused!

Happy Harry Hardon – Confused! You’re not the one who is confused. You sound like you know exactly what’s going on. If any ones confused it’s those guys out there.

Chris – I know, but I think about him a lot. I sometimes wonder why one person is born one way and another person is born another way….. Are you there?

Happy Harry Hardon – Yes, yes!

Chris – So I guess you think I’m a faggot wimp hey?

Happy Harry Hardon – No! I’m just thinking how strong people can be and how everyone is alike in some way, how everyone needs the same things.

Chris – So what are we going to do about this.

Happy Harry Hardon – I don’t know. That’s the big question isn’t it hey?

Chris – I guess nobody knows hah. Well that’s tough, I got to go, se ya.

Happy Harry Hardon – I guess we all got to go now. Good night pal, good night friends.

For my money, this is a lot more effective, moving and relevant than the much-praised psychobabble offered up in in the conversation between Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski in Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, just to pull a scene from an art film out of my ass.

This didn’t make me as happy this time around as it has in the past, but it’s still a shot in the arm to recover from all the other Hollywood garbage I’ve subjected myself to lately. Plus you’d really have to search hard to find a better or sexier performance by Christian Slater.

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