Frances Bean Cobain at LAXEvery generation has a defining moment, something so powerful that looking back, we can find our place in the cultural narrative by asking, "Where were you when ... ?" For our parents, the question was, "Where were you when JFK was shot?"
For my generation, the question is, "Where were you when you found out Kurt Cobain was dead?"
I skipped school that day; it was the spring of my senior year and I'd mentally checked out already. What I remember is my doorbell ringing seconds after I heard the news, and swinging the door open to find my best friend standing there with the same look of utter shock on her face that I had on mine.
The next thing I remember is staring at footage on TV of Kurt's angelic baby daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, and wondering, What is going to happen to that poor little girl??
Frances turns 19 this month. And now I know what happened to her ... if the pics from her recent photo shoot with Hedi Slimane are any indication, she's turned into her father.
And I don't think that's a bad thing.
Frances is exquisitely beautiful in these photos, and a force to reckon with in her own right. Still, the resemblance between Frances and Kurt is stunning. For those of us who followed Nirvana since we were younger than Frances is now, looking at her face is not unlike looking at a ghost. Thrilling and sad, and scary in the sense that at any moment, the spirit could vanish suddenly.
I keep going back to a paragraph from Kurt's suicide note, one that struck me viscerally when I first heard Courtney Love read it aloud. He wrote:
I have ... a daughter who reminds me too much of what I used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point where I can barely function. I can't stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive death rocker that I've become.
I know there are those who will look at these pictures of Frances, at her tattoos and her cigarette and pale skin and black lace, and say, "Well, there you go, she's a self-destructive death rocker."
But to those people I will borrow a phrase from her father and say, "Self-appointed judges judge/More than they have sold."
In other words, why don't we spare this child the judgment and criticism that drove her father to an early grave and appreciate her for who she is? (Another telling Kurt quote: "I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I'm not.") Darkness is Frances Bean's birthright. There is no teenage posturing. Her tattoos may as well be birthmarks.
Frances, like her father, is proof that darkness can be beautiful. I hope, as I've hoped since she was a baby, that she has enough good, solid people around her to give her the strength to carry on that legacy. (I guess it's too late for Dave Grohl to adopt her, like I always secretly wanted, but maybe he fills in as an uncle of sorts.)
Kurt didn't want to be an icon, but he was an icon. He probably never wanted to be a guardian angel either, and (as I assume is the case with most Nirvana fans) the concept of a heavenly watchdog requires a certain suspension of disbelief on my part as well, but I think it's clear that Kurt is watching over his daughter. With pride.
Do you think Frances Bean Cobain looks just like her dad?
Image via Splash