Wednesday, August 20, 2008

johnny depp's eyeliner

been listening to nirvana and hole and the soundtrack to 'about a son' all day. been talking to saunia about how much kurt and courtney queered gender roles and what it means for a man take on the trappings of beauty usually reserved for women...and yes, johnny depps hot self and his penchant for wearing eyeliner came up.
it started with the question (by saunia) of whether i felt the queer gender performance by kurt (and courtney) was more an expression of themselves, or their desire to say 'fuck you' to the dominant paradigm in every way and so they destroyed gender norms as well as sobriety and cock rock and all sorts of things. i thought this was a very insightful question and said that i could really only speak from my understanding of kurt (as i havent studied courtney as much) but i feel she might have been operating from more of a fuck-you-to-everyone sort of place. that i felt maybe kurts actions (more so than his art, but that too) started out as dealing with his own gender expression, but possibly due to being in the spotlight it became more of a 'fuck you'.
that you start out understanding your gender and understanding that its not what people want from you, so you repress it. then you realize its who you are and no one has a right to tell you to repress it, so you let it out. and when you do that, the feeling of defiance that comes from going against what others wants can get you high and so you go really far with it and say 'fuck you' to anyone who cant handle your (albeit in-your-face) expression. hence kurts defensive tone, but his insistence on doing things like wearing a pink ball dress to the 'headbangers ball' [for those of you too young to remember this, it was this weird show in the 80s and early 90s on MTV about music and musicians moderated by this weird (kinda effeminate) long-haired headbanger type who was totally into heavy metal (cuz wasnt everyone back then?)]
but male expression of feminine beauty is much more acceptable in the mainstream now than it was then. if it werent for kurt, antony couldnt exist in the mainstream. and [this is where i need saunias help with reconstructing the conversation] somehow, this led her to mention johnny depp and his fantastic eyeliner. how its subverting gender stuff, but definitely making him super-hot. i think the point was that his visual appeal is tied up with his androgyny. that his cheekbones lend themselves to something really femininely beautiful and his use of eyeliner can accentuate this. the thing about JD is that his form of hotness is also really tied up with a tim burton-esque aesthetic, so its kinda dark and either depressing or smoldering, or both. and that has a sense of danger in a not very effeminate sort of way. well, i guess it depends on the character. edward scissorhands was kinda effeminate, he was even a hair-stylist...
saunia was using the word ambiguous to describe the use of traditionally feminine beauty products to up the hotness of a male. that subverting the dominant gender-role was hot because it wasnt clear what the purpose was, whether it was necessarily to make the male person look feminine. i had a hard time with the word ambiguous. i felt like this action is sort of obvious in its queering of gender and still showing how fucking gorgeous someone is, no matter if they are male or female, no matter if they are performing masculinity or femininity or something in between. i think we were arguing semantics about 'ambiguity' and 'androgyny' and 'queering gender', but i also think there are distinctions that we couldnt really articulate to each others satisfaction.
and its funny we even went to johnny depp cuz we could have stayed with kurt in this argument. he wore eyeliner a lot. and changed his hair color and length all the time (even got extensions). and was always kinda defensive when people brought it up. and a lot of times was beautiful, but also (i think he worked at this) at times was scary. not so much in the tim burton way, just in the 'i dont fucking care what you think, im gonna have 3 day old stubble and eyeliner and keep my hair in my face.' and that could be super-hot. and it could be grotesque. and i think he wanted to have both of those affects. i think sometimes he specifically wore a dress with a beard to highlight peoples belief in the absurdity of men wearing dresses and i think at other times he wore a dress to look beautiful, with spaghetti straps on those thin, muscled shoulders. (im thinking of the footage from the concert in brazil very late in their career. sure, he stuffed, and you could tell, but hell...lots of drag queens make quite a bit of the difficulty of keeping up the facade...)
speaking of drag queens, saunia brought that up in her defense of the word 'ambiguous'. that when drag queens put on their eyeliner, they arent trying to queer anything, they are specifically working to perform the feminine gender. i am assuming she was saying this is as a shorthand to say that drag queens go all the way to be specifically not ambiguous by adding all the other trappings of feminine beauty so that there is no doubt as to what they are doing. and when johnny depp and kurt cobain put on eyeliner and dont do anything else to specify feminine beauty, they are being much more ambiguous with their choice of gender expression. and i guess in some ways i agree with this, but i think i still dont like the word. i think they are very specifically and unambiguously showing their gender performed as they want it to be seen. as not fully masculine, and not fully feminine, but with an androgyny that they (or at least i) dont want to be thought of as synonymous with vague. who knows what they think, really.
i also have a problem with the word androgyny, by the way. prolly cuz the dictionary has multiple definitions that i feel are very different. therefore its confusing to use the same word to describe 'having both masculine and feminine characteristics' and 'neither clearly masculine nor clearly feminine in appearance'. i dont think having both cancels out either and it kinda disturbs me when people make that leap. i have striven hard in my life to imagine what genderless would look like. and maybe to figure out how to portray it. but i dont know that that is healthy for anyone, cuz im starting to believe its impossible and unnecessary (no matter how much i might still want it). at this point i might be getting into another whole set of things that this blog wasnt supposed to hold, so i think ill quit.
quick post script: i am not, in any way, against ambiguity when talking about or performing gender. i think its awesome, and as much as possible, i try to take advantage of it in my own life. its partially why i love michael stipe so much. he stayed within the ambiguous, even vague sometimes, in his descriptions of himself and his gender identity and sexuality. i appreciate people who dont feel the need to be specific in their choices to all and sundry. and most of the time, i dont fucking care who you are fucking. okay, maybe i do, not cuz i want insight into your psyche, but cuz i might know them...(at least in this town, sheesh!)

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