FUCK YES REAGAN AMERICA
“What do you do when your bright, lovable, talented kid turns into a punker overnight?”
Such is the question posed by The Day My Kid Went Punk, a 1987 Afterschool Special aimed at those most vulnerable to “The Punk Syndrome”, white, upper-middle class, suburban teenagers. Although 1980s America is notorious for producing “The Satanic Panic“, a witch hunt of moral outrage concerned with the effects of heavy metal on the youth of the nation, there were additional minefields for WASP parents of the era to worry about: drugs, Liberals, and the proliferation of punkers. This film tackles the latter danger with steely-eyed resolve.
SPOILERS BELOW! If you don’t want me to ruin the plot of a 28-year old Afterschool Special, don’t read this!
The Day My Kid Went Punk opens with a college orchestra performing classical music for an adoring audience of parents, clearly putting us within the prosperous world of Reagan America. The inhabitants of this film represent all of the values of the era like shoulder pads, appreciation of the fine arts, and successful white people ready and willing to jump right up the asshole of any cretin that didn’t look and act exactly like everyone else.
Our protagonist, Terry Warner, is a star violinist in the orchestra. Unfortunately, he is also a total herb. After completing the performance, he asks total babe Lisa to join him and his parents for dinner. Lisa cruelly rebuffs his offer and leaves with a totally radical leather-clad dude.
Terry asks his parents if he may “change his look for the Summer”, but his family aggressively ignores pretty much everything he says. It’s understandable, they’re all very busy people. His mother is a psychology professor, his father a writer and expert in “crisis management”, his brother a member of the Young Men’s Republican Club, and his sister a whining set piece.
Fortunately, Terry is headed out of town for the Summer. He will learn how to rock and roll with his electric guitar! And also, take care of children at a hotel where his mother is setting up a Psychology conference.
At the airport, Terry sees some totally bangin’ punk chicks who also rebuff his nerd-ass advances. He sneaks into the bathroom to trade his glasses for contacts, cut and spray paint his hair, pierce his ears, contour his makeup, and put on a BSDM outfit. By changing his look, Terry has completed all the requirements. Truly, he is a real punk now. His BADASS visage immediately terrifies adults and puts his new summer daycare position in danger.
In front of a group of toddlers, Terry strums out something that sounds like a WHAM! cover. Soon, he is magically transported to a stage where is ROCKIN’ out that WHAM! cover with a full ROCKIN’ band! Unfortunately, there is trouble in paradise. Here are some of my favorite things that adults say about and to Terry:
“He looks dangerous”
“He’s getting weirder looking by the day”
“If his parents can deal with him all year, we can deal with him for the summer.”
“No respectable hotel would hire someone like you to look after children”
“I was told this hotel has class. Obviously I was mistaken.”
“Try looking like a normal human being.”
“Ziggy Ziggy Sputnik”
“Ziggy Ziggy Sputnik”
“Ziggy Ziggy Sputnik”
Terry’s week in punk paradise is put in danger when his mother and father make the trip to the hotel he’s working at. We soon learn that Terry is kind of an idiot because his mother is hosting a conference for psychologists and psychiatrists titled: PUNK SYNDROME: HOW PARENTS CAN AVOID IT. C’mon, Terry. You had to know that was going to happen. Get your shit together.
In a real worlds-colliding moment, Terry’s parents attempt to reconcile their sweet young son, with his totally bitchin’ new look. In an attempt to extend an olive branch, Terry invites his parents to see him and his WHAM! cover band perform to a packed crowd of enthusiastic people. Their performance rightfully enrages his parents.
A little girl with leg braces is sadly stopped from riding horses at the stables outside the hotel, which brings about my favorite out-of-context quote of the movie: “Strapping on is a bad idea. Besides, our insurance company won’t allow it.” Terry teaches the little girl that it’s alright to be different. Just as she has a physical disability, he dresses like an idiot on purpose. Everyone is happy.
Slowly, but surely, his family comes around and stops being so harsh to Terry for his outrageous appearance. He is granted praise for his virtuous deeds and positive personality. Everyone begins to appreciate him more.
Except for Professor Steinberg. Steinberg kicks Terry out of the orchestra because he doesn’t like Terry’s totally bitching new look. The joke is on Professor Steinberg, though; the hot little orchestra lady Terry hit on at the beginning of the movie? Now she’s all up on his jock.
Terry wants to dress like a punk so he can get attention, get laid, and play rock and roll music. And you know what? IT WORKS. Thanks ABC Afterschool Specials. You’ve taught me that looking cool and playing in a band will give me attention, sex, and popularity.
Want to experience the magic? You can watch the entire movie below. It’s 43 minutes long.