If we find nothing else unanimous about adventure road films, we might agree that they appeal to that darker side of people's psyches where rebellion thrives, wild and free. Hence, the outlaw outlook of the road film The Living End (1992) engages fans of this genre, but it also deviates from our expectations in significant ways. Most viewers who sympathize with the outcast in road films are also pretty good at respecting, even if unconsciously, the rules about outlaw narratives. We come to count on the tried and true pleasures of genre, and take satisfaction in pegging the bad guys early on, noticing subtle variations on the motives that put people on the run, or second-guessing the next move in a chase scene. The question that interests me in The Living End is not how the rogues break the law, since they inevitably will do so, but how the film breaks the laws of stories about outlaws. The Living End, Gregg Araki's independent film about two HIV-positive gay lovers on the lam, rebels against the road genre itself in its aim to revitalize the power of cinematic story-telling in an AIDS era.
My study of The Living End is part of a larger project of theorizing how the road story offers marginalized communities a ready narratological structure to represent rebellion and collective transformation. Such groups then challenge the genre with their own embodied differences of gender, sexual orientation, or race. An earlier generation of alternative film-makers - the French New Wave and American avant-garde - developed an aesthetic which was intent on destroying traditional film techniques in order to disrupt the semiotics of capitalist society. Today, the return to genre and popular narrative forms by non-dominant film-makers reveals a new strategy for constructing a rebel viewing position. By analyzing the road genre in this larger sense, as a repository of images of marginality and autonomy, we can better understand how popular narrative provides a performative space for imaginative revisions of identity and society.