“The Other F Word”: Profiling Punk Parenthood

Punk. What do you think of when you hear that word? Youth sporting Mohawks tattoos and piercings? The music? Raw, abrasive, angry and, above all, anti-authority. The men and women who live the punk lifestyle are notorious for fighting social convention and releasing their emotions through the rip of guitars and fast drum beats. But what happens when these young punks grow up, and start having children of their own. This is what filmmaker Andrea Blaugrund Nevins asks in her documentary The Other F Word, which takes an intimate look into the lives of famed punk rockers and their families. The film not only looks at the history of punk, and the family environments which led to these musician’s lifestyle but their attempts to break the painful cycle of abuse and abandonment that coloured their own childhoods.

The film reads as a who’s who of the American punk scene. Jim Lindberg of Pennywise, Fat Mike of NOFX, Tim McIlrath of Rise Against, Tony Cadena of The Adolescents, and Lars Frederikson of Rancid are just some of the men interviewed over the course the film. Although there are numerous interviews with different subjects, Nevins makes Lindberg the central figure of this documentary. Nearly half of The Other F Word is dedicated to documenting Lindberg, his wife and three daughters, who at the beginning of the film are watching him pack for the latest Pennywise tour. We watch as the days on the road take their toll and see Lindberg questioning whether all this work is worth it. This film was made just on the cusp of Jim Lindberg leaving Pennywise, after the band demanded he spend more time on the road and promoting their material (this demand coming after he had spent over 200 consecutive days on tour). The strain of splitting professional duties with his family life pushes Lindberg to a breaking point, and a fair amount of this conflict is caught on camera.

Every single punk rocker interviewed struggles with the same issues, trying to split their careers with their family lives. Many of the men interviewed had absent fathers, or fathers who were incredibly strict and disinterested in their lives. Several ran away from home in their teens. Their anger and resentment stewed, and they were eventually able to find refuge in the punk scene.

The film shifts often between backstage, and their own homes, where we see these punk rock heroes playing, gardening, and making food for their children. Parenting attitudes, like any, differ. Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and formerly of the punk rock Fear, speaks of giving up drugs completely at the birth of his daughter. A runaway at the age of 12, Flea recognized the need for parental support, something he lacked severely growing up. Contrast this with Fat Mike of NOFX, who, in agreement with his wife, swore not to change their lifestyle, just because they were having a baby. Drugs, BDSM and parties were to maintain a place in their lives. Nevins gets her subjects to open up and many become emotional speaking about the impacts their children have had on them. This glimpse into their lives as caring and devoted parents is a far cry from their blood spitting and angry stage personas.

Nevins does an excellent job of showing her audience the inner workings of each of her subject’s lives. Though some punk rockers make brief appearances, we get a good idea of the commonalities many of these musicians had growing up, and their mutual desire to prove themselves good parents and strong role models to their children. Their struggle to navigate and reconcile the anti-authority message of their music with fatherhood makes The Other F Word a particularly compelling film, and one that I highly recommend.