As little as the prospect of writing about yet another Lana Del Nope video enthuses me, "Summertime Sadness" exists and must be written about. Lana knows this. She's probably timed it all. "Blue Jeans" came out juuuust before the weather'd require blue jorts; "National Anthem" came out around the Fourth of July, when such anthems are played. Now we're back to the rainy, muggy, holiday-free doldrums of summer, so we return to previous single "Summertime Sadness." (It's actually shocking that "Off to the Races" wasn't released in time for the Kentucky Derby.) For those of you who've mentally filed Born This Way in the part of your brain that doesn't remember freakoutery, It's the one that goes "baby, you're the best." Wait, no. It's the one where she talks about having her red dress on and kissing her hard--damn it.
It is a Lana Del Rey song. There. We've treated Lana Del Rey songs several ways in the past--one of which was liveblogging, for "Born to Die." This seems like another good candidate, as it's light on plot and heavy on aesthetics and, as I've been pre-spoiled, apparently contains a twist.
(Oh, and prospective commenters? Understanding a video doesn't mean you automatically end up liking it. You can understand a video and still find it simplistic.)
[0:05]: #okaytheresdefinitelyafilter #maybeseventy
[0:10]: Nothing has happened yet. I'm watching this video on Spin's site, and my eyes just wandered to the background, which consists mostly of steak. In other words, Lana Del Rey's video is so far less enticing than steak pictures. Let's call this research: you'd do just as well writing about Lana Del Rey videos as steak. Like so.
[0:15]: Look, crackle effects on the film! I'm dead of realness.
[0:21]: Lana is on the scene.
[0:23]: Lana is no longer on the scene, having been engulfed by a large flare of yellow.
[0:26]: Now we're in a meadow with a couple waterfalls and a slightly different filter. It looks like the backdrop you'd film for a Loreena McKennitt song. It also gets engulfed by a large flare of yellow.
[0:30]: We've gone from the forest to a row of trees by a hill, something you might actually encounter in real life and not some New Age fantasy world. All this scenery, I suppose, serves to illustrate that we're in a land of summertime and possibly sadness.
[0:35]: Lana Del Rey is singing while looking vaguely sedated; more succinctly, Lana Del Rey is singing. There are heavy hints that she's either going to jump off the hill or (more likely, because this is a hill and not a cliffside) tumble down it like a 7-year-old.
[0:47]: Lana's now facing the bottom of the hill and slowly outspreading her arms. The hints are probably more like "blatant signs" at this point.
[0:49]: I hate being right.
[0:57]: Lana's not dead, because it's less than a minute in the video; instead, she's re-emerged in front of some rococo, smoke-engulfed gate and is staring at the camera. Her hair is wafting in the smoke.
[1:10]: Jaime King! She was the woman in that video by The Fray! (Yes, we know she's a film actor primarily, and we're only pointing this out because somebody won't be able to recognize a joke in the comments if we don't.)
[1:25]: Some business with Lana being driven around beneath power lines, with smoke and with flashback quick-cuts. This seems like a good time to point out that nothing has happened in this video except 10 variations on the same aesthetic. That's not necessarily a bad thing, except that the aesthetic's rather tired by now.
[1:38]: I swear I wrote that part about aesthetics being tired before Lana and Jaime started twirling around in a field and smiling at the camera. They're either supposed to be ex-friends or ex-lovers, I'm guessing. Maybe "guessing"'s the wrong word; no guesswork was involved.
[2:22]: If you're wondering why there's a large time gap here, it's because I've already mentioned everything that's happened until now. Jaime King is standing by a bridge in a red dress looking down. You know where this is going.
[2:28]: If you want to piss a lot of fans off, compare this video to Rihanna's ""We Found Love." They're the same concept. (And the same concept as lots of other videos before them, but who needs historical context while trolling?)
[2:41]: Lana Del Rey has choked somebody and is biting off her ear in front of an old-Hollywood movie poster. (You can tell it's old-Hollywood because it says "out on videocassette" and because this is a Lana Del Rey video.) I point this out so I can write that first sentence.
[3:16]: OH LOOK CHRIST IMAGERY WOW
[3:17]: In case you don't instantly recognize the (sigh) Christ imagery, there are now about three separate shots of Lana outstretching her arms wearing white clothes. You know this was all filmed months ago because there's no product placement--you know, something implying that you can purchase said white clothes at H&M.
[3:28]: Four shots.
[3:49]: It's pointless to keep counting shots after this, so let's check in on the plot! Lana and Jaime have both jumped, a process that's taken about 15 seconds. It is all very glamorized, and it is all very cliched.
[4:00]: Is there going to be some sort of resolution where they're re-united in the afterlife???
[4:41]: There sort of is! Walking down a lonesome road in the haze could mean nothing else.
[4:43]: This is where a moral to the live-blog should go, so: Lana Del Rey's video is something you yourself could've made in a spare afternoon. That sounds sarcastic, but I distinctly remember filming at least five of these scenes during a high-school English project about Hamlet. Not everything can be a high-concept video, but at this point it's safe to say no one is trying. See you when "Off to the Races" gets an old-timey re-enactment.
Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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