An ambiguous title and photo, perhaps, but I promise it’ll make sense by the end.
Tuesday night was the final day of Tbilisi Open Air, headlined by Placebo. This won’t be a post where I preach about how wonderful they are or how amazing the concert was (even though they are and it was) but instead I want to talk about the importance of them performing here, before leading on to my wider point.
After a heated discussion with my grrl Eilish, I decided to blog about it, mostly because I’d love to hear other peoples’ opinions and experience on the matter.
Anyway, Placebo performed and it was wonderful and we were surrounded by teens and others my age. Good, although amusing because in the UK when I saw them I had to be one of the youngest.
I’ve been a fan of them now for about a decade, naive 11 year old me influenced by my brother’s music taste and Brian Molko’s dreamy eyes. Placebo scared me before then, because they seemed to be the exact product of the ’90s that little old me felt excluded from when being babysat or with adults. This dark yet fluorescent, underground club, sexual-although-not-sure-why aspect of the 1990s.
I was born in ’94, be patient with me. I was also a wimpy kid, so finally embracing Placebo and my teenage angst when going through puberty (early bloomer, could you tell?) was a big deal for me. They didn’t quite dominate over my obsession for Gerard Way as a 13 year-old but they did become a constant for me, alongside The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Fast forward to December 2013 where I finally saw them live in Brixton with my brother. This was enough time for me to understand the impact they made, although in such a strange way where they have a huge, devout following but somehow still aren’t mainstream enough to be a household name.
The thing with Placebo that allowed them to maintain such a following is how strong their image and music is. I’ll resist preaching about the musical skill and incredible lyrics but the androgynous image both Brian and Stefan brought to the youth of the ’90s/’00s/’10s meant they became an icon for the LGBTQ and other excluded individuals to identify with.
Now, in the UK and Western places, homosexuality is much more accepted (although still has a long way to go) but you can generally assume you won’t be beaten or lynched for it with a crowd of applauding onlookers.
Hence why I was so impressed and, I’ll admit, smug that Placebo headlined the biggest festival in Georgia. Considering what happened in 2013, Georgia has a really long way to go regarding anything that isn’t considered ‘normal’. I wasn’t going to write about this but after last night where I was at a mini supra with well-educated, multilingual and otherwise kind people that still managed to be serious homophobes, then I had to have a little rant. Siqvaruli es siqvaruli was my input to the table.
The teens of Georgia are just like when I was a teen (a whole 3 years ago…) but they’re rebelling against their country’s norms and embracing their own identities with shaved heads and fishnet tights. I love that, I’ve got a few ounces of rebellion in my own blood via my adoration for Fidel Castro and nipple piercings, rather than tattoos and multi-coloured hair.
However, this is where I get to my main point. Kind of. This kind of behaviour where androgyny, homosexuality, and pure sexuality are striving amongst Georgian youth doesn’t match up with their parents’ and grandparents’ ideals. To quite an extreme level.
Grandparents of course are generally still very Soviet in their approach. Naturally, they spent the best part of their lives living under the Soviet Union. This means no sex (of any kind, check here for the dos and don’ts) and also very little exposure to honest news, international news and culture and of course, foreign people.
Elderly people anywhere can be quite stuck in their ways, so I can’t blame the bebos and babus of Georgia. However, what’s interesting is the mid-generation, the generation I’m in a relationship with.
Shota is an anomaly, I realise now. I haven’t met many people his age who are so accepting and open-minded. The thing with the 30-somethings of Georgia is they’re old enough to remember the Soviet Union and were raised by their parents and grandparents who had lived solely within that environment. Again, very little exposure to alternative ideas. This means that some of them are quite old-fashioned in their morals too, which is very dangerous when you consider they’re leading the country now.
Not just regarding homosexuality, but some negative traits from the Soviet Union have certainly spilled-over, namely nepotism in the workplace, blatant propaganda and lack of educational priorities.
However, lack of education becomes debatable when you consider that this generation has access to the internet. Shota saw his first computer at around the age of 14 years old, so sometime in the ’90s when I did as well. They know how to use the internet and therefore have access to a wealth of information.
Then you have to consider language barriers. If you’re a Georgian who knows Georgian and Russian then the information you receive will be quite different to if you knew English or German as well. I’ve seen enough anti-gay and anti-Europe propaganda in Georgian and Russian on my Facebook feed to last a lifetime.
The best one was an illustration someone made on a really dodgy-looking website where they were angry about kids in Europe having sex education from the age of 5. Funnily, it had some really nice childrens’ book illustrations and actually made sense considering it was about the mental state behind sex, not just the act of doing and procreating. In fact, I believe they’re doing that in the Netherlands now, right? Somehow that was used as propaganda but I guess it’s a controversial topic.
Also, this 50/50 generation can be awfully contradictory. Everyone seems to be talking about how wonderful London and Paris is, if you live the life imprinted onto a handbag anyway. You can’t lust over a European life then stand by such archaic and out-of-date standards, it just doesn’t work!
The thing that concerns me is how the majority of this generation and the grandparents too are enforcing their ideals, traditions and lifestyle so strongly that the next generation will do all they can to go against it. There are many aspects of Georgian culture and mentality that should be kept, so I just hope these teens are able to understand why their parents and grandparents are so stubborn, whilst being able to fully understand and identify themselves. A shift is happening.
I just wanted to quickly round-up by comparing the mid-generation to my dad’s generation back in the UK. I’ll resist ranting now although did in my last Eng V Geo post, but in the UK that generation is struggling with propaganda regarding immigrants and especially Muslims at the moment. They’re a generation still susceptible to believing what the news tells them, rather than taking the initiative to research it for themselves.
What fascinates me is that when they were kids they would have also been encouraged not to be gay or abnormal, yet now they’re not just accepting of it but they’re even actively supporting it. Growing up in the 1960s and ’70s of course meant a sexual revolution but the impression of the 1950s nuclear family was still very much present.
My dad is a good example of this where he was raised by his mum and his grandparents in a small village. He had little access to information and a small group of very local friends which lead to him rebelling against the norms, getting tattoos, a motorbike, various drugs, and a stray kitten (originally named Fester Bollocks which was later changed to Tootsie when I was born).
You see any pattern there? Now my dad and his peers are middle-aged, I can see he’s quite stuck in his ways. I imagine it might be worse for others from stricter families but, as much as my parents raised me with discipline as a child and freedom as a teen/adult, they’ve always been very accepting of new things I embrace. To come full circle, my dad gave Placebo a listen back when I was 14 and even had MCR as his ringtone for a while. He asks plenty of questions about life in Georgia and wants to experience new foods all the time.
It’s difficult to compare the UK and Georgia even more when you consider that religion doesn’t play such a huge role in society even for my dad’s generation as it does for kids today in Georgia. This is why I think it will be hard to predict which way Georgia will go, since teens today even have conflict within their own generation.
This point would obviously be given to the UK regarding progression and open-mindedness, but it’s not fair to compare. I’m inspired by how enthusiastic and worldy a lot of Georgians are just I see it as a shame when they’re somewhat held back by imposed ideals and still a lack of education from childhood.
I know this one has been pretty lengthy, so kudos to you if you made it this far. I’d love to know what you think! Have a wonderful and mindful day!