Saturday, 19 March 2011

A strange and unique beauty (that we've all seen before)

Some aspects of beauty have been around since time immemorial and transcend all cultural divides: symmetry, long limbs, straight back. But there is no denying that now, as cultures and races intermix and stereotypes and assumptions progressively get waylaid by History's alleyways, definitions of beauty have been widened - but still - remain strictured.

And although it has always been the preserve of Fashion to shock and set flash trends, the inclusion of a new muse at Thierry Mugler is arresting and oddly beautiful. Tattoos have long been completely absorbed into the mainstream, but not like this...

Perhaps because the tattoo has a coherence of harmony and logic, and is almost poetic in its state of paradox: the inside, outside; the death vision on the life vision; the freshness of youth offset by a caricature of wormy decaying death... Somehow, it can be categorized as Beauty. Obviously not when he is pushing 40 and beyond (yawn yes yes we all know that) but for now, it is clear that "Zombie Boy" as he likes to be known, is getting mileage out of his creation. As WWD quips,

"Tattooing yourself to resemble a rotting corpse — complete with blackened eye sockets and insects crawling over your exposed brain — probably ranks low on the list of things a young man can do to attract attention from girls. Yet it seems to be working wonders."

It is impossible to mention him without citing his sponsor Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj - all portray a strangely post feminist version of Beauty. Fronting cosmetic campaigns [MAC/ OPI], they exude an equal parts mocking and desperate attitude towards Beauty. It might have started off as fun, now invariably appears horribly laboured.

Hip Hop and other music videos relish the exaggerated versions of money and ahem, 'hoes' - and the female pop stars play along, perhaps as a route to being empowered by what is essentially misogyny (much like the 'N word' has been adopted and turned into a term of endearment.) Lyrics that are saturated with far from witty double entendres pepper their pop songs, and they deliberately choose skimpy clothes and scandalous poses. All very tedious and staged.

It is always a struggle to create a modern, beautiful and arresting campaign - and although androgyny is old hat, the formula has been pushed to now include men playing the role of women: Lea T, a transexual model, and Andrej Pejic, a very feminised male model, both setting a new trend (pictured respectively below.) This article disregards these innovations,

"Of course, in fashion, things can always get stranger, but they rarely do anymore. Nudity, androgyny, sado-masochistic fantasies, an overtly gay sensibility — all these ideas have been expressed for years."

Individuality is prized to the point where it is ironically used to set off a cult (I believe Gaga calls her followers monsters?) and polished self-images mean tabloids thrive most when a celebrity can have a red circle or arrow drawn to alert the reader to their every flaw.

Is it a sign of freedom and advancement that there are these constant attempts to redefine beauty, even if it driven by a publicity campaign...? Or is it merely Plus ├ža change...

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