Tag Archives: vogue

Weekend Round-Up.

My five fave things from the interwebz this week.

1. On how men can take pointers from Disney princes in their pursuit of women. Allie is hilarious.

2. Moorea’s guest post on Freckled Nest about how to be productive when you’re your own boss. It inspires me to work toward being my own boss someday.

3. The first article in a three-part series on the myth of post-racialism in America. via Colorlines.

4. Katie’s post on at-home screenprinting. I want to try it!

5. The most fabulous performance of Madonna’s “Vogue” ever. Maybe better than Madonna herself.

Celebrity Killed The Artist.

When I picked up this month’s issue of VOGUE, I was delighted to find Carey Mulligan on the cover. I thought she was absolutely incredible in An Education, and she just seems like a down-to-earth, level-headed lady who is serious about her craft. VOGUE‘s profile on her was very interesting, and made much of the fact that she’s very private and doesn’t wind up with her pictures in the tabloids very often, if at all. In response to these facts, Mulligan had this to say:

I don’t want to be “known”–I’m afraid of being a “personality.” On a talk show, I feel like I should just hold up a sign with the facts on it–and leave. It wouldn’t take more than a minute, and they’d have room for other guests. I want people to not recognize me, to think I’m a different actress, not remember me from what I did previously. If people have all those other pictures and stories associated with you, it’s added shit that means they have to work harder to believe you as a character.

Is it just me, or is this a really profound sentiment? I think it’s the latter. It got me thinking about the notion of “celebrity” and how so often that interferes with the creation of meaningful art. For instance, I started thinking about Mulligan’s acting versus someone with a higher celebrity status, like Lindsay Lohan (which is perhaps not an entirely fair comparison, but bear with me). And this is what makes me believe Mulligan is right: anytime I see Lindsay Lohan act, in anything, I think of her mugshot and of the alcohol monitor she has to wear on her ankle. Or I imagine her snorting coke off of a urinal. But because I have this knowledge of her personal life, it makes it near impossible to be able to believe, much less invest in, a character she’s playing. The same is true of Tom Cruise. I have a hard time thinking of him as a good actor because he almost always plays an asshole, and I’ve observed what an asshole he can be in real life, so I feel like it probably isn’t much of a stretch for him.

ANYWAY, I feel like this idea draws a distinct line between true artists and mere celebrities. A true artist, like my former writing professor Suzanne Wolfe has said, understands that their art is something so much bigger than themselves, that they are merely a vessel for their art to come to light. The concept of celebrity, however, makes a person and what they do as an individual the focus, and not what they’re creating as an artist. A celebrity makes only cheap art because they think it is about themselves, or is at least an extension of them.

And what’s disturbing is that it’s much easier, and oftentimes more desirable, to be a celebrity rather than an artist. I read an article on NPR about the new documentary by Adrian Grenier (the really attractive guy from Entourage, and no stranger to acting the role of celebrity) about a thirteen-year-old paparazzo who stays out until the wee hours of the morning, battling with adult paparazzos for a juicy photo of an in-demand celebrity. It just seems to be a really sad commentary on the mass public’s infatuation with celebrity, and how it has trickled down to the youth. I don’t read US Weekly anymore, but I used to, and there’s a regular feature called “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” that has pictures of Fergie at the grocery store or Kourtney Kardashian putting a car seat into a taxi cab. The title of this feature is pretty duh-worthy (obviously stars are just like us.. they’re human, aren’t they?!), but it just illustrates how we humble everyday people put these celebrities on a pedestal, and often for nothing that is deserving of a pedestal. And then people like Mulligan, who take their craft seriously and who become invisible for the sake of their art, go unrecognized and unappreciated. I guess Mulligan explicitly said she didn’t want to be recognized, but seriously, the artists like her deserve a little dap at least.

the art of fashion (in a completely un-ironic sense)

last week in my women’s studies class, we had a discussion about clothing and how the different ways that women dress can walk a fine line between confidence and desire for sexual attention. some students even went so far as to suggest, subtly, that women who dress provocatively are deserving of the stigma that surrounds the way they choose to dress themselves. i’ve been ruminating on this idea ever since, trying to make sense of what i believe are really reductive statements.

quick history lesson: in victorian england, everyone was enamored with the idea of physiognomy, or the notion that one could know a person’s inner morality just by observing their outward appearance. so if you were a pretty young woman, that meant that you were very moral and innocent; or if you had a large forehead, that meant that you were intelligent and passionate (or something equally ridiculous). then with the industrial revolution and the advent of cities, one had to be able to get a sense of the person walking next to them in the street in a split-second, because you didn’t have enough time to employ the “science” of physiognomy as you were passing them. so how did one get a sense of other people? by their clothing. if a man was dressed in the typical fashion of a middle-class gentleman, one could assume instantaneously that he was in fact a gentleman. this was how social mobility came to exist: by being able to look, and more specifically dress, the part of whoever you wanted to be.

i think this sentiment still exists today, especially for women. it’s so easy for women (and men, i suppose) to make value and character judgments on other women based on what they’re wearing. “her breasts are basically falling out of her top… she must be a slut. her skirt is so short that i have a detailed view of her reproductive organs… she just wants attention. she has a brand new fendi purse… she must be loaded.” these statements reduce women to a single dimension, to a caricature almost, and not based on anything other than the faux science of physiognomy. it’s a shame that women can’t dress to show off their bodies because they’re comfortable and happy with the way they look without being perceived as only trying to pique the male gaze and sexualize themselves; it’s a double-standard that men would never be forced to live by.

on a positive note, i think that clothing, and fashion in general, has that socially mobilizing effect today too. obviously, if you have something that’s expensive (or something that even just looks expensive) you will be perceived as a person of wealth. but even the variance of styles that one person can exhibit in the course of a week lends so much creativity and fluidity to embracing myriad aspects of oneself. that’s why i love VOGUE so much (and will defend it to the death against anyone who dares blaspheme its divinity): it’s not a trash magazine that focuses on celebrity gossip or diet fads or a wild sex life (coughCOSMOPOLITANcough), but a magazine that is truly dedicated to the art of fashion, to the movement and mobility of it, to the beauty of multi-dimensionality that can be expressed through clothing. have you ever seen a spread in VOGUE? the photography and production is gorgeous.

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the same woman can be serious and sophisticated in an yves saint laurent blouse and briefs, and then be quirky and fun-loving in a rochas floral silk blouse and skirt. she can interact with two men without being objectified, and be beautiful and alluring whilst fully clothes. despite all of the ads that appear in VOGUE, i somehow never feel like a consumer; i never feel like i’m being sold the current standard of sexy or “beauty.” seeing images like these in VOGE makes me feel like i’m allowed to be all the things that i am, that i can move from one creative interpretive ensemble to the next and still maintain my essence and my beauty and my layers, as a woman and as an individual.

and sometimes i feel like VOGUE is a lone wolf in that respect, and that i’m a lone wolf in experiencing the response that i have to it.