t h e b a d s o n.
Harmony Korine, who choreographs lo-cal bravado in the field of fame, is also a quoter; but what is often lovely
about his citations is that they don't suggest nostalgia (what youth has most on its side) as much as timeless video
daydreams. The Bad Son contains a suite of digitally altered, xeroxy snapshots of Macaulay Culkin and his teen
bride, the actress Rachel Minor, on the set of a music video Korine directed for Sonic Youth. It's important first to
note that the 18-year-old Culkin is still stunning, one of the few child actors who managed, like Elizabeth Taylor, to
keep the soft beauty of childhood past adolescence. This serves Korine well. He prods repeatedly at Culkin's beauty,
attempts to turn it over in search of slugs and bad angles. The Bad Son is a double entendre for a mélange of filial
relationships. Although he casts the Golden Culkin as the anti-hero, he is itching for us to know that the bad son is
really Korine himself. And, if Korine is the Bad Son, then photographer and filmmaker Larry Clark is the Even
Worse Father. Like Many of Clark's projects, notably The Perfect Childhood (Scalo, 1995), which included a blow-
by-blow description of a blow-job, The Bad Son is edited as though to appear un-edited. In frame upon frame of
fuzzy snapshots Korine hunts for Culkin's weaknesses - a hint of fat around the neck, the disturbing dark tint to his
wide, almost-too-sensual-for-a-guy mouth. Rather than the skateboard, a common Clark prop, Korine goes for the
guitar as boy punk signifier. Towards the end of the project Culkin hangs from a pipe with one arm and rests his
head against his shoulder: half Saint Sebastian and half one of those junked-out teenagers mugging for the camera in
whatever wasteland pose he can come up with to impress the always impressionable Clark. Culkin, who has more
options than most of Clark's models, seems half-there, wanting to go the whole distance, but hindered by having too
much on the line to really act out this fantasy.
Korine, for his part, seems much less willing than Clark to play to the audience, and consequently, the stage Culkin
has been given seems intentionally small. The book's title also riffs on Culkin's participation in the film version of
Ian McEwen's novel The Good Son. It has been said that Culkin's father muscled his son into the picture against the
wishes of the film's director and production team. That struggle, and all its machinations, floods Korine's project. As
a savvy broker of his own time's icons and equally conscious of his own aura, Korine has made The Bad Son a chilly
exercise in manipulation and attraction: one that should turn into an instant collectable.
The innocence that Korine played against in The Bad Son can actually be found in spades in a book of paparazzi
photographs called Starstruck. At the age of 15, a few years younger than Korine, Gary Lee Boas started
photographing showbusiness people at state fairs, touring musical theatre and beauty pageants. His project was
essentially that of an adoring fan and fanatical collector. Rather than Macaulay Culkin, Boas has Ricky Schroder,
who is so blond that it is hard to distinguish his hair from the halo of flash-flare that surrounds him. With an archive of 60,000 pictures, Boas, who has rarely sold his work and only begrudgingly turned pro to maintain access to
celebrity events, is something of an enigma.
p r o j e c t s
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