"I'm crazy, b*tch," screams Jucee Froot on "Danger," the ninth song on the Birds of Prey soundtrack. "But I'm that b*tch."

That could be the central mantra of Birds of Prey's companion album, which features fifteen sparkling, saccharine, vicious pop songs from some of pop's brightest anti-popstars. These songs are aggressive, feminine, sugary, vicious, and off the rails, just like the movie promises to be.

The film—full title Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn—debuted this Friday night. It tells the story of Harley Quinn, finally freed from her abusive relationship with the Joker, as she heals from the breakup and develops her own super-villain identity.

Harley Quinn's cinematic emancipation has received mixed reviews. "Birds of Prey is happy to play at provocation with swear words and violence while carefully declining to provoke anything like a thought," writes A. O. Scott in The New York Times. Anthony Lane called the film "unholy and sadistic mess" in The New Yorker.

For others, the film's fizzy brutality is exactly the point, and many argued that the film provides a welcome change from both the self-serious superhero machismo that tanked Suicide Squad and the idealized kind of femininity that defines Hollywood's movement towards corporate feminism. "In a world gone mad, the catharsis of Prey's twisted sisterhood doesn't just read as pandemonium for its own sake; it's actually pretty damn sweet," writes Leah Greenblatt for Entertainment Weekly. "Theirs is a contemporary verve that offers a glimpse of something heartening: a future in which all kinds of people get to tell these stories, and we're all the better off for it," writes Richard Lawson for Variety.

As the reviews roll in, certainly more debates will ensue. But if Birds of Prey companion soundtrack is any indication, the movie will inspire a whole host of women to take their power back by any means necessary—most likely while wearing glitter.

The all-female soundtrack is brutally empowering in every sense. It's the sound of sweetness in a world gone mad, of lady mad hatters sitting around and cutting their losses over egg and bacon sandwiches. It's the sound of women relishing in the tropes of pop music and popular femininity while spinning them on their heads. It's a triumph and a delight in the sweetest, bloodiest of ways.

Highlights include Doja Cat's utterly unhinged "Boss Bitch," which leans into archetypical empowerment and breakup narratives so hard that it shatters and becomes something almost mutated and definitely dangerous. Megan Thee Stallion and Normani do something similar with their aggressive riff on "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."

Halsey's "Experiment On Me" is probably the most aggressive track on the album; it's also one of the hardest to listen to. It's a yowling, overwhelming tune that layers Halsey's shrill screams over punk-inflected guitar.

Charlotte Lawrence's "Joke's On You" is more palatable and just as powerful, leaning into the darkness and complexity of Harley Quinn's story (and of the idea of female redemption through violence on the whole) while layering sultry vocal lines over a tense beat. "We've had our fun; now your sugar makes me sick," she sings. "My makeup's ruined, and now I'm laughing through my tears." All the world's part-time Harley Quinns are, undoubtedly, feeling seen.

www.youtube.com

True to form, the songs are gleeful, dark, celebratory, and free. They're embroiled in the business of shaking up existing power structures; and as the voices grow hoarse and furious, their beats resist pleasantness and neutrality, instead leaning towards hyperactive mania. Perhaps because this is a revenge story, there's a sense of perpetual bittersweetness. Lauren Jauregri's "Invisible Chains" dives deeper into the pain and struggle that accompanies Harley Quinn's liberation from the Joker.

There's also a deeper sense of bittersweetness to the whole project, which celebrates Harley Quinn's story as a clear tale of feminist liberation. When women free themselves from men and take power, only togo ahead and commit evil acts and relish in all of capitalism's and the patriarchy's bitterest signifiers of victory, is that something to celebrate? Are we really looking for female villains who kill others and hoard wealth and don't support others, just like men always have?

Perhaps not, but watching these narratives play out often offers catharsis, providing a fulfilling revenge fantasy for anyone who's ever been in an abusive relationship or who's seen others affected by them. We'll see how the movie ends up, but for now, the soundtrack provides an excuse to celebrate rage and revenge without thinking too hard about what it means.

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.

Music Features

Why Do Pop's Most Successful Women Still Live in the Shadows of Their Exes?

Halsey clapped back at a concert-goer who kept yelling the name of her famous ex-boyfriend, but it shouldn't have happened in the first place.

Whether its her evocative lyricism or unfiltered tweets, Halsey is widely known for her openness on her mental health issues and her personal life.

The singer's vulnerability has also resulted in a close public eye on all of her romantic relationships, particularly her on-again, off-again love affair with rapper G-Eazy. Though the details of their rocky relationship remain mostly unconfirmed, Halsey has alluded to the fact that he cheated on her, and some have suspected G-Eazy was abusive towards her based on his troubles with the law. Either way—judging by Halsey's reaction to a concert-goer who kept shouting G-Eazy's name—the split was apparently ugly.

Videos surfaced over the weekend of a recent Halsey performance at which someone in the crowd yelled her ex's name multiple times. "If you say G-Eazy one more f--king time, I will kick your ass out of this party," she yelled. It's unclear if the name-caller ended up being escorted out of the show, but the incident points to an irritating trend in which female pop stars struggle to escape from the shadows of their famed relationships.

When Mac Miller was charged for a DUI following a May 2018 car crash, fans were quick to blame the incident—as well as his fatal overdose that followed a few months later—on Ariana Grande, with whom he'd recently split. Grande stood up for herself in a Twitter statement, and Miller's friend Shane Powers sang praise for her stabilizing presence as Miller tried to get his substance abuse under control. And then, perhaps most prominently, there's Taylor Swift, who even amid attempts to keep her love life under wraps has spent the majority of her career in an unfair narrative centered around whoever she's dating. Halsey, Grande, and Swift are currently among pop's most successful women; why are they still living as extensions of their ex-boyfriends? Is it because the music industry, generally speaking, is still hesitant to acknowledge a woman's success can exist without the support of men?

Halsey was right to call out the person in the crowd who kept yelling G-Eazy's name, and doing so shouldn't be considered unprofessional. It's a knee-jerk reaction to pent-up anger that results from your career being too often associated with exes, in a way those previous male partners will likely never understand.