Friday, April 6, 2018

DRAG, the Series: Beauty

I have decided to leave this series of posts, intentionally, in a very draft form. This owes to the upheaval of the past month of my personal life, yes ... but it also feels fitting, as the entire point of this discussion of drag is about construction and challenging assumptions. To smooth it all into coherent, long prose might obscure the various parts, and thoughts, I have put into this, and they perhaps should stand out starkly. In honesty, much of what I say is just intros to the links embedded. And so, here is this series. Unfinished. Challenging - to me, in one sense, and to the audience in another. Seems right ...

The only thing I didn't like was the makeup.

On its opening weekend, I went to see A Wrinkle in Time with a group of people, most of them new to me, and one of the most interesting counterpoints to the diversity and inclusion celebrated by the film was the quote above. Stated by someone I suspect would consider their liberal cred to be beyond reproach, the idea was that The Mrs. Ws' fantastical appearances set a bad example for little girls by way of cosmetics.

This was said to me at a time I had my hair jacked up to Jesus, was wearing all metallics, and my eyeshadow was silver and not at all subtle. Also, I have blue hair for pete's sakes.

The lady opining did not join us after the movie, but I have been stuck with her restrictive liberal ideals in the same way I've been struck and confounded by prescriptivist liberality before. The way I really hate.

If feminism is about choice, what feminist is to say it is INVALID right on its face (and do pardon the pun, please) for a woman to wear makeup? Or a man? And if makeup is an evil tool of the conformity-enforcing Evil Beauty Industry, out to subjugate women into narrow beauty ideals ... where is it bedazzled eyebrows and green glitter eyeshadow fit in to this narrow, cis, white ideal?

As I have said before. Sometimes, makeup is not about remediation. It's special effects. And nobody - man, woman, or anyone else - gets to prescribe for me what is limiting, or to limit me by "setting me free" from it either.

silhouette - of period clothing, of presumed gender-conforming bodies, of nonconforming bodies

corsetry jewelry

cleavage, highlight/shadow ("The champagne glass") - controlling light itself, synthesizing it for illusion

erasing the face to repaint stereotypical femininity, or owning one's own features to challenge the binary (bald queens, eyebrows) ... Kevyn Aucoin's erasure art, queens who emphasize their own - amplification versus obliteration ... the BEAT face

Self-decoration predates anatomically modern humanity itself. We have been decorating ourselves since before "we" WERE "ourselves" - ochre and seashell jewelry, religion, trade, and art reach as far back as our current understanding takes us. Pre-human, prehistoric. Cro magnon and Neanderthal man created beauty as well as tools, and the tools of beauty and art date back over 160,000 years.

Advent of "I can draw what I want" marketing and autonomy over rigid fashion - STYLE over fashion ... still an industry, but emphasis affected by people's needs. How much can commercial interests still command people reshaping themselves? How much has the narrow beauty standard *really* changed? Really at the point where individuals are using the beauty industry, or still beholden to beauty standards?

As with most things, the alterations we perform to create beauty can pass into The Uncanny Valley, where synthesizing the suppleness of youth with plumpers and tightening becomes ghastly. Pop culture obsesses, at times, on hatred of this tendency - making fun of everyone from always-a-target Jocelyn Wildenstein to the Jenners/Kardashians for "overdoing it" ... and this both happens in drag, and is played-with in drag. Not a few queens proudly name their alterations, and it's difficult not to suspect that many who do it do so less for ideals of beauty than for the exaggeration of those ideals - for intentional effect. Special effects.

Drag USES the Uncanny Valley, gooses it - can transform it from challenge into a new definition of beauty.

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