CULTURE

You Can't Change My Mind: Banksy Is Lame

His popularity undermines the anti-establishment message of his art

On Valentine's day, the English city of Bristol awoke to find that Banksy had consecrated another blank brick wall with a work of guerilla street art.

The new piece is an image of a little girl with a slingshot looking up at a splatter of bright red flowers that she shot up there herself–because vandalism can be an act of love and innocence and beauty, or something like that. It's…fine. The flowers are nice, I guess… Honestly, his latest piece took me through the same cycle of feelings I experience each time Banksy is in a headline: "Oh, I bet this is going to be cool! Oh. Huh."

Banksy has this aura around his work that somehow always manages to fool me. Maybe it's a feeling left over from 2010's Exit Through the Gift Shop—which is genuinely a great movie. Or maybe it's just his politics. The idea of anti-establishment street art is, on paper, exactly what I want to see more of in the world. But these simplistic black and white figures with splashes of color—balloons, fires, explosions—they've felt stale for a while now. Is it even possible for anything so familiar and established to even be anti-establishment? If he's increasing the value of whatever surface he's "vandalizing," is there anything edgy or interesting about it? Admittedly, the fact that he's still able to sneak around and avoid detection while he works is kind of impressive… But it would be a lot more impressive if people hadn't figured out his secret identity years ago.

Banksy Elephant

That time he painted an elephant was a pretty interesting twist on animal abuse, but it's been well over a decade since anything Banksy has done has been truly transgressive or surprising. His 2018 piece "Girl With Balloon"—with a shredder built into the picture frame—was a genuinely clever and interesting gag. But the main appeal was the same as Exit Through the Gift Shop's—it was a critique of the fine art world and its hollow commodification of culture. But how effective is that critique after the initial shock wears off and the new owner realizes that all the drama has just doubled the value of his purchase?

My real issue with Banksy is that he could have handed over the reigns to someone else years ago—any half-way decent art student with an eye for mimicry—and no one would be able to tell the difference. Throw up some minimal figures with a charming bit of whimsy and a message that says, "Man, society sure is messed up." Boom. Banksy.

He's a brand, and an anti-establishment brand is a pure contradiction in terms. He obviously knows that's a problem, but has he done anything to address it? To defy what people want from him and actually cross some lines? He can critique the art world all he wants, but his own career remains the clearest example of the circle-jerking groupthink that elevates a name and a couple signature touches to a seven-figure price tag. At least someone like Damien Hirst embraces the marketing and doesn't try to pretend he's taking down the system that he's clearly feeding into.

Banksy shredder

At this point, I can only see two options for Banksy moving forward: Either reveal that he actual did hand over the reigns to an art student years ago and let the ensuing chaos take over the art world—destroying the value of rich people's collections—or just start actually destroying stuff, because hegemonic capitalism is getting even staler than Banksy's art.

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.

TV Features

"House Hunters" Featured Its First Throuple, and We Love That

It only took HGTV 2,000 episodes, but they've finally shown us that three's not a crowd.

Has there ever been a show as thrilling as House Hunters?

For two decades, HGTV's crown jewel has showcased single folks, expecting couples, and massive families in their quest for the perfect home. In its nearly 2,000-episode run thus far, House Hunters has remained a singular entertainment source for those of us who love to yell at prospective buyers with ridiculous expectations. Open floor plans! Room for entertaining! Granite countertops! You name it, the poor local realtors will never be able to find it all within their client's budget because the American housing market is a catastrophe.

But that's an argument for another day, and House Hunters has gifted us with a reason to celebrate this Valentine's week: the series' very first throuple. It's like a couple, but with another person. And we all know what that means: They need a third sink in their master bathroom!

The throuple in question is Brian, Lori, and Geli, and their episode is hilariously titled "Three's Not a Crowd in Colorado Springs." As the story goes, Brian and Lori have been married for 18 years and have two kids. Geli isn't officially married to the pair, but they said they had a "commitment ceremony" in Aruba. "I understood from day one, even when we were dating, that Lori was bisexual, and interested in women and men," Brian told the House Hunters cameras. "So we evolved to a point where we were comfortable having another woman in our lives."


Honestly, Brian sounds cool as hell. We love to see bisexuality normalized in hetero-presenting relationships, especially on a show whose target audience is boomer-aged women who probably hate their husbands. Geli said she moved in with Brian and Lori about four years ago but still kind of felt like an outsider to the family. "Buying a house together as a throuple will signify our next big step as a family of five, rather than all four of them plus me," Geli said in the episode. How sweet!

Props to House Hunters for managing to spice up their show after two decades on the air. My only remaining question is: Can the poor realtor find them a house with a master bedroom big enough to squeeze their three twin beds together? That's how it works, right?