POLITICS

Candace Owens Refuses to Socially Isolate

COVID-19 should not be a partisan issue.

Candace Owens, a right wing activist well-known for speaking out against anything any democrat does, took to Twitter today to share that she is actively spreading COVID-19.

Owens' tirade was triggered by an experience in Whole Foods in which her and her husband were asked to put on medical masks or otherwise cover their mouths. Apparently, Owens was unaware of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's April 8 mandate requiring customers to "wear a mask or mouth covering" when shopping. According to Owens, this polite request to do her part in stopping the spread of a deadly virus is an indication that the country is "spiraling into tyranny."


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CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

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.

Oh, right.

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.

Implications

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.

FILM

Why Kristen Stewart Is Reviving an Actress Who Supported the Black Panthers

In Seberg, Kristen Stewart portrays film legend Jean Seberg, whose support of the BPP led to a horrific FBI harassment

Yahoo

Actress Jean Seberg began her acting career at the age of 18 with a starring role as Joan of Arc in 1957's Saint Joan.

Director Otto Preminger selected her from over 18,000 entrants in a talent search for the role of the teenage martyr—burned at the stake for fighting for her beliefs. Seberg would later earn a reputation in French New Wave cinema as possibly "the best actress in Europe," but by the 1970s Seberg's career would end in much the way it began: martyrdom. Kristen Stewart's new film, Seberg, seeks to tell that story.

Seberg was 40 years old when she disappeared from her home in Paris in August of 1979. It took Parisian authorities more than a week to discover her body decomposing in the backseat of her parked car with a note that read, "Forgive me. I can no longer live with my nerves." Her death was deemed a probable suicide—the proximate cause being a potent mix of barbiturates and alcohol—but many have traced her downfall to events that preceded her disappearance by more than a decade. Events that involved FBI surveillance and a chance meeting with a member of the Black Panther Party.

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It was on a flight to Los Angeles in October of 1968 that Jean Seberg first met Hakim Jamal—a prominent member of the Black Power Movement. They were both married, but Seberg was drawn to progressive causes and figures of revolutionary struggle more so than she was constrained by monogamy. She and Jamal began a short-lived love affair that reportedly ended when Jamal's wife placed a phone call to Seberg's father in Iowa. But Seberg's connection to the Black Panthers was already established.

She would go on to provide the movement with thousands of dollars in funding and was even arrested on misdemeanor charges thought to be connected to "running guns" for the BPP—not long after then-California Governor Ronald Reagan passed gun-control legislation that targeted the Panthers' open-carry protests (a style of protest that is now popular among gun rights advocates who hold Reagan in the highest regard). This is how Jean Seberg ended up on the wrong side of the FBI's COINTELPRO operations.

Jean Seberg

If you're wondering why anyone would make a movie celebrating a woman who supported a violent terrorist organization, you too have been made the victim of the FBI's smear campaign—though not as acutely as Jean Seberg and the Black Panthers. Along with blackmailing Martin Luther King Jr. and encouraging him to kill himself, the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover sought to quash dissent within the American populace by infiltrating "subversive" organizations to promote infighting and discredit their causes. While those subversive groups included the likes of the KKK, they were not limited to that ilk. Hoover's megalomania would direct the FBI COINTELPRO (short for Counter Intelligence Program) against movements supporting feminist, racial justice, environmental, and anti-war causes.

Whatever became of the Black Panther Party's various chapters—as COINTELPRO encouraged internal schisms and violence—it's important to consider how the organization started. Black communities around the country were being neglected and harassed by the institutions that nominally served them. Poverty was destroying families, and the police often did more harm than good in ways that our country continues to reckon with. The Black Panthers set out to serve their communities with both charitable programs and vigilante groups that were intended to provide the benevolent protection that municipal police forces did not. Jean Seberg's first donation to the organization was in support of the Black Panther's free breakfast program.

Not long after the FBI worked with Chicago PD to drug and assassinate prominent BPP member Fred Hampton in his own home, they decided to take down Seberg with a smear campaign intended to "cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her image with the public." It was around this time that Seberg stopped being offered serious roles in Hollywood, likely as a result of being secretly blacklisted—along with Jane Fonda and others who supported the BPP. But the truly hateful attack came in 1970 in the form of a story that the FBI managed to get published in Newsweek, claiming that Seberg—who was pregnant at the time—was carrying the child of a Black Panther. This libelous story and negative attention that came with it purportedly caused Seberg so much distress that it triggered premature labor. She gave birth to a tiny daughter who died two days later.

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Seberg spent the rest of her life in and out of depressive episodes and under continual surveillance by US intelligence services as she traveled Europe. She was the target of wiretapping, stalking, and burglaries, all at the behest of the US intelligence apparatus. Is it any wonder she had issues with her "nerves?"

Seberg attempted suicide on numerous occasions before her death, though there are circumstances that make her death suspicious. Kristen Stewart's efforts to capture her spirit in Seberg—including shot-for-shot recreations of Seberg's iconic performance in Breathless (1960)—have received praise, while some have criticized the film's treatment of historical events as "superficial." Regardless of the film's success in telling this story, it's important for all of us to maintain a cultural memory of martyrs like Jean Seberg.

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We must never forget the lengths that entrenched power will go to in undermining any threat to their position. They will use petty differences and disinformation to turn us against one another. Only in solidarity can we achieve revolutionary change. Seberg, starring Kristen Stewart and directed by Benedict Andrews, is out now in select theaters.