CULTURE

John Legend's "Sexiest Man Alive" Title is a Victory for Baby Faces

It's a big day for those of us with a youthful essence.

Bartenders and bouncers often take their sweet, sweet time when looking at my ID.

I can't blame them. I no longer live in the state where my ID was issued, so the discrepancy automatically raises some eyebrows. I've drastically changed my hairstyle since my photo was taken, I now wear glasses, and I look a little more like I've been through some stuff, to put it lightly. But the overarching reason my ID causes concern is probably that, for nearly all of my post-pubescent life, I've been mistaken for at least a couple of years younger than I actually am.

Besides the fact that only one of us is an EGOT winner, John Legend and I have a lot in common. His internet humor-fluent wife, Chrissy Teigen, often points out the physical similarities between Legend and their kids; of course, it's natural to bear a resemblance to your dad, but the thing is John Legend still looks like a baby. Which is why I, forever a child in the eyes of strangers, breathed a sigh of relief when I found out John Legend was named People's Sexiest Man Alive 2019.

John Legend's "Sexiest Man Alive!" cover for People.

There are definitely more important reasons to be glad Legend received this very silly and arbitrary honor, like the fact that he's only the fourth person of color to ever receive the title. But this is a moment for Legend's fellow babyface bearers to celebrate. We, too, could be so lucky as to have definitive evidence of our perceived sexiness. Legend has also fallen victim to a running joke comparing his looks to Arthur. How beautiful is it that we live in a world that tells someone they look like a cartoon aardvark but also splays magazine covers with photos of them smizing in a half-unbuttoned shirt?

However, I guess it's worth noting that Legend isn't just a pretty (baby) face. He has a very toned body and godly singing pipes; he did once portray Jesus Christ, after all. Still, I would assume the general population finds him much more "cute" than "sexy," and it seems Legend himself might feel the same: "Everyone's going to be picking me apart to see if I'm sexy enough to hold this title," he told People. You bet we are! But I'm not one to objectively say whether or not John Legend is sexy. I'm just saying I'm happy that being "cute" is enough to get by these days.

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.

In an era of change and uncertainty, it's hard to know what to rely on.

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But while we suffer through the madness of the 2020 election this coming year, we can be comforted by knowing that a new season of Stranger Things will be coming our way, supplying us with all the cozy '80s nostalgia and flickering Christmas lights that our hearts desire.

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The teaser trailer for the show's fourth season just dropped, and it seems like Hawkins won't be the setting—though it provides few clues as to where our erstwhile heroes and heroines will end up. At the end of Season 3, Will's family (with Eleven in tow) left Hawkins, but one would imagine that given the Byers family's track record, they won't be able to evade the Upside Down for long.

The Season 4 trailer hints at a dramatic, action-packed future for Mike and his comrades. In it, the show's iconic logo takes the form of a decaying neon sign that eventually flares out and fades into footage of infected-looking woods.

Stranger Things 4 | Official Announcement www.youtube.com

Season 3 certainly left us with plenty of questions. Is Hopper alive? Will Joyce and Hopper ever get together? What role will Russia play? Will Season 4 take place in Russia? If Russian interference wasn't enough to get Trump impeached, will the Ukraine incident do the trick?

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Regardless of what happens, it's only a matter of time before we can all escape into the blissful, spooky, comforting sci-fi world of Stranger Things once again.

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