A still from the video
Out & Bad
A peep into England's dancehall scene
“Friends are the family you choose” is a common cliche used by all sorts of people. For some, however, choosing this family is a vital part of survival. Out & Bad, presented by Vice’s Noisey follows some of England’s dancehall community, giving us an intimate glimpse into their found mode of survival through dancing, partying, and camaraderie. This probably sounds like a relatable tale and it is but you soon realize that these boys can dance much better than you. They found each other nearly a decade ago when England experienced a mass influx of Jamaican immigrants fleeing anti-gay laws during the early 2000s. The dancehall scene served (and still does) as a friend based family, which for some, were all they had.
Out & Bad rattles off the statistics that have become all too familiar. We are reminded once again just how many black LGBTQ teens are forced out of their homes and left to navigate the most difficult parts of their youth alone. “We all had a common bond, which was black and gay. When we would come together, for a short moment, nobody could touch us. We were untouchable,” says one of the documentary’s main subjects, Marc.
The film is worth a watch. Marc and all of his friends are vibrant, feel-good people who make every group scene feel like you’ve missed out completely, which, unless you frequented bashment parties like Caribana and Bootylicious, you most certainly did. (Highlights include Deejay educating the viewers on how to stand, watch your liquor and give face at bashment parties.) With that being said, I can’t help but feel like Out & Bad feels like another documentary that is fun and entertaining as much as it is disheartening. While it provides the correct history of dancehall culture and they hey-day of bashment parties, I really had to ask myself if Vice was doing anything for places featured like Stonewall Housing, which tries to place as many kids into homes as fast as they can. I’m tired of reading, seeing, and hearing statistics followed by no plan of action. Maybe I’m missing the point of this story, but I can’t help but ask these questions when some boring ass white dude is featured one too many times, referencing the people he’s photographed as “butterflies” (alright…) and using “off the chain” (seriously?) three separate times.
“A lot of people are often quick to forget their roots and where they came from, but to me, I celebrate them, and dancehall was a massive part of that for me. I’ve become something that I didn’t have the aspiration to become, I didn’t know that I had it in me to be this person,” is one of the final quotes of the documentary and I’ll leave you with that. Because dancehall did this for many people, I just wish Noisey had done a better job of showcasing that story and helping us figure out how to stop all the hate.