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It's all about perspective

Every once in a while I treat myself to the Sunday New York Times. Now, mind you, this is not an unalloyed pleasure. Reading it reminds me of how far I am from those things I would choose to have in my life if I could--a bakery around the corner, a bus to hop on to get to fun, and bars, without worrying that I won't be ready to leave before the sun sets, or that I can't have that second glass of wine because I have to drive. A place where if I truly want to go and see Hunger I can, rather than waiting for Netflix, since the chance it will ever appear in a theatre here is beyond slim.

But it is still a pleasure to read of a place where there is so much. To read ideas put out on broadsheets of paper.

So, last week I bought myself a copy. It is a sad commentary on the pace of my life that I was only finally able to read it today, but at least now it is read. And there is a comfort in some of the distance from the first section--a context for the angst, if you will.

And the other sections were well worth the time, on this lazy Sunday filled with little beyond Mass, then a donation breakfast (which is why the somewhat heathenish Duchezz accompanied me to our, in her words, absolutely beautiful little church). The afternoon was largely spent with the television showing truly excrebal films, and me reading first the local Sunday paper, and then the aforementioned copy of the Times.

What prompted this post was the special insert last week, Season Premiere: Men's Fashion Spring 2009. This insert was in keeping with what seemed to be a theme for that week's edition, since the second section had had a huge picture of Dwayne Johnson on the first page. This section's cover was a very sharp, very sexy black and white photo of Eric Dane, who I have found easy on the eyes ever since he was on Charmed. So, having nothing better to do, and being a compulsive finisher, I made my way through all 116 pages.

And came away very thoughtful.

Over the years of being first a self-conscious tween, then a teen, then a Cosmopolitan target and on through Self, and now in More, with the occasional glances at Vogue and Vanity Fair, I've become accustomed to a certain...culture...in the advertisements for women's clothing. A certain level of sexual availability, a certain corruption of innocence in a very Lolita-esque way. I've become accustomed to the Balanchine inspired body types, the ennui-infused belligerence that passes for smokey sexuality. And when the feminists, and the social engineers, and the religious conservatives all start going off on the ads and the innuendos therein, the models they role-play for the young, I tend to have an attitude of "get over it."

But there were some fashion shots and layouts in this insert that, frankly, gave me serious...creeps. Perhaps because I am not the target audience and I am viewing them through objective eyes? Or perhaps because as a solidly heterosexual female, males put on display does trigger certain basic responses, and so I can see just what kind of manipulation is going on. Whatever the reason, some of those ads were...disturbing. It wasn't the fact that apparently no male under 40 wearing couture, even in $2000 shoes, has ever considered wearing a sock. It wasn't that there continues to be a lamentable tendency to think that it makes sense to pay $400 for a new pair of jeans that look little better than young Michael's did after his unfortunate encounter with with the truck tailgate.

No, it was three separate spreads. One, entitled "Euro Stars: Old World Style is New Again," purports to be fashion shots touting Hermes, Dries Van Noten, Prada, and some other European designers. Frankly, they look more like shots on the wall of some bordello specializing in young men. Looking at them, all I can see in my head is some fat, balding, closeted man, greasy with sweat in a rumpled Saville row business suit panting over each photograph until he finds the sweet, tortured face (all of the models are heavy lidded and full-lipped, almost like androgene Kate Mosses) of the boy that he will bugger that night. Then there is "Egon Schiele May be the Spring's Most Unexpected Icon," which is a photo spread of model Drew Jenkins in Schiel-inspired shots, with the photo's retouched so they look almost Norman Rockwell-ian, if you can imagine Rockwell's models being chisel-cheeked and provocative, in poses more suited to Hustler than the Saturday Evening Post--the only thing that saved them from total depravity was the fact that he was clothed.

The final entry, "Landed Gent" was, at least, honest, in that it was some modern fashion shots knowingly modeled on the work of George Platt Lynes--an open gay in a time when that wasn't very common--with a reputation even in his lifetime for beautifully photographing beautiful gay boys.

Certainly there are some ads and spreads in this insert that were just gorgeous men wearing gorgeous clothes, gorgeously. But those three pieces, "Euro," "Egon," and "Landed" made me think of a Greece where men and boys spent the quality time together, and women were valued for their biology. Made me think of boys standing on corners tricking, or hanging around in bars in the 80's, painted like the singers in Human League, risking AIDS for enough cash for blow, or film for their school project.

Most of all, though, it made me wonder if next time I hear someone start raging about the effect of fashion advertising on the self-images girls and young women develop, maybe I shouldn't be quite so quick to say "Get over it."

Maybe I just needed to see it all from a different perspective.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 15th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
This section's cover was a very sharp, very sexy black and white photo of Eric Dane,

That issue was sitting on my 92-year-old grandmother's lap last Sunday, and we were both gazing at it. "He's quite lovely, isn't he?" I said. "Mmmmm," said she, nodding thoughtfully.

I haven't looked at the middle of the magazine, though. Hmm.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 18th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
Re: I do my little turn on the catwalk...
I can understand the cost/time of couture garments (properly done, they're custom-made for the buyer), but totally agree with you about the designer handbags.

When it comes down to it, think about what (especially late-period, or heavily embroidered) court garb could cost. Some of that stuff takes weeks or months to do -- put a value on it, and it's couture. It's very specialized, but it is, in essence, couture.
Mar. 17th, 2009 07:32 am (UTC)
I've reread this post a half a dozen times, yet every attempt I make to comment intelligently on it fails. I can't. That world is completely alien to me. (That last is not a value judgement; it's a simple truth.)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )