Fashion used to be shot in contrast. The clothes and accessories [bags, shoes, jewelry] were clearly the foreground and in the foreground. Everything else was relegated to the background which itself struck a harmony with what was being highlighted. It was the photographer and the designer who decided what to pay attention to and what should stand out.
But lately, there seems to be a battle of the images, a battle of the foreground over the background in fashion. My eyes have never been so busy. Nor have they had to compete for attention or to figure out what is the thing being advertised.
Allure [November 2015] has images where not only the bold colors compete, but ideas compete, too, and the eyes need to look hard to see the details of the centerfold, because there are so many other details around what’s being highlighted. There’s a kind of chaos and clutter to these images, which make it a bit difficult to settle on the clothes. and hopefully i did see what they wanted me to see. Clothes, right? Or is it bags?
Marie Claire [January 2016] features ads with colors so heavily saturated in the entire image that it is easy to see everything together, or everything else first, then the item being advertised. Then suddenly you realize ‘ah! it’s a shoe or a bag they’re advertising! Not mini figures of characters of games.’
New York Times Style magazine [6 December 2015] had a similar idea where contrasts are all on the heavy side; no longer is there lightness against darkness, and no longer does the jewelry occupy frontal space but here it occupies a small space and everything else, the majority of the space of the whole image:
It is a very different way to shoot, photograph, edit or put images together, especially when your eyes have been trained to see the clothes and accessories being advertised easily. This new way to shoot images for magazines seems to imitate the era in which we live, a fast-paced technological era, where there is so much going on that is vying for our attention that we have to really focus on what we should see. Art imitates life!
In Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia,New York, Connecticut, Georgia, Fort Gibson, Minnesota and far too many other places to mention in a little blog, school shooting has become as American as apple pie. And like apple pie, it can be had anywhere: gurdwara, planned parenthood, colleges, elementary schools, high schools, cinema, driveways, streets, church, malls, lawns, disability centers, military base…has any place been left out?
Guns are banned in schools yet most shootings occur inside and around elementary and high schools and universities. A weird thought shot to my mind as I write this: the terrorist group, Taliban, shot Malala Yousafzai in school. Yet our shooters aren’t called terrorists. Our Land of freedom is quickly becoming the Land of fear, and soon to be Land of guns. Barely 3 years after Sandy Hook, which took 20 lives of 5 yr olds and 6 adults’ lives, 142 more shootings have occurred. And each time a shooting occurs in America there’s a kind of ritual:
- NRA heaves it chest, characterizing and normalizing it by calling it “an act of a lone madman”
- America’s power figures solemnly go on air, offer prayers and condolences to/for gun victims & their families then callously and fearlessly reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killings.
Even though an astounding 40 percent of guns in America are acquired without a background check as New Harvard research between 2004 and 2014 show. And more than 2,000 terrorism suspects purchased guns in the United States [Nicholas Kristof’s “on guns we’re not even trying” nytimes.com 2015/12/03]. The Senate allows people from the terror list to buy guns, but block them from boarding planes, and the NRA & its republican allies distract us from the real problem of guns, with the word ‘terrorism’.
Yet, all the senseless shootings by killers are nothing but acts of ‘preventable’ terrorism.
America is fighting guns at home while the rest of the world is fighting ISIS. Our own guns, our homegrown terrorism which we perpetuate, by our own people whom we humanize after they shoot to terrorize and kill. We get into the past of these homegrown, overwhelmingly white radicalized shooters and publish histories of their loner status, how they were ostracized, bullied, isolated, intimidated, disrespected, picked on etc. But we dissociate their brutal acts from terrorism and continue to conflate terrorism with only those having Muslim names while never calling the shootings of the white majority American shooters a terrorist act, thereby skirting the whole gun issue while the ‘terrorism’ issue rages on. But whether it’s a school shooting or Planned Parenthood or a community college or San Bernadino, it’s a shooting by guns as the unrelenting average of 92 gun deaths per year in America proves [Kristof’s “hysteria about refugees but blindness on guns” nytimes 2015/12/06].
To say that shooting continues in America because gunners have guns is simplistic. Gunners have another strong weapon to fight gun control & violence which they brandish like a sword every time the gun control talks come up: the Second Amendment. They cite a constitutional document written hundreds of years ago when gun shootings didn’t yet exist among civilians, and when Internet & social media didn’t make it easy to buy guns or gun parts online and assemble guns to kill.
America has proudly come a long way in creating change for our own good: we are now told what and when to eat because eating became uncontrollable and they had to ban foods with TFAs and huge sodas etc before we kill ourselves. They had to remove candy machines from our schools before we kill our children and they’ve instituted change in areas where other ‘first world’ countries like France lag far behind: affirmative action. They’ve even been able to remove the stigma of behind non heterosexual unions and told us we can marry into the same sex, but they can’t curb their trigger fingers. We’ve abolished slavery in America, but we cannot let go of that second amendment clutch to create SAFETY for all peoples. We cannot let go of that ‘right to bear arms’ even if those arms are in the hands of psychotic killers. We cannot forego that ‘God-given right’ to protect our homes, families, and lives. All that this tells us is that no right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation or doubt.
Perhaps the shooting spree we’ve been living – or dying for – should be given more life in areas like presidential races. Not the Jeb bush kind where “Islamic terrorism that wants to destroy our way of life, wants to attack our freedom” Or “they’ve declared war on us. We need to declare war on them”. We must declare war on our fascination with gun violence, on our mostly white male, suburban gun owners and shooters. War on our toxic culture of masculinity that fosters the destructive narrative of one winner and a whole lot of losers. It behooves America to look at the other countries which have been able to curb or eradicate gun violence. In 1996 in Scotland a gunman shot 16 children at school, and the public outcry the following year made the British gov’t ban private ownership of automatic weapons and handguns on British mainland. In Australia of the same year after a massacre by guns, sweeping gun control laws were passed. In such places, although the natural instinct is to arm oneself, self-defense does NOT count as a valid reason to have a gun, post 1996.
If our constitution requires everyone to bear arms including psychos, mentally ill & other criminal minds , then we need a new one, like Australia & Scotland. Vigilantism is not a constitutional right, and when someone loses a child or any loved one s/he doesn’t care about people’s sympathy or eulogy; s/he just wants those who can do something to get to work and do something!”
Thought of the day: if your constitution requires psychos/criminals to bear arms and kill, then you need a new constitution because guns kill. Alllivesmatter.
Danish Girl [Tom Hooper, 2015] is a great film on how sex reassignment was conceived in the 1920s. Sex reassignment was a brave attempt at that time and it would take many decades before Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Mandi Camille Hauwert or Andreja Pejic could even dream in their mothers’ wombs. The film explores gender inequality and identity in Denmark at a time when no other country was thinking about such questions. But Denmark has been speaking openly of sexuality for quite some time. It was the first country in the world to legalize printed pornography, in 1967 and which lifted censorship of all movies for adults in 1969, and the first to legalize same-sex civil unions, in 1989 (Same-sex marriage was sanctioned there in 2012) and the first European country to allow a legal change of gender without requiring a medical diagnosis in 2014 [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/movies/eros-and-identity-meet-again-in-copenhagen-in-the-danish-girl.html].
Danish Girl is the story of a transgender sex experiment gone wrong, even fatal, but it is also so many things:
- a story of unconditional love; the kind we see, read about and feel between mother and child, but in the film between husband and wife
- a beautiful love story
- complete illustration of “if you love something set it free”
- a story of modern-day identity issues, despite same sex marriage and laws
- a story about gender troubles
- how art creates life and can destroy it.
Gerda Wegener [Alicia Vikander] is a painter whose muse is her husband, Einar [Eddie Redmayne], whom she paints into female existence. She paints a nude body with Einar’s female face stretched out languidly in a classical pose, which calls to mind Manet’s Olympia or Auguste’s Odalisque:
These two nudes have a striking resemblance to the masterpiece of Lili’s subdued longing that Gerda paints on canvas:
The film opens on the female gaze projected onto the man. Gerda Wegener is a very empowered woman in the Mulveyian sense: the woman is the one who possesses the gaze, not the man. And Gerda’s gaze in fact fixes her husband Einar into femininity. When Gerda’s passion for art wanes, she encourages Einar to dress up and pose for her. She doesn’t have to try very hard however as Einar, after 6 years of childless marriage to Gerda, becomes enamored with his feminine side and begins to inhabit a woman’s body in the real world more and more and not simply for Gerda’s bemusement as an artist. Einar becomes Lili by dressing in women’s garb when he could no longer exist in his man’s body. He opts for sex reassignment surgery to become Lili Elbe permanently. This operation would be the first time such a surgery would take place, and despite its high risks, pain and failure, Einar goes for it. The character on which the cinematic Lili is based is a real person whose multiple surgeries ended her life in 1931 due to complications stemming from what may have been the attempted transplant of a uterus.
Throughout Einar’s urges, stages and social stigmas of becoming a woman in the 1930s, it is Gerda who remains a powerful source of emotional support for Einar cum Lili. Einar is also brave as two french try to beat the femininity out of him. Despite the great pain and loss we see Gerda experiencing, she is unable to draw strength from her husband’s touch and hug; she, too, needs support, but he cannot give it. At one point she quits on him when he decides to do the second half of the surgery prematurely which would complete his transformation as a woman, because she feared she’d lose him. But in the end, she goes to Dresden to be at his side.
Eddie Redmayne is brilliant as transgendered Lili in Danish girl, as he was in The Theory of Everything, as Stephen Hawking, and so is Alicia Vikander, who owns the screen and gaze at the very opening of the film. But she serves as a showcase for Redmayne’s talent. Her own talent and role dim before Lili’s, Einar’s or Redmayne’s. And even though the film is multi layered, there is no room to tell her story. We can read her story from the silence of her expression and face and we feel her emotionally heartbreaking story of loss, pain and void, because she loves him so undyingly.
The film is a novel’s adaptation, and concentrates on Einar, who is clearly and socially stigmatized in the film; doctors branding as “perverse’. He’s a tragic figure who is tormented because, he, too loves his wife but cannot fulfill his husbandly duties. But the film ends tragically for Gerda also, who begins the film with great presence; a close up of a strong gaze and voice, cigarette in one hand and paint brush in the other, which gives the impression of female agency, but in the end the film subscribes to the male gaze, and Gerda reverts to sublimating herself and her desires, bearing her loss silently, alone. She is subsumed in his coming out story unconditionally.
In places like china mostly, but South Korea and Japan, too social media and actual cosmetic surgery are enabling women to change their face and lives. In such societies, “there are no ugly women, only lazy ones”.
Cosmetic surgery has increased exponentially in China: the medical procedure has been transformed into a consumer product no thanks to the plethora of ads that show what beauty is or should be. Women feel empowered when they can change their face, body and life. Of the more than 140 million potential cosmetic surgery customers in 2014, 1 out of every 1000 faces has undergone either major or minor surgical treatment and 2 out of every 1000 have considered going under the knife [see Oiwan lam Nytimes 21 oct 2015 ” how social media fuels china’s growing love of cosmetic surgery” ] .
We might ask how such outer or outward changes can change the inner life or self in a culture which prizes Confucius’ teachings that spiritual upbringing is more important than looks. But the young Chinese feel that looks can determine their fate, and so they tweak their looks to have a more beautiful life.
The reigning obsession among the young in China is a younger, more beautiful self. Chinese don’t care whether it is artificial or natural as long as they’re happy. Soyoung.com is a website, established in 2013, dedicated to selling services to enhance beauty. “Young people have an open mind for plastic surgery, especially the post 90s generation who account for more than half of the users who have shared their experiences on the site, boasts the founder of soyoung- Jin Xing. Soyoung is an online diary which allows people to upload their photos and share their surgical experience. It connects both domestic and international doctors and hospitals directly with their clients and enables users to have online dialog and make appointments. In just 2 years, soyoung has accumulated more than 600,000 registered users and facilitated 2000 cosmetic surgery facilities in reaching out to clients. There are at least a dozen other platforms that help the industry to promote their medical services.
No longer is beauty in the eye of the beholder, but the person beholden; she who desires white skin, double eyelids, tall and straight nose, oval shaped face, big breasts, long and slim legs. Mobile apps give young Chinese and Japanese girls the immediate gratification to see themselves transform into their desired looks. The beauty industry is pushing women to make surgical changes to be beautiful. So strong is the drive to surgically transform that botched up surgeries are suppressed: the cosmetic surgery industry aggressively uses social media to suppress complaints on botched up procedures and creates a herd mentality among potential clients.
In a country where reviews are everything, from Yelp to Google to Amazon to now doctors in America, it is odd to see that the Chinese beauty industry has managed to convince clients who had surgical errors to forget the potential risks and instead they announce that such stories are malicious rumors spread by competitors. Without reviews we shy away from buying or using services in USA. But in China, the client participate in a social media Q&A and is flooded with lots of positive comments which make her excited and ready to embrace surgery. what’s worse is that the women who had botched up errors aren’t willing to share their botched up story, because Chinese society has no sympathy for them.
The imbalance of info reflects the adverse effects of China’s current internet governing policies which encourage the growth of online businesses while suppressing the development of virtual communities and especially those dedicated to feminist consumer and individual rights issues. It affects women’s ability to know and to speak out. One blogger’s comment shows the prevailing mentality of women when she writes:
“I don’t have sympathy for people who fall for these ‘super cheap’ schemes. ok plastic surgeons aren’t as qualified as real surgeons, but it still takes a lot of hard work and training to do it, if people are being cheapskates about it and trying to save money by using dodgy surgeons then they are hurting the honest ones who learn how to do it properly and are good at it.”
The writer isn’t against cosmetic surgery, but only against bad cosmetic surgery. In a country where there’s limited access to necessary info, soyoung is able to fill the void easily and provide answers to prospective clients. it makes women feel empowered by giving them choices: to choose a doctor they like, a hospital they like, prices they like and even operation items they like. But they cannot choose not to conform to all looking alike nor to reality. They all want to fit in, not stand out.
But women everywhere fall victim to such myths about beauty. Americans invest to get bigger breasts, Angelina Jolie or Kim kardashian type lips, tummy tucks and wrinkles removals. Brazilians like bigger bottoms and tummy tucks, too. Europeans do nose jobs as well as Iranian women, who actually stand #1 now in surgery. They even leave the bandage on their nose for months to make sure everybody knows they’ve done a nose job. Jamaican and Indian women strive to be white and whiten their skin. some even bleach their skin endangering their health. Many years ago a dear friend told me that every young person in Argentina [her home country] does rhinoplasty and have a ‘shrink’ even though the country has been, and still is, in dire economic straits.
I notice in the articles and youtube vids and blogs I sourced, that it is mostly women who comment. Men are missing. It would be nice if men would comment on these procedures because perhaps their comments could save women time, effort, and money since such enhancements are done to please men. These women who transform only their outer selves are setting up their future children for major disappointment. They’re creating illusions that will disillusion their children in the next generation.