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Film / What We Do Is Secret

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What We Do is Secret is a 2007 biopic of The Germs, and especially its frontman, Darby Crash (portrayed by Shane West).

During an ordinary day at school, Jan Paul Beahm (later dubbed Bobby Pyn before changing it to Darby Crash) suggests to his friend Georg Ruthenberg (later dubbed Pat Smear, played by Rick Gonzalez) that the two should start a band. The duo post a flyer asking for "two untalented girls who don't know how to play their instruments", and get Terri Ryan (later dubbed Lorna Doom, portrayed by Bijou Phillips), Belinda Carlisle (Lauren German), and Becky Barton (Amy Halloran) into the band, however the latter two wind up leaving/being kicked out, and after an issue with a "fucking drummer thing", Don Bolles (portrayed by Noah Segan) drives out from Arizona to audition for the Germs, and is successfully let into the band. The film mostly focuses on Darby Crash and his five year plan (influenced by Music/ieie and his song "Five Years"), the band attempting to play shows after being banned from most venues, and dealing with the fallout from some of the people surrounding them. The film also has a documentary style feel to it, as it's peppered with interviews with the characters portraying the real life members of the Germs, and is littered with very subtle shout outs to things the actual Germs said/did. Although disliked by critics and some punk fans/musicians (including Jello Biafra and Fat Mike), it has developed a small cult following, and has been responsible for newly expressed interest in the Germs.

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Tropes:

  • All Drummers Are Animals: Don Bolles, full stop.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Played straight with Don Bolles, who drove out all the way from Arizona to audition in the bathroom of an illegal club for the Germs after hearing the Forming single, and subverted with Rob Henley, who spends a good chunk of the movie begging Darby to be the Germs' drummer, finally getting his chance when Don fails to show up on time for a show, only to be booted off without playing a single note by Darby when Don muscles his way past a bouncer, who attempts to throw Don offstage thinking he'd crashed the show, winds up being punched by Pat, which leads to a riot and a cancelled gig.
  • Book-Ends: The film begins and ends with Darby talking about his theories about circles.
    • Pat reads the poem "Astrid" to himself at the beginning of the film, and out loud at Darby's funeral.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Darby was noted to have a natural talent with words and influencing others (especially in school, where he was kicked out for starting a minor cult among the students), but he mostly cared about fulfilling his five year plan.
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  • Call-Back: At the beginning of the movie:
    Lorna: *vomiting from stage fright in an alley* "This is what we wanted?!"
    *later in the movie, after a show ends in a riot and the police show up*
    Lorna: "...is this what we wanted? Is it?"
  • Catchphrase: Darby utters "gimme" multiple times to anyone who makes the mistake of doting on him, Amber especially.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Claude "Kickboy Face" Bessy's dialogue is frequently peppered with casual usage of the words "fuck" and "bullshit".
  • Country Matters: Darby, Lorna, and Pat all wind up discussing (as a joke) how The Brady Bunch said "fuck" on air and Gilligan's Island managed to get away with using "the c-word", before they all start dropping the word "cunt" around repeatedly...on the radio with "Rodney on the Roq".
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Darby falls into this pose when he's wasted for the filming of The Decline of Western Civilization and when he commits suicide through an intentional heroin overdose.
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  • Dark and Troubled Past: Darby had one. His mother was an alcoholic who screamed at him frequently and was implied to be mentally ill, his father figure died of a heart attack on a trip with Darby and his mother, and his brother was killed by "some pissed off dope dealer", who sold him an intentional overdose of heroin. As a result, he wound up reading a lot as a child, leading to his fascination with words and their power over people later in life.
  • Dreadful Musician: The band members were this early on (well, except for Pat Smear, who would later go on to play with Nirvana), with special note of the flyer used to attract the bassist/drummer spots at first, asking for "two untalented girls who don't know how to play their instruments", and their first show at an open mic night, where they make something vaguely resembling music, however they quickly honed their skills over time. This was intentional, according to Darby. The plan was to emulate The Runaways in that they just went out and played.
    Pat: "Okay, so this was his plan: Say you're a band, advertise, get band members, get instruments, get a rehearsal space, play a gig, and then learn how to play. It's a good plan, right?"
  • Driven to Suicide: Darby ends his five year plan (with "Five Years" by David Bowie playing in the background of the scene, natch) with a suicide pact with Casey Cola. He gives her a weak dose, and she survives; he gives himself a strong one and doesn't.
  • Gilligan Cut: When the Germs discuss recording a full length album with Slash Records (a nonexistent company at the time), they approach Bob Biggs of Slash Magazine and ask for David Bowie, Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders, or Roy Thomas Baker to produce their album before settling on Joan Jett, while Bob keeps shooting them down in favor of X.
    Darby: "Why X?"
    Bob: "Oh, I don't know, because they have real songs?"
    Claude: "Real songs?! Bob, you sound exactly like the fat pig record company conglomerate fucks! Fuck that capitalist bullshit!"
    Bob: "Oh yeah, fuck everything until next week when I have to cut your paycheck! Yeah, then you'll love the fact that I dumped all our money down the drain on an album that won't make any money!"
    Lorna: "What about Joan Jett, she's famous?"
    Darby: "Joan Jett?"
    Bob: "Hello, is anyone here listening to what I'm saying? This simply isn't going to happen!"
    *cut to Darby recording "Richie Dagger's Crime"
  • A God Am I: Darby starts to see elements of this during the Germs' peak, however once the band starts to fall apart, so does he.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Darby and Pat.
  • A House Divided: The groupies start to drive a wedge between the band members, but Rob Henley (who wants to take Don's place as drummer) and Amber (who wants to be Darby's manager and sole provider) are especially guilty of driving a wedge between band members.
  • In Medias Res: The film opens with a concert by the Germs peppered with an interview with Slash Magazine. The concert in question doesn't show up until about thirty minutes into the film.
  • Irony: The Germs' existence is plagued with situational irony; special note goes to Darby's death arguably intending to bring attention to himself and the band, only to be overshadowed by John Lennon being assassinated a day later.
  • Oh, Crap!: Rodney displays this look as the Germs interview on his radio show turns into a profanity-laden nightmare.
    • Pat has this reaction when Darby shoots up with an unknown drug at a party and appears to be overdosing on it, however a random member of the party samples it and determines that it's ketamine.
  • Punny Name: Pat Smear and Lorna Doom. Darby's first choice for a nickname (Bobby Pyn) also counts.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Darby, straight up. There's his zine ad which had the caption "Six Million Jews Can't Be Wrong", half of his antics in public, and his use of the word "gimme" as opposed to politely asking for something...among other things.
  • Shout-Out: The film has numerous references and audio samples of songs from bands that were popular in the punk scene at the time, including X, the Circle Jerks, The Damned, Agent Orange, and even David Bowie.
    • Two real life bands from the Los Angeles punk scene in the 2000's (The Mae Shi and The Bronx) portray The Screamers (during the first scene at the Masque, covering Sex Boy) and Black Flag (opening for the Darby Crash Band with a cover of Police Story), respectively.
  • Shown Their Work: The film infamously took ten years to properly put together, which gave the crew ample time to conduct "thousands of hours of interviews" and scour over interviews, films, and other press Darby had done in real life, not to mention the surviving Germs coming together to train the actors (dubbed the "Baby Germs" by Pat Smear) on how to play their instruments properly, and even incorporate mannerisms known to the actual band members. Those black and white bits with Darby talking in the interview? Those were actual (or paraphrased) quotes from the real Darby Crash.
    • Of special mention is the scene filmed (in universe) for The Decline of Western Civilization; it's almost a shot for shot remake of the actual performance of "Manimal", with the only notable difference being Shane's lack of a wasted "Fuck you, Rob Henley", instead replacing it with a mumble.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Darby and Rob have this sort of relationship at least until Darby catches him in bed with a groupie.
  • Straight Gay: Darby is portrayed this way in the film. Whether or not it's Truth in Television depends on who you ask, since some members of the Germs circle claim that Darby experimented with women.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Darby is infuriated when he catches Rob having sex with a groupie, and disbands the Germs entirely.

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