This film allows for a portrayal of sexuality that is both fumbling, innate, and statement-less.
This movie evokes meaning in so many ways. All at once it strikes a political chord, a sensual and tactile aspect, and having been released a year before the omni-present #metoo movement, allows for a portrayal of sexuality that is both fumbling, innate, and statement-less. In today's climate, sexuality is separate and segmented from one's identity, it is labeled, it is named safe or unsafe, feminist or not feminist, right or wrong.
What the #metoo movement is often unable to allow room for, due to the very imminent need to inspire change around an unquestioningly misogynistic sexually repressed culture, is that outside of very clear cases of assault, women and men often don't know what they want, what is safe or exciting, what is causing a loss of self esteem, what is imitation and what is a cash-in on power and privilege. 20th Century Women does us the favor of merging sexuality with intellect, desire with confusion, boundaries with a gentle curiosity. Oh, and this movie is about so much more than sex… sex, is just portrayed as another, natural biological process that integrates with life. In this film, sex is not something that is hidden, shamed, or blamed. It just is.
The characters in this film are sturdy, without hiding their clear uncertainties. These characters are given permission to portray strong identities, while clearly searching, yearning, and experimenting. Annette Bening as the mother is just awesomely floundering, yet so steady at the same time. She has clearly had her own discursive identity experiences, being an older mother, divorced, still single, living with roommates, and raising a teenage son. Just by couching the story in the 20th century, there is no real model for this type of "family." (It's unprogressive and intolerant of me to even use quotes when typing the word family in that sentence).
Even today, a young white man being raised in a home made up of a single mother and her boarders is considered a "broken" family, unusual, and alternative at best. The best part about this little family that Bening's character has created, is her clear intentionality around its construction. These people are here on purpose. Sure she can use the money, but she could have boarded anyone. She clearly picks people she thinks will have a remarkable affect on her son, offer something she can't, make up for her single parent-ness.
The other characters in the film played by Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning give us fairly hetero-normative portrayals of sexuality, but with a flexibility not always portrayed in popular culture. There is a scene where Fanning explains why she has casual sex with men who she knows don't know/love/ her. She is explaining this to the teen boy Jamie who is of course madly in love with her, played by Lucas Jade Zuman. Fanning tells Zuman's character that '50% of the time she regrets sleeping with these guys' and when he asks why she does it then, her response is 'because 50% of the time she doesn't regret it'. Here, the film names a concept that seems over politicized in todays climate, that of "regrettable sex."
Had this film been made in 2018 rather than 2016, the space for viewers to sit with Fanning's statement, without political regard would have been much less present. Watching this film now and analyzing this discussion about sleeping with men, regretting it, but doing it anyway, is so impossibly evocative of political debates. Even if we want to, we are unable to separate this scene from say, the Aziz Ansari incident. How can I not think of all of the grey areas of the recent sexual assault "revelations" and the messy Hollywood scandals that have gained so much attention?
Can women have regrettable sex without it being sexual assault? Of course they can. But can they separate their choice to have sex with anyone, at anytime, without the voice of "the patriarchy" in their heads, clinging and defining all of their choices? Have we removed their entire agency? Does this matter? In 20th Century women, we are frozen in a time that is both political and a-political. The women and men in this era haven't yet swallowed up all of the "liberal agenda," (that people like me hand out like candy) and are still allowed to live within the socialized confines of their gender while simultaneously pushing its boundaries. The women in this film are both accepted as they are, but also, for instance, called a lesbian when society can't quite put them in the box that "most straight women" fit themselves into.
The best part of this movie is it's compassionate, almost voyeuristic look at how feminism affects men. As an avid feminist and lover of all things gender studies, the movement towards dismantling all parts of patriarchy has clearly left some giant holes in our available, positive models of masculinity. We keep adding to what women are "allowed" to do, what spaces they are "allowed" to occupy and now women are overwhelmed with options. All these options are mostly a good thing of course and yes, I know much more work to be done here still... but there is also a palpable "overwhelmness" of freedom in the air that women breathe. The "can do it all" quickly can bleed into "should do it all" and no one wants that. Particularly my friends who have advance degrees, are mothers, and are the bread winners of their families. YAY feminism.
But men… men seem to now be waiting to be told what space they should be relegated to. Is the only positive formation of hetero-masculinity a space in which it is hardly noticed and minimized to the full extent? Maybe? And maybe that's fine. But like a diet made up of foods you are not supposed to eat…men may need a meal replacement kit. We now have heard what masculinity can't be… but the world is wondering what it can be?
20th Century Women also gives us a glimpse into some 20th century models of masculinity. These men occupy an elastic space, a world where for the most part, masculinity has yet to be lumped together with patriarchy and all of its shortcomings. It's a beautiful space to view. The men in this movie are like the men in your life…they are just people, not parodied representations of masculinity, not there to make a point. These men just want to connect, and there are no car chases, explosive devices, or elaborate stunts set in place to justify that desire for human connection. No one is welcoming them home after heroic efforts…they just want to be loved, because they are alive. Unlike today's discourse around gender, sexuality, identity, parenthood, teen-hood, ect… this film sits us in a flexible, uncertain questioning time. It doesn't try to convince us of anything. It simply gives us the opportunity to grant ourselves permission to not be sure about anything. WHAT a gift.
By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, and works with all kinds of people to improve their ability to work with all kinds of people. She can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.
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Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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Summer Walker returns and is no longer playing games.
Summer Walker loves creating music but despises the music industry.
She regularly considers retirement and ended her 2019 tour early because of social anxiety. "I hope that people understand and respect that at the end of the day I'm a person, I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad," she said in a video post. "I don't want to lose myself for someone else." She was relentlessly vilified for her decision. Fans cited stiff meet-and-greets and chalked up Walker's cancellations to a sense of entitlement.
Then she was presented with the "Best New Artist" award at the 2019 Soul Train Awards, and her hurried acceptance speech was dissected by tasteless memes all across the country. Walker's candid cries for understanding remained completely ignored by years end. The truth of the matter is that Walker suffers from anxiety and stage fright that is all but totally crippling. So she did what any misunderstood artist does, she disappeared and stopped saying anything at all.