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Saturday, 18 May 2013

Cover girl. Of models and role models.

Out of this whole new Merida uproar (I'm against the fact that they changed her personality, implying she wasn't good enough to be a Disney princess), reading The Bloggess' blog, and more to the point her post on the subject and the comments therein, I had an epiphany.

It's about role models. They're kind of important. I mean, you can either look up to people and do everything in your power to be

a) as good at them, 
b) better than them, or
c) good enough that you could make them proud.

(That's how a mathematician's mind works, I suppose. As long as you're comparing, you're part of a somewhat ordered set and it's fair enough to assume it's a partially ordered one.)

Anyway, if you have a role model you have good reason to try to make yourself more like them. A good role model will make you = more like them = better. If you don't have a role model, you're not doomed (it has to at least beat having a bad role model, right?). You just try to be you, and to make yourself the best you you can be. You. You. U. (Sorry, bad joke.)

To be honest, I’m not one for role models. I’m terrible at picking them, mostly because I don’t know nearly enough awesome people and I fear the answer would come out being corny.

(When ambushed with the question “if you could go back in time to meet one person and one alone, who would it be?” I answered “Shakespeare” and immediately sank in my chair knowing how lame the answer was).

Back to the role model thing. People in the comments were supposed to offer their favourite female heroes. Someone said RuPaul. Can I get an A-MEN! in here?

The more conservative types will come out yelling at me because RuPaul has an Adam’s apple/was born with the wrong privates to be a feminine role model, but hear/read me out. It’s not just RuPaul but drag queens in general. You see, society often seems to say “You know who’s awesome? This man, and this man, and this man, and that man, and this man, and that woman for being like a man, and that man, and that man…” Women wearing pants was unheard of not that long ago because it was a man’s item of clothing. It’s cool now because it’s a man’s item of clothing. Men wearing dresses? Not so cool. But drag queens wear dresses, heels and skirts and make-up and everything else ever. so. proudly. And you know what? I think it’s fabulous. I think they’re fabulous.

On days when I'm ogled, when I see how I'd get better pay/treatment being a man, when I'm underestimated or deemed incapable of something because I'm a woman, when I’m having so-bad-they-make-me-throw-up cramps and I wish I could tear out my uterus, give up on womanhood altogether and give it all up for dangling ugly bits I remember that out there are people who want to look like me, who think a woman’s is the right body to have and a woman is the right person to be. They shape themselves after women and they have to learn that shit from scratch! Where your average woman complains about how ugly she is, how society makes her go through torture to fit in a certain idea of what “beautiful” looks like, they tuck, pluck, groom and paint themselves to be beautiful. And I think they deserve medals. Not that any of the amazing women everyone else brought up don’t. I'm glad many of them lived so that I can live the life I do now, yadda yadda yadda.

Like I said, I probably suck at picking role models. But drag queens are a fucking inspiration for me.

Question: if I slowly clap and no one's there to hear it, will someone please tell drag queens I think they're superheroes?

Now... little girls are brought up into this media-created-princess world. What are films for, right? Little girls see, little girls do. Little girls hope for. Little girls are taught to look for true love very early on. Pray tell me, who tells little boys anything of the sort? They grow up seeing princesses get wooed (maaaybe), cars/robots/other inanimate objects turned animate (more like it) and superheroes (yeah, that also seems more likely). I can't think of a single children's film aimed at telling little boys to expect true love, leave alone seek it. If it's aimed at boys, it's not romantic at all and I have to wonder why that is, you know. This isn't what I initially intended to write, though.

I wanted to talk about how film princesses get it right on their first try (love, that is) and how envious I am of them. You want to do whatever works for them hoping it will work for you. Monkey see, monkey do. Monkey dressed up in silk stays a stupid monkey. But there's something there. LC4 likes to watch the same videos over and over again. Even when he knows the dialogue (remind you of anyone?). I thought it was odd. BCM said I used to do the same thing when I was little and that it's actually quite common in children. They like repetition because it teaches them a pattern and what we can predict and expect makes us comfortable. Neural networks being what they are, you get it into your head (literally, I'm afraid) that a certain pattern leads to a certain outcome. Hence you try to replicate the pattern hoping to achieve the same outcome. Problems come when the pattern is hard (try impossible) to replicate. It ends up reading like an alchemy recipe (all parts being confusing cryptic magic) where you have to read and re-read to make sure you got all ingredients right, possibly realising "Oh! that's what I missed!" and deciding to go on trying until you get it right (even though you probably never will... not this way, at any rate). Emulation is just part of the ritual. 

Should you wish to find a thoughtful gift for me, Caleb Cole's book of Other People's Clothes would be a wonderful one. He does with clothes what I do with houses. I look at a house from the outside and I wonder who lives in it, what their day-to-day is made out of. Such thoughts  entertained me during school bus trips. I imagined knocking on everyone's door, trying to meet everyone, see their houses and maybe attempt to make friends with them. I would be proud to know so many people. I imagined knowing the people in poorer houses and leaving coins (to me, a coin was worth as much as a small piece of candy, which was valuable enough in its own right... I just didn't have a sense of scale for money). I imagined what it would be like if I had limitless amounts of money and could offer them all to re-do their homes to make them hospitable, clean and pretty. I tried to imagine what homes smelled like, what meals were cooked in them. I had this idea for a television show where people got to live in another person's house for a day. For one day, you'd get to live the life of someone else. And in my mind, everyone was in it, so you could (in theory) take a very long time before you got back home (but ultimately, you would because NzN is an amenable group and you'd be bound to stumble back home eventually if you just kept switching randomly. (Yes, I realise now that no home would be anyone's at all if different people lived in it every day, bear with me).

What Caleb Cole does, if you didn't bother reading his statement, is take an item of clothing (or an outfit) and dress himself as the person he imagines would wear it, placing himself in context and getting into character before taking a picture of himself. It's a brilliant concept, really. I loved it and thought his way of carrying it out was great (not spotless, though, AOB pointed out surgeons would know better). 

Take a moment to tie in the concept of emulation as part of a ritual to try to get someone else's life (as part of following a pattern, a recipe, for what life dealt out as their outcome) with what I just described. It blows my mind. 

If you don't model your wish-were-true story after a particular one you saw elsewhere, where do you go for inspiration? You just straight out imagine it. I would imagine the most bizarre scenarios. There's this children's song about a little Chinese girl lost in a forest. Well, I'd come up with a story for how she got lost there in the first place. She'd be all kinds of special and would be a princess or someone else equally important. She'd also either be me, related to me or able to make me also very special. In mu imagination she rode a panda bear the way others ride horses and a forest of bamboo shoots actually looked an awful lot more like the tall dry grass I saw on the land on both sides of the road. 

I pictured myself in scenarios where I found fantastic/mythical creatures and was the only person able to talk to them (them = a unicorn, Nessie, a dragon). I imagined being somehow distantly (or not so distantly) related to someone I thought looked cool and hoped it would be a good enough excuse to spend time with them, soaking up the cool. 

I'm to sleepy to even remember where I thought this stub of a post was going. Sorry.

[some time later, what do you care when edit]
Thought I'd leave this here, for good measure.

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