In the early 1980s, when I was in elementary school, I remember asking my father what mental illness was. This was the era of deinstitutionalization, when most of the nation's mental institutions were emptied onto the streets which were at the same time flooded with AIDS and crack. Not surprisingly, most popular entertainment was decidedly escapist in nature.
Hey hey we're the Pistols!
I probably asked my father because I assumed he was an authority on the subject, him being a psychiatrist at the VA and also himself clearly not right in the head. To answer my question he briefly told me about the Sex Pistols, specifically their seemingly innocuous use of safety pins in fashion. I didn't come away from our conversation with even a better understanding of mental illness but I imagined that the Sex Pistols must be a very frightening bunch indeed to exemplify insanity in that insane era where our society's inevitable and impending doom was guaranteed -- probably because of satanic cults, child abduction, Halloween poisonings, subliminal messages, Dungeons & Dragons, or Sigue Sigue Sputnik.