It’s telling that Bradley Cooper begins his version, the fourth, of A Star is Born in a drag bar. A drag bar is, in not precisely insulting but at least somewhat paternalistic, not like other bars, even though, for his needs, it served alcohol. Queens in full face and wig line the bar, and then Lady Gaga comes out, her angular face also painted in drag makeup, as the one resident AFAB-queen. It’s commonly agreed upon that drag is about artifice, but it takes a little more thought, maybe more camp or irony, to get at artifice being a gateway to truth. So, Ally sings “La Vie en Rose” and Jackson sees the beauty and truth of her artistry not because or augmented by this drag, but in spite of it, an artistic purity that seems to be stifled by the fake eyebrows and harsh, accentuated faux contours. And when the well-worn star is birthed and begins to eclipse Jackson’s gravely country dulcet tones, via pop stardom, the movie, too, begins to view her genre stylings as just another form of drag. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the summer, I briefly plunged myself into studying camp for a couple of pieces I did. Its definitions varied, one of the great conceptual terms whose definition is as elusive as the transient nature of what it may or may not describe. For some, it’s merely the love for kitsch; for others, it’s pointed exaggeration to subvert normative values in art; and for some others, it’s the enjoyable bad, where badness does a 360 and becomes good again in spite of itself. The common connection was the role artifice plays. It’s either tool or catalyst, coding in each second of a given text a kind of language recognized and shared by a niche group of people.
And then at some point, camp was mainstreamed, and what was once kind of secret became kind of populist, even if in a tangential way. Ryan Murphy, Madonna, Hairspray as a musical, and the grande dame, Lady Gaga. Read the rest of this entry »
Sarah Paulson leans over the bed and whispers, “The more you scream, the more he likes it.” She’s speaking to a young junkie being violently, viciously raped by a demon. You can’t look away because all angles are covered, all sections revealed, and all vulnerabilities taken advantage of.
The premier of American Horror Story: Hotel brought with it the usual suspects: cinematic allusions, actresses spitting venomous lines of dialogue, hot men that are just there, and, well, rape. It’s the third time in Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s anthology series that the pilot episode has used rape as both a plot point and a provocation. Game of Thrones, another show widely criticized for its depiction of rape and sexual violence, could be argued to portray those scenes with more “taste” in comparison. But at the core of AHS’s sexual violence, which has been employed at least twice every season, is not only lazy provocation, but a deep cynicism for human relationships as a whole.
Author’s Note: Because people asked to read some of my essays for class, this is the first one. This was originally submitted as a paper for my Sex on TV class, which is basically a gender/media studies class. The assignment was to pick two instances in which the FCC fined or received complaints from a certain program and to evaluate whether or not you, the writer, agreed with their decision. The second part of the essay is an in-depth analysis of three music videos and their presentation of gender and their underlying ideologies about gender roles.