PopMatters Associate Events Editor
31 Mar 2006: The Trocadero Philadelphia
Miss Catwalk Tragedy 2006 was billed as an alternative beauty pageant. If “alternative” means “exactly like mainstream, only more sexist and objectifying,” then gold star, check-check-check, yes, we have a winner.
What could have been a positive, truly alternative showcase of talented, unconventionally attractive women was actually a parade of hot young thangs in various pleather/dogchain accoutrements shaking boobies and buttcheeks at a panel of judges. In between such displays, we heard two all-male goth bands hurl testosterone at the crowd while making “naked chick” jokes (Bella Morte) and tossing the bird left and right (Trashlight Vision). In short, the naked chicks acted as mere adornments to the men’s man-performances. And of all the silent, pretty goth dolls, who won? Why, the most naked, of course!
The Suicide Girls aesthetic has caught on like anti-terrorism, prompting a burlesque revival (if you’d call it that) and a whole lot of confused young ladies. Recent exposes by Jessica Hopper and Julianne Shepherd in the Twin Cities City Pages and Spin have uncovered that Suicide Girls—an (ostensibly) DIY organization in which the (supposedly) diverse subjects are (purportedly) in control and in which girl-bonding is (allegedly) stressed—is, as usual, male-controlled and misogynist and adheres to the skinny white girl (albeit with piercings and tats) paradigm.
Of course, it seems a little different to the “consumer.” But is it? It’s like: OMG, you are like as alternative as Nike Converses with yr eyebrow piercings, bisensual orientations, and intense love of the Smiths. And, after all, not only are you Hot, like HOTTTTTT, but you like the same things I do and you could have Real Conversations with me about Music and CounterCulture and like WHOA you aren’t Dumb like Other Girls. Oh, oh, grooooan.
How many stereotypes does this type of thing reinforce while (ostensibly) subverting them? [ow ow ow ow ow bangs head on brick wall] And also: Hot Topic has been in suburban malls for more than a decade. It’s about as alternative as Häagen-Daz. Any of you “badass” chicks in the mood for a black forest truffle?
Whatevs though, right? It’s not like anyone is really fooled. It’s all a joke. The idiots are those who take it for what it is, right? So loosen up, hey. Don’t take things so seriously. And right, right: Bring on the naked goth chicks. What’s wrong with the body beautiful?
I missed the first round (Club Wear) but got to see Evening Wear and Lingerie. Since so much lingerie was worn as evening wear, it was hard to tell the difference. That’s not a jab, just an observation.
Let me confess here that I feel incredibly uncomfortable critiquing this show, if only because it’s virtually impossible to do so without scrutinizing the women involved, and for fuck’s sake, these girls were scrutinized enough. So, before we get to deconstructing the ladies, let’s make fun of boys. I was happy to see Andy, lead singer of Bella Morte, take off his shirt to reveal a fine, hairless chest. I was also happy to see the guitarist of Trashlight Vision unbutton his shirt and act like Punk Messiah, while his cohort, the lead vocalist, was busy hurling birds way too gratuitously. You’re a rebel. Congratulations.
I was not happy to see women prance on and off stage with pleather G-strings and electric tape covering their nipples. Maybe if there’d been a talent portion? (Well, the talent part of pageants has always been a joke, so at least this one didn’t bullshit).
In any case, the evening was spent mostly with dudes singing about girls—the actual women seemed virtually extraneous. Each round took ten minutes, tops, and then we heard alternatively sensitive and angry men sing about girls breaking their hearts for the next thirty to forty. Then, the next round of hot thangs walked on, walked off. Who are the culturemakers here? Don’t answer that.
To their credit, these women had attitude and excellent, wonderfully creative fashion sense. Unfortunately, what was rewarded seemed not creativity but how pleasing the women’s bodies were. Again, who won? A skinny, ultra-femme white girl with large breasts. Maybe Tyra will pick her up for America’s Next Top Model and we’ll get to see her edited personality between photo shoots. That would be so neat!
But you know, and I speak now to the contestants, I’m not being fair. I’m happy that you are confident about your bodies; honestly, that’s pretty fucking subversive. It’s just that whenever we are judged only on appearance, on our ability to arrange pieces of cloth to make our bodies look their fiercest, the perception is powerfully reinforced that appearance is our only arena for achievement. All of our other accomplishments are devalued. But whatever. Loosen up, right?