Following the second episode of Rock School I speculated over the real Gene Simmons. Having seen the last two episodes of the series, I definitely think we saw much more of Gene Simmons teacher, as opposed to Gene Simmons arrogant rock star.
Over the last two episodes we again saw him going significantly out of his way with the troubled pupils, again going to see parents. We also saw him struggling with his potential rock band as they fought and argued. You also saw him calling in a number of favours from friends in the business to try and motivate the kids.
I have to say, that one of the sad themes underlying the whole of this series, and one which Gene himself expresses a number of time, is apparently how little ambition many of the children in Lowestoft seem to have. Of course I’m sure the editing has a lot to do with it, but certainly it is heart-warming to see the effect that the whole Rock School experience has had. For some it is the point where they decide what they want to do with their lives. For others it is almost like a Damascus Road experience, when they decide that they have to get out of Lowestoft. For others it is probably not the start of a glittering career, but rather something they can be proud of, to prove to themselves that they can do something. Certainly by putting together a group of young people, many of whom have problems with school, authority or whatever, rather than a group of well off, pretty privileged young people, it has produced an altogether more interesting series.
But what of Gene Simmons. I certainly get the impression that he has taken a lot more from this series too. He makes a number of interesting statements in the final minutes. Firstly he questions whether being a teacher or a rock star is more rewarding, and interestingly opts for the teacher, but adds that as a teacher he would get little thanks and acknowledgement for what he has done, certainly not compared to being a rock star. He also gives us a little of what is driving him in what he has been doing. He again comments on the lack of ambition that he believes the young people of Lowestoft have, but says that in the same way that somebody gave him a chance when he came to America, he has tried to give these young people a chance. I certainly think to some extent he has succeeded in that.
Of course the interesting question is whether Lowestoft is really as bad as is made out. I’m only too aware that editing ca make a big difference, but the question is whether if you went into a school in parts of Basingstoke or Reading, Bolton or Redruth, and took a similar group of young people, would you have exactly the same reactions and problems.
In all honesty I think you would – certainly Lowestoft is far from unique in having bored teenagers who feel disenfranchised by their lives and feel they have no future, and if there is one big negative to the show it is the fact that has come down heavily on Lowestoft when there are countless other places across the UK with similar problems. The big issue that has to be faced is that the vast majority of those places won’t be having Gene Simmons coming along to give their young people the opportunity to realise that they can change that.