Please let me in?
If you weren't aware, Frank Ocean's Blond was just ranked the number one album of the decade by Pitchfork—a well-deserved accolade.
Blond is a transcendent masterpiece, a work that is musically and lyrically innovative while also packing the kind of emotional punch that always leaves me seeing stars.
Tonight, somewhere in New York City, Frank Ocean will be hosting his first club night. If you haven't already received the event invite, you won't, as this is a super-exclusive kind of thing. I'm still waiting for my invitation, but that's probably for the best, because I think if I were in the same room as Frank Ocean, I'd pass out or dissolve into a pool of glitter and tears. I know he says, "I'm just a guy, not a god" in "Futura Free," but I'm not sure. I think if God wrote a song, it would probably sound something like that track.
Entitled PrEP+, the club will be 80s-themed. It's named after the pre-exposure prophylaxis drug used by people at risk of contracting HIV. According to the press release, the club will be a "homage to what could have been if the drug PrEP... had been invented" during the 1980s club scene. PrEP was first adapted in 2012 and is available only by prescription.
By the 1980s, HIV and AIDS had reached epidemic levels in America, and people with these illnesses were often dehumanized and refused treatment. Associated with queerness and poverty, HIV/AIDS was largely ignored and heavily stigmatized. In order for the government to allocate the funds needed to search for a cure, mass protests had to occur.
Though treatments are available today, people with HIV still face discrimination and stigma, and many don't realize that even people who have HIV have the option to become "undetectable" with treatment. That's why an event like Ocean's is so important—it emphasizes that there are ways to prevent and cure HIV, and it reminds us that no one should have to live in fear of it or of their preferences for how to love and experience joy.
Club life was a vital part of queer and alternative culture in the 1980s. Queer clubs were rare places where gay people and others who didn't fit into mainstream society could go to let loose and be themselves. Though many queer nightclubs have become heavily corporatized (or infiltrated by straight, often wealthy, and white people) beginning with Rudy Giuliani's moral craze around nightclubs in the 1980s, it seems that Ocean's club will be dedicated to pulling from the radical spirit of 1980s club culture while putting a futuristic and idealistic spin on the problems and struggles that plagued those years.
Among its rules, Ocean's club reads that "consent is mandatory" and says there will be "zero tolerance for racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism or any form or discrimination." Sadly, no photography will be permitted. Okay, maybe I really do want to be there. But as I listen to Nights for the thousandth time on the train home tonight, I'm going to be happy just knowing that somewhere in this city, Frank Ocean is dancing.
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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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