Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Show me the lipstick

All big musical trend pieces are doomed out of the box. Still, last Thursday's New York Times Critic's Notebook peddles egregious journalistic what-the-fuckery of a kind normally reserved for the pages of the Weekly World News. Casting about for a way to explain what those crazy kids are listening to nowadays, the NYT sells its sanity for a point of reference its target age demographic can appreciate and finds itself reporting, "EMO IS THE NEW GLAM ROCK." Which is a compelling and plausible claim, if you happen to be a 70-year-old reclusive Valium addict who spent 1970-1974 listening to the A side of "A Gene Autry Christmas" and thinks that Mott the Hoople was a character on Sesame Street.

It starts out innocently (if lamely) enough: "[emo] has become the soundtrack of white adolescence." That's about six years late, and marginalizes all of the precocious smartie lit kids who are listening to, like, the Decemberists, but okay. Then--

"A genre that was once mocked for its supposed earnestness is now home to some of the most flamboyant boys in rock 'n' roll."

Flamboyant? Flamboyant how, exactly? In their egotistical tunnel-vision and unshakeable belief that their straight white boy problems trump those of the rest of the world? In their confidence that said problems deserve to be soundtracked by bargain basement power chords dueling laryngitic hamster vocals and listened to adoringly by the sympathetic youth of America? This sidesteps the real meaning of flamboyance, which refers to the ostentacious public display of one's self, often through elaborate and fancy clothing. If we adhere to the first half of that definition alone, all pop singers are flamboyant; to get into true fiery glam territory, emo bands would need to wear a lot more than black hoodies and thrift store Vans. Glam was necessarily queer--by which I mean abnormal/subversive/ literate/hedonistic/revolutionary in addition to homotastic--and there is nothing queer about emo, either sexually or politically. For all its anti-establishment trappings, emo clings desperately to the status quo and to the stability of a system in which boy-subjects must eternally suffer at the hands of cruel yet objectified girl-vixens. When you queer emo, make a girl a subject or a boy a vixen, it ceases to be emo at all.

"BUT OH!" the Times interjects here. "Didn't you notice THE MAKEUP??"

"emo bands are doing something unlikely: they're reviving the fierce, fey spirit of glam rock, complete (sometimes) with eyeliner and lipstick."

At this point the article gestures proudly at a a picture of Pete Wentz wearing (GASP!) eyeliner. Oh, the abjection! Oh, the upended social paradigms! Pete is Ziggy reborn! Or so the Times would have us believe, since they make supreme ass-hats of themselves by running a picture of the Homo Superior himself c. 1973 on the next page and proving by visual comparison that Wentz is about as fierce and fey as a Little Debbie snack cake. Wearing a Bowie t-shirt and rebirthing an entire socio-musical movement are not the same thing. As for the lipstick tease, where are all of these mythical Maybelline'd baby queens? So Gerard Way likes his eyeliner--fine. But find me a picture of an emo dude wearing lipstick and I'll show you an Alkaline Trio lyric that quotes Andrea Dworkin.

5 comments:

Anjanette said...

Sweet Nancy, we need images of legitimate glam boys stat, before the word loses all meaning!

http://placebonancyboy.free.fr/groupe24.jpg
http://sucker-love.com/gallery/suckerlove2-87.jpg
http://www.cosmofineart.com/HG_Bowie_ZiggyStardust.jpg

and then there's this:
http://www.andrewkendall.com/pages/photogallery/7/13.php

*cough*

Finally, in the midst of searching for these photos, I found out that Marc Bolan named his son Rolan, so his name is Rolan Bolan.

smelly mcsmellsmell said...

i'm totes writing to alk3 suggesting they quote and/or credit dworkin on their next album.

jennie said...

i feel like i should stand up for my much abused first love of emo music here, even as misunderstood and misrepresented as it has become these days. i think what attracted me to it back way back when was precisely that it didn't come with distinct boxes for which sexes were doing what. i mean i totally agree with your main point, but on the other side, i found the anger to be raw and refreshing in a way that overrode the gender norms. some fairweather songs and old school saves the day could be about anybody...they're just mad and want to complain. also does rilo kiley count as emo? cause jenny lewis is a woman. and she likes women. that's pretty queer.

Lizzie said...

jenny lewis likes girls? i so did not know that.

and thanks for speaking up in defense of emo. of course it is not as monolithic as all that--plus becky was talking to me last week about how emo is getting appropriated by queer communities now in ways it just wasn't back when i followed it. i definitely see how you could turn somebody like gerard way into a pin-up for gay boys. maybe even pete wentz!

StillWater said...

Wow! Semi permanent make up has alot of uses! But did you know that a woman consumes over 4 to 9 lbs of lipstick in her lifetime! Here is the link that I found that shows all of the research:

http://www.lipink.com/lipstick_wax_s/6510.htm&Click=33586