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Lady Belle “LB” Barker 3/28/14–2/25/22

LB was adopted as “Fiesta” on 6/22/14 in Cookeville, Tennessee. I was 22, less than a month post grad, working my first Big Girl Job™️, living in supporter housing with a complete stranger, over over 500 miles away from my childhood home and nearly 1000 miles away from the city I considered home. 

That’s where my idea to become a cat owner sparked. Honestly I have never been an animal person, to this day I’m not an animal person. Before LB the only real amount of time I spent around a cat was babysitting for a family with a cat. A cat that I was so afraid of I would get it to follow me into the bathroom & then run out & shut the door. 

Anyway, let’s get past my horrible introduction to cats. Then came a mouse problem. I spent about seven seconds on google & I learned the only fool proof way to get rid of mice was a cat. Maybe if I had spent nine seconds on Google I would have learned the way cats get rid of mice is often by killing them & delivering their carcass to you. I didn’t know anything about cats back then. I barely know anything about cats today. 

I do know how to make life changing decisions based on nostalgia. My favorite show in middle school was Sabrina The Teenage Witch so I decided to get a black cat. Once I got to Tennessee I started looking for a black cat to adopt and I found one, about an hour and a half away from where I was staying. 

The thing about adopting a cat when you’re afraid of cats is it’s a pretty ridiculous thing to do. I would definitely recommend it. 

Despite the fact that the paperwork stated LBs gender M for Male there was a miscommunication at the adoption center& I named him the most feminine name—Lady Belle. I was inspired by two of my favorite attention seeking fictional characters LADY Gaga and Tinker BELLE. 

I had LB named before I even laid eyes on him which in hindsight is ridiculous but in the end it made perfect sense. LB loved attention. If I believed in The Five Love Languages I’d bet his was physical touch. LB loved to be pet, especially on his face/cheeks. 

LB also loved chasing, catching & carrying plastic bottle caps—it was his favorite game. My mom was his favorite playmate when it came to bottle caps. She would kick them from the front room, through the living room and into the kitchen. LB loved to pounce on the bottle caps as they slid across the floor. 

Although I try to stay away from single use plastics nowadays I know whenever I see a plastic bottle cap I’ll think of LB and all the joy they brought him. Rooms were littered with plastic bottle caps and on the rare occasions I would try to tidy them up LB would come running from wherever he was napping within moments of the plastic hitting the acrylic on my nails. That was his cue it was time to play. 

The sound of a can opening was a cue it was time to eat, even if the can wasn’t for LB. When we lived at my parents house I could open a can in the kitchen and almost immediately hear LB scampering up the stairs from the basement to see what was for dinner. 

More often than not, those cans weren’t for LB but that never stopped him from coming to check. By coming to check I mean whining as loud as he could for as long as he could. I remember one particularly grumpy day thinking how truly annoying his whining was. 

Once I knew LB had little time left I moved the two of us back into my parents house, I knew I needed support but I also knew LB deserved to be surrounded by as much love as possible in his last days. A few days before he passed I overheard my dad in the kitchen telling LB “I missed you but I didn’t miss your whining”. Then came the day I opened a can, LB a few feet away, and there was silence. He barely looked toward me and the can and he didn’t move. I’ve heard people say the things that annoy you about others are often the things you come to love but I never believed that until the day LB didn’t whine for an opened can. 

I would happily give up Doctor Pepper if I could hear LB whine one more time. There’s this thing parents of tweens like to post on Facebook that goes “One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down, and never pick them up that way again” and that always made my eyes well up with tears. I hate when people talk about pets as if they’re human children so I want you to know I’m not comparing a cat to a child but I do wish I had known the last time LB whined. In this totally made up scenario where I know the future I would like to think I also have more patience for things that annoy me for basically no reason. 

Once I knew it was time to say goodbye LB got to do probably his favorite thing on earth: eat little pinched off slices of Krakus deli ham. This became a lunchtime tradition when we lived with my parents. My dad loved to pinch off a bit of ham from his sandwich & give it to LB. My mom got in on the action too. I hardly ever gave LB ham because it kind of freaked me out to think about a cat eating a pig but that day I got over that & ripped up as much ham as I could for LB. 

I’ve been attempting to find meaning in losing LB, some way to make it nice & not horribly painful. Except there is no meaning in any being not making it to old age, it’s just a tragedy. Honestly that attempt was disrespectful to his memory. It’s a terrible loss. That’s all I got. 

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ADAGES ABOUND

Better to dance with the devil you know than the angel you do not. That is what “They Say”. It is often a perfectly reasonable excuse when a person returns to people or situations that cause suffering rather than attempt the new thing—the hard thing—that *could* bring the person contentment. 

Essentially, the old behavior is comfortable and even if it causes harm it is better than trying something new because you are already familiar with that particular brand of pain. Furthermore, a person could not possibly know the outcome of dancing with the angel you do not know. It could be horrible. I get that, I have had plenty of horrible dances in my day. If you were to ask me any day of the week, I would most likely tell you that I would prefer to dance with the devil I do know than the angel I do not. 

It takes a lot of courage to dance with the angel you do not know. You are taking a chance, so by definition there are multiple possible outcomes. Say you do this courageous thing and dance with the angel you do not know, now what?  Change is a possibility, a high one in fact. 

“You can’t go back home”. That is what “They Say” when a person really changes. Think Hero’s Journey level changes. When a person makes great strides in their personal development it can often cause friction with those closest to them. If you went away to college after high school try to remember your first time back in your hometown, it was probably Thanksgiving. You are home and your mind has opened in ways you never could never have imagined. This is attained through both your coursework and more importantly those first life experiences outside your home unit. It is like getting glasses and being able to see the individual leaves on a tree , or finally figuring out the correct drug cocktail+ therapy + self care regimen and for the first time in what feels like forever feeling an unfamiliar will to live. 

I guess that is my point, except that it took way longer than I expected to get here. See, when you pair The Gift Of The Gab with being a Certified Late Bloomer you tend to be pretty verbose. I actually almost think they go hand in hand because The Gift Of The Gab comes in handy when you need to distract someone (or yourself) from taking the next step in your life. Then it becomes a habit and suddenly you are in your late twenties and it is just your reality.

Anyway, “I’ve been afraid of changing because I built my life around you”, that is what Stevie Nicks Says. For me the “you” is not a person or a habit per say, it is my mental illness. Up until right around my 28th birthday I had  been mentally unwell for as long as I could remember. Then, (you may assume) almost miraculously, I was well. Except if you assumed it was miraculous you would be wrong because it was not miraculous or divine, although it was absolutely about damn time. 

It is strange to be well for the first time in your adult life during a global pandemic. I knew I was genuinely doing well because I did not even fall into the victim trap of thinking: “How unfair! I am finally well and our entire way of life has completely shifted in a matter of months! I cannot see the people I love! The planet is on fire and we do not even have Mr. Rogers around to comfort us!” 

I did eventually fall back into the victim trap, which is where I got the Mr. Rogers line. After nearly a year of progress I started to coast. I wasn’t making my mental health a priority and it was all downhill from there. 

“You can’t go back home”. That is what “They Say” when a person really changes. I had really changed and I was better for it, but I happen to love self destruction and a challenge so I proved those naysayers wrong and returned to my depression den that I had decorated with disquietude. 

(I know one person in particular is going to ask me what disquietude means so here ya go: it is a ~phophisticated way of saying anxiety. I needed a synonym that began with a “D” for the alliteration moment)

So, I’m back home living the life I had built around my mental illness when I realize I actually would much prefer to dance with the angel I don’t know than the devil I do. Quite often it is reasonable to avoid changes as a means of self protection, but I have recently discovered just because it is reasonable does not mean it is right. I have also realized I would rather be happy than be right. I now know it is better to learn the lesson and change and grow than to remain the same sad sack. 

That said, I honestly do not know how long I will be able to stay dancing with the angel I do not know, but I have hope it will become easier and eventually with enough time the angel I did not know will become the angel I do know. That is the goal, right? To dance with “the angel you know”. That’s what I say, anyway. 

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Introduction

Performed live at Arts & Culture Club August 2018

Hi I’m Jaclyn, I mean Jax. My parents named me Jaclyn (spelled J-A-C-L-Y-N) after Jaclyn Smith of Charlie’s Angels and KMART fame but they always called me Jax. Jaclyn is the confident one and Jax is insecure to her core. But, they’re both me. 


I feel like this is a good time to let you all know my natal chart in case anyone was wondering. My sun is in Gemini, my moon is in Pisces and my rising is Leo. My Sun is in Gemini, meaning I’m (these are Co-Star’s words not mine) “fundamentally dynamic, quick-witted, eclectic, and curious.On a social level, this may come off as gossipy or flaky.” 

The moon rules your emotions, moods, and feelings. My Moon is in Pisces, meaning my emotional self is empathetic, dreamy, sensitive, and gentle.

Your ascendant is the “mask” you present to people. My Ascendant is in Leo, meaning I come across as bright, good-natured, and magnetic. My energy makes you seem either like a know-it-all or the life of the party—but always the center of attention.

So basically being a Gemini — the sign of The Twins– I have a split personality, and am always changing. But because of my Pisces Moon and my Leo Rising I have a double split personality. Which I’m not even sure makes sense in like a grammar-way but it definitely doesn’t make sense to me as a human being, trying to live it. 

The dichotomy between these signs is the basis of all my issues as an adult. I would very much like to blame the Catholic Church for my identity crisis but I think this one is all on the Stars. 

I feel like Jax is more of a Pisces the inner me and Jaclyn is the Leo the outer me. To put it another way Pisces is Rihanna, all emotions and teary eyed at the piano opening of Thunder Road. The Jaclyn Leo side is more confident, almost too confident and wouldn’t cry in front of anyone, think Whitney or Madonna.

I was “Jaclyn” to most of the world up until I was about to graduate college and I gained over 50lbs in under a year. I was put on a medicine to help me sleep because I was having a lot of trouble sleeping at the time and one of the side effects was weight gain. At first I didn’t notice too much but after about 15 lbs and some tight jeans I went back to my third parent, the internet, and googled and the first thing that came up when I typed in the medication was “Weight Gain”.

I went straight to the doctor and asked her to take me off right away because I was uncomfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life and she basically refused because it was doing its job. I backed down because I’ve always had an issue with authority figures, something I can blame on the Catholic Church. 

I quickly went from a size 2 petite young lady to a size 12. Now, to be fair, a size 12 is pretty average; I’m just saying that I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel like myself, who I identified with a certain size. 

So when I gained “The Weight” as I like to call it because I’m a dramatic Gemini I felt lost. I was about to graduate college with a pretty weird useless degree and I was offered a job in Tennessee working on a congressional campaign. I decided to change my Facebook name from Jaclyn to Jax so future jobs wouldn’t be able to find my Facebook. This meant that a lot of my new post college friends were introduced to me as Jaclyn because that’s how I introduced myself but they called me Jax because that’s how they saw my name on a regular basis, in print. 

I rebranded myself unknowingly and I started to morph into Jax. Jax is a lot quieter than Jaclyn, keeping her thoughts to herself. Where Jaclyn would speak up in groups of people Jax stays silent, letting her mind run. Jaclyn just makes more noise in general. 

When you gain a considerable amount of weight in a short amount of time you start to notice things you’ve never noticed before, like how uncomfortable the summer is. I remember that summer in Tennessee I experienced what people refer to as “chub rub” for the first time. The already sensitive skin where my thighs touched for the first time began to get raw and painful when I walked outside in the Summer when wearing dresses. I honestly thought it was some kind of allergy to Tennessee but when I asked my friends they just looked at me like I was bananas, haven’t I ever had chub rub before? They told me to get bike shorts or to apply an expensive LUSH product called “silky underwear” to my inner thighs to help combat it. I just saw it as one more thing that was wrong with me.

I suddenly got extremely sensitive, everything from a look I interpreted as snotty to a critical word made me dig deeper into myself. Jaclyn never cared what anyone thought of her, she wore floral dresses to high school and when she wore one brown shoe and one black on accident she just laughed and Made It Fashion. Jax would be genuinely embarrassed to wear anything that brought attention to her body. 

Today Jaclyn only comes out after a few glasses of wine. That’s when I get chatty and feel the need to let the world know what I’m thinking. I guess it’s true that your rising sign comes out when you’re drunk. 

I suddenly enjoy debating people about things I care about and I speak my mind. I get all warm and fuzzy and do things I would never usually do, like apply to a storytelling show. 

Everything makes me cry now, I can’t even think about Moana or basically anything reported on the news without welling up. I’m starting to see the merging of Jax and Jaclyn though, in little ways. I don’t think the journey back to Jaclyn means losing Jax all together, because I’ll always be both. I’ve carried them both for so long. How I feel on the inside and the person I project on the outside are starting to come together. I’m starting to feel more sure of who I am, the tiniest bit every day.

Jax has taught me to be more compassionate but I need to find the balance between Jax and Jaclyn so I don’t spend every waking moment crying over other people’s problems and my own. I don’t know exactly who I’ll be in the future but I hope it’s a healthy balance of Jaclyn and Jax. Isn’t that what every Gemini is looking for? The balancing of the Twins?  

You can call me Jax-lyn. 

JK please don’t call me that. 

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Virtual Show Announcement: 24th Annual Fillet of Solo Festival

I am so very excited to announce I’ll be performing virtually in The 24th Annual Fillet of Solo Festival alongside so many talented performers!

Also- if you know me but at all you know what a huge Gilmore Girls& Bunheads fan. I am so excited to be performing in the same festival as one of my all-time shero’s Rose Abdoo (Gypsy in Gilmore Girls!) 🙏🏻✨💜


Click the link below to get your ticket to view the festival from your own home!


From what I understand you can watch any time between now and February 28th & you can watch all of the shows!


(My email confirmation went to the promotions tab just so you know!)


pay what you can!
https://boxofficex.printtixusa.com/lifelinetheatre/donate…
I’m in Serving the Sentence under “group performances” !



Hope you enjoy! ✨💜💋
ps here’s a hint about my story🍍👸🏼☠️👼🏻

Irish Masculinity in Urban Spaces

5/15/14

In the past century, depictions of the Irish in cinema have gone through many transformations. The earliest depictions of the Irish in silent films in the late nineteenth century are a stark difference to the representations of the Irish on screen today who are only silent in their heritage. A new wave of crime films have popped up over the past thirty years that have vaguely “Irish” lead characters. In only a little over a century, Irishness has become mainstream. In Hollywood at least, the Irish are the go-to stock white characters that are still ambiguously ethnic.  They are for all intents and purposes American first and foremost but the use of Irish last names adds an air of mystique to the viewer.

We as viewers have to understand that writing Irish American characters is extremely difficult given the multitude of paradoxes the community holds. The American public conscious often believes people who consider themselves Irish are descendants of twentieth century migrations from Ireland to big cities like New York, Chicago and Boston while we know historically most Irish came to America in the nineteenth century and ended up in the American south.

We view the Irish as brawling “Fighting Irish” but Irish American men are more likely than almost any other ethnic group to go to church on Sunday. Not that fighting and church are mutually exclusive, but the images we have of people who go to church and those who do not can be compared to those who do not fight and those who do.They are hard to categorize for the simple reason that there are just so many Irish in America. No two families have the same experience. We also have to consider where people came from in Ireland, most assume the Irish and Catholics are the same but as we have learned, there were a plethora of religions who migrated from Ireland and even some who later converted when they got to America. For example, one of the most popular films of all time “Gone With The Wind” has Irish and Irish American lead characters but is a very American story.

It would seem the Irish – American experience in this case is so intertwined with the American experience that we as a collective nation of viewers forget that it is Irish at all. 

Scarlett O’Hara’s father Gerald is a native of Ireland and is depicted as reckless, riding his horse at an old age.

Scarlett is unlike other notable Irish American young women in film in this era because she is a southerner. The Irish women in America are most often living in a large city with her parents, not in the deep south on a plantation. Scarlett does have some things in common with her contemporary Northern counterparts, she is often rebellious and independent, which is attributed to her Irish blood.

Scarlett’s beau Rhett Butler is of Irish descent but he, like a lot of Irish Americans is not Catholic.

He is a descendant of the Anglo-Normans and his family most likely immigrated in the eighteenth century. The Irish American experience isn’t a singular one, but that is no excuse for the oversimplification of such a large group of people.

The box office has proven time and time again in the past few decades that American crime films do well. I would propose they are so well liked by audiences because they are very American. Because there is such a large population of people who claim Irish heritage in the United States and a great majority are in the middle class the American audiences for any movies are full of Irish American descendants. Given the fact that many Irish were expelled from their homeland there is a romanticization of the “homeland” even if the viewers descendants immigrated hundreds of years ago and haven’t returned.

In the years following The Famine the countryside was heavily depopulated which made for beautiful pastoral images. This is directly opposed to the images of Irish in American cinema, who were nearly always depicted living in urban environments. It was common practice to set scenes of the Irish in backgrounds that showed multi-level dwellings because that was where the Irish lived. Windows that open to meet laundry lines are an easy indicator that the scene is in an apartment or tenement building. 

Why wouldn’t people want to see themselves or someone who might be a bit like themselves on screen? The characters in these crime dramas are stock anti-hero’s. Years before Tony Soprano, brothers Detective Tom Spellacy and Father Des Spellacy (True Confessions, 1981) were not only anti heroes but foils for one another– adding a level of sophistication to the script. Perhaps that is why these crime-drama films do so well, they are easily digested by modern audiences. 

 In Clint Eastwood’s 2003 “Mystic River ” three young boys who experience great trauma grow up and lead very different lives until one of the men’s daughters is killed and the boys are brought together again. In Ulu Grosbard’s 1981 “True Confessions” two brothers, one a disgruntled LA detective and another a corrupt priest come together after the murder of a young girl. It seems family (the “neighborhood” is often considered a familial unit in film depictions of the Irish in America) reunions only happen when a crime has been committed.

This point goes directly against one of the greatest and most recorded aspects of the Irish community, loyalty. The depictions of the Irish in American film have gone bottom up since the 1980s, while we once had Irish of all ages on screen we now have more than enough angry young men to make up for the loss of our Colleen’s, our Brigies and our whiskered old men with pipes. 

In the beginning of the twentieth century the Irish were depicted in a range of film genres usually centering on familial relationships. From Buster Keaton’s 1922 “My Wife’s Relations” to Leo McCarey’s 1944 “Going My Way” and beyond we have seen fully developed Irish characters interacting with one another. The Irish Colleen that was left behind in the old country was perceived as weeping while the Irish Colleen that crossed the Atlantic was in a way baptized by the cold ocean mist and became a strong independent woman when she landed in America.

The other Irish female stock-character, Bridgie was strong and “bossy”, meaning she acted more like a man than her counterpart Colleen. Although these characters were based on stereotypes the Colleen and the Bridgie were at least being represented. They have all but disappeared in the past few decades; while their grandsons have become the stars of countless films their granddaughters are nowhere to be found. 

The stock-disenfranchised masculine young man in an urban setting who does not trust authorities and must live by his own moral code has become synonymous with Irish Americanness. As we see in “Mystic River”, “The Departed”, and “Good Will Hunting” young men from lower middle class neighborhoods feel dispossessed and act out violently. 

The mothers and  daughters in films such as “Irene” and “Smiling Irish Eyes” are the leaders of their family and take great responsibility for keeping their family together. Lack of female representation on the silver screen is not restricted to Irish American depictions but for a sub-genre that began with such great leading female characters that have been all but forgotten it is very upsetting. 

Here’s hoping we see a wave of diverse Irish-American women in film in the future.

Works Cited

Going My Way. Dir. Frank Butler. By Leo McCarey. Perf. Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh. N.d. DVD.

Gone With The Wind. By Margaret Mitchell. Dir. Victor Fleming. Perf. Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Thomas Mitchell. 1939.

Good Will Hunting. By Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Dir. Gus Van Sant. Perf. Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck. 1997.

Irene. Dir. Herbert Wilcox. Perf. Anna Neagle, Ray Milland, Roland Young. 1940.

Lee, Joseph, and Marion R. Casey. Making the Irish American: History and Heritage of the Irish in the United States. New York: New York UP, 2006. Print.

My Wife’s Relations. Dir. Buster Keaton. Perf. Buster Keaton, Wallace Beery, Monte Collins. 1922.

Mystic River. By Dennis Lehane. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Screenplay by Brian Helgeland. Perf. Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon. 2003. DVD.

True Confessions. By John Gregory Dunne. Perf. Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Charles Durning. 1981.

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Cathedrals of Consumption

Although we like to believe we live in a time of great change, not much has changed in the way we shop since the mid 19th century. Whether we are shopping in a department store or online, we shop to fulfill a desire. The distinction between shopping for what you need and what you want has been blurred, we believe we need everything.

It’s no wonder, considering the great lengths the producers of the goods go to in terms of marketing strategies and advertising campaigns. There are so many products on the market that we must leave it up to the marketing of those products rather than the product itself to make our decisions. Marketing can mean the advertisements we see in print, television or online as well as the packaging and placement of the product in the store. 

A shop is not merely a place to purchase a merchandise, nor is it just a verb to describe the act of purchasing goods, it is the entire experience surrounding the purchase of a product. The shopping experience begins before you enter the store, you are shopping for products just by watching television advertisements, getting ideas for the next thing you need to buy, just so you have an excuse to go to the store and have the experience of shopping.

The great 19th century consumer theorist Thorstein Veblen proclaimed in his 1899 book Theory of the Leisure Class that we shop to show our status, the phrase he authored to describe this phenomenon is “conspicuous consumption”. We consume (purchase and then adorn ourselves with the products) conspicuously, so that others can see what we have bought and they can judge our social standing based on our purchases.

Although he coined the phrase in the last year of the 18th century, people have been conspicuously consuming for nearly a millennium. “Once upon a time, slaves, women and food served as the ultimate status symbols. By the time Veblen came along, and for nearly a century thereafter, our objects of hot pursuit consisted of finely wrought, manmade stuff.”  (Shoptimism)

That is to say, things we purchase to show status don’t matter as individual objects, the things we conspicuously consume are ever changing but the fact that we do consume conspicuously is an ancient idea. 

Humans have always conspicuously consumed, but for a very long time it was only a small percentage of the population that did so. Although the phrase “conspicuous consumption” was coined in the late 18th century the practice had been around for years.

(Ancient Marketplace on a Sanchi Stupa

A sculpted monument seems to depict period social life. Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh )

Shopping, on the other hand is a 19th century concept because it was the first time most of the population could shop. Due to political revolutions all over the world, many sumptuary laws were abolished. This allowed people of all classes to buy fine goods they could have afforded in previous years but were not allowed to buy. “In her splendid history of Renaissance shopping, Evelyn Welch tells of a Florentine law that forbade peasants to wear silk, velvet, belts adorned with silver, gold, gems, or pearls, even if the riffraff could afford them.” (Shoptimism)

Another factor that lead to widespread shopping was the industrial revolution, which allowed for products to be manufactured at a higher volume and lower cost than ever before due to the machinery invented and employed during this time. 

In Kristina Bäckström’s 2011 article “Shopping as leisure: An Exploration of Manifoldness and Dynamics in Consumers Shopping Experiences” Bäckström explains  “Shopping was sometimes enjoyed as an end in itself where the social interaction was typically seen as the focal activity. On such occasions thus, shopping was primarily seen as an opportunity to meet and talk about things not related to the stores or products encountered. Actually, consumers engaged in this form of shopping may not even interact with consumption objects in a conscious sense.”

 This is not a new concept. Women have been meeting in places that products have been sold for millennium, whether it was the market place to buy or trade the produce their farm did not produce or the tailor who could fix their fallen hem. The only part of women socializing in a place where products are sold that has changed is in the size of the space. 

Thanks to the industrial and political revolutions, more people could shop and more people did shop. The easiest place to shop is somewhere that has everything you need under one roof. Enter- The Department Store. A great way to understand what life was truly like at the dawn of the department store is to look at by Émile Zola’s 1883 work of fiction, Ladies Paradise. The story chronicles the the rise of the French department store fittingly titled “Au Bonheur des Dames” –to women’s delight.

Inspiration for Ladies Paradise :

Le Bon Marché 1876

The owner of The Ladies Paradise, Octave Mouret started out his career as an owner of a silk shop but due to his  business expertise he managed to buy up nearly an entire city block in order to house all of the goods he sells under one roof. It is the complete shopping experience, not unlike the malls we frequent in 2013.

Octave sells textiles as well as ready to wear garments, accessories and home furnishings just to name a few. The genius (albeit a bit evil) part of his plan is the way he manages to overwhelm the women with so many choices and seduce them with what we now know as “costumer service”. He has large sales, offers home delivery, a mail order business and the ability to refund the price of the purchase for store credit. 

Mouret manages to make himself out to be a God, Au Bonheur des Dames is his church and the women who frequent Au Bonheur des Dames his parishioners. 

“It was he who who possessed them thus, keeping them at his mercy by his continued display of novelties, his reduction of prices, and his “returns,” his gallantry and his advertisements. He had conquered the mothers themselves, reigning over them with the brutality of a despot, whose caprices were ruining many a household. His creation was a sort of new religion; the churches, gradually deserted by a wavering faith, were replaced by this bazaar, in the minds of the idle women of Paris. Women now came and spent their leisure time in his establishment, the shivering and anxious hours they formerly passed in churches: a necessary consumption of nervous passion, a growing struggle of the god of dress against the husband, the incessantly renewed religion of the body with the divine future of beauty. If he had closed his doors, there would have been a rising in the street, the despairing cry of worshipers deprived of their confessional and altar.” (Ladies’ Paradise)

Zola explains that the reason these women turned to Au Bonheur des Dames and away from the church was due to the patriarchal nature of churches, who often made scapegoats out of the women when it was in fact the men that were being sexually promiscuous. The women were alienated and naturally, they turned to a place where they could — in a little way, at least– reclaim their femininity through worshiping at what seemed the temple of the female body, Au Bonheur des Dames. These women got to adorn their body with the clothes they bought and feel great about doing so.The sad part is that in order to reclaim their body they had to worship Mouret, a greedy, manipulative man. Mouret controlled their desire, he sold them his idea of femininity, and he charged a high price and all the while the women believed it was their choice. 

The store is more than just a store, it is a refuge from their homes and the bustling city outside the store walls. Mouret has outfitted his store with a reading room, refreshment bar and a picture gallery. It isn’t all about the shopping, it’s about the atmosphere in the place of shopping. The women felt safe and comfortable, they trusted Mouret and in tern, Au Bonheur des Dames as an establishment so they felt at ease spending large amounts of their time and money there.

Another great example of this sense of comfort at the church of consumption is the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the protagonist, Holly Golightly, is seen window shopping at the jewelry store Tiffany’s in the wee hours of the morning while “Moon River” plays, setting the ethereal tone. She later explains “Well, when I get it (the mean reds) the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.”

The store is not even open and yet, it manages to give her a sense of peace and reassurance. This would lead me to believe that shopping is not only about consuming, but the practice surrounding the consumption. The feeling Mrs. Golightly experiences outside Tiffany’s is the same feeling the women that shop at Au Bonheur des Dames feel when they are in the store, they are experiencing a fantasy of sorts. The women get to be around things they may or may not purchase in an environment built to make her feel pampered and safe. 

In the fifty years since Breakfast at Tiffany’s nothing has changed in terms of the quintessential shopping scene, it is still a means of therapy rather than consumption. “The Mall” is a common set for countless scenes in popular television and films of the past few decades, especially in films and television shows with female leads.

The mall is a generic place where the women go to converse, bond and sometimes shop. It’s easy to recall countless scenes where the women are shopping but as I realized when researching this paper, it’s difficult to remember what it is they were shopping for or if they even bought anything. The Mall is a catchall phrase for any shopping center women gather in order to catch up and discuss their lives while shopping. It’s no wonder  “The Mall” has become a place of reprieve from the stresses of everyday life considering they are designed to be welcoming and luxurious.

Generally, the shopping scene begins in a fit of frustration (usually over a man, or in more contemporary shows–their job) one of the female characters proclaims “Let’s go shopping!”.

In one notable case, we are shown rather than told by the narrator that shopping is her place of refuge. In an 90s film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma titled Cluelessthe protagonist Cher Horowitz explains “I felt impotent and out of control. Which I really, really hate. I had to find sanctuary in a place where I could gather my thoughts and regain my strength…” followed by a wide shot of the mall. 

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More often than not, the women in these scenes are seen having conversations while sifting through racks and the scene ends with them leaving the store with a shopping bag, or two.

We don’t know what is in the bag and it does not matter. The scene was set in a shopping center because the shopping center is a woman’s paradise, they can talk freely about the men in their lives without worrying that they’ll overhear because let’s face it, men don’t frequent shopping centers without their female companion. 

For millennia, women have gathered in places of consumption to converse and bond with one another. This may be due to the fact that women were not allowed many other places outside of the home, they were not allowed in the taverns or the public house, in government meetings and they were alienated by the church so it is no wonder they turned to places of purchase to get out of the house and speak to someone other than their family.

As years have gone by, the places we shop have become grander and grander so it’s no wonder they now a meeting place rather than just a place to buy goods. Although I do believe that department stores being referred to as a “Ladies Paradise” is sexist (and I do believe Zoya would agree with me) I am glad women had a place to meet and exchange ideas and that place is still there whenever we need or deserve to be pampered and purchase items. The best part is that in many cases we can now shop with our own money and we don’t need to be dependent on men! 

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The Art of the Celebrity Advocate : Celebrity, Philanthropy and Politics

5/20/14

Just a year ago, Lady Gaga beat Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling as well as Barack Obama in TIME Magazine’s “Most Influential Icon of the Decade” poll.

She came second only to Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi. This poll was open to the public and thousands of her fans, “Little Monsters” as she calls them, flocked to the site to vote for their “Mother Monster”. This poll may seem insignificant but her influence is everywhere; from fashion, radio, and most importantly anti-bullying campaigns.

By becoming a Pop Star, she has in turn become a philanthropist as well as an avid activist for LGBT issues, immigration reform, HIV/AIDS awareness and the now-repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

She has even created her own charity called The Born This Way Foundation in hopes of building a kinder, braver world. She explained in her “Barbara Walter’s Most Fascinating People” interview in 2011 “I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans, who feel just like I felt when I was younger. I felt like a freak, I guess, what I’m trying to say is, I want to liberate them, I want to free them of their fears and make them feel  that they can create their own space in the world.” Through the use of theatricality, Lady Gaga fashioned herself into a work of art, the ultimate Pop Star, in order to spread her message of love and acceptance.

Before 2009 most of the world’s population did not know who Lady Gaga was. She is now regarded by TIME Magazine and Forbes as one of the most influential and powerful people on Earth. (To put this short amount of time into perspective, her first album was released after Barack Obama’s first presidential inauguration.) How, you may ask, did this twenty seven year old from Manhattan become one of the most influential and powerful human beings on the planet in less than six years? The answer in short, is by mastering what she calls “The Art of Fame”

The fact that humans have the ability to fashion their own identities is partly due to the fact that (most) humans have the opportunity to be socially mobile, at least to an extent. Lady Gaga was born Stephanie Joanne Angelina Germonatta in Manhattan to financially stable parents that lived on the Upper West Side. Even so, Marilyn Monroe was a foster child, Oprah was raised on welfare and Derrick Rose grew up in the most dangerous neighborhood in the country and they all still became stars in their respective fields.

Days before Lady Gaga shot the video for her first single “Just Dance” she bleached her naturally black hair to a  platinum blonde and replaced some mirrors on her now infamous “disco bra”.

She was intent on becoming a Pop Star and given that the most famous pop stars of all time (David Bowie, Madonna, Britney Spears) have all been blonde, she made a conscious effort to mimic their bleach blonde tresses. She knew that in order to be noticed she needed to dress provocatively and that is exactly what she did. For the first few years of her career, she was hardly ever seen without sunglasses or with pants.

The press was enamored with the silly named-pop singer with a few hits and a suggestive wardrobe. In order to become an even bigger celebrity she needed to take it a step further and she did so once again with her clothing choices. Through exhibiting this charismatic nature she won over the hearts of the LGBTQ* youth. In the coming years she would be called “Your leader” by President Barack Obama due to her celebrity and ability to influence young voters. 

 Lady Gaga went out in public to be seen. Lady Gaga knew that in order for her to stand out from all the other blonde Pop Stars she needed to do something different. Two years into her career, after breaking record after record, with five Grammy’s as well as countless other awards under her belt Lady Gaga didn’t even consider herself a Pop Star. When Barbara Walters asked her who she was she replied “I am a songwriter. I’m a performance artist. I’m a daughter and a sister.” The fact that she is a Pop Star, one of the most widely loved and highly acclaimed of all time, is just the medium through with she can convey her message. She sees herself as a performance artist, her identity is a living work of art onstage and off. To Lady Gaga, the makeup, clothes and wigs are all part of the production of the performance and through her performance she is attempting to change the world through philanthropy and her ability to make the young people of this world engaged in social issues. By explaining that she is a “freak” she proves that it is okay because she is on the world’s stage. Through the process of humanizing herself on one hand by recounting her past trauma she makes her fans a part of a community. She then goes on to encourage her fans to be socially aware and  to partake in their rights as American citizens to vote on issues that impact their lives directly.

Promising young entertainers have their reputation ruined because they are taken advantage of at a very young age and their reputations are ruined. Lady Gaga took advantage of this disadvantage because it showed her humility.

While many stars risk losing popularity by moving to their ranch in Montana, there are just as many who seemingly can’t get enough fame and their constant attention craving drives them mad. Not everyone can handle the constant glare of the limelight. Striking a balance between being available and elusive is another aspect of fame Lady Gaga has mastered because she is always performing. Not only are eyes and ears everywhere but there are also phones that are equipped cameras, recording devices and internet. One misstep and it could be on TMZ within an hour. Lady Gaga is more aware than most, remarking to Anderson Cooper “Right now, we’re in a bar, right? And there’s a camera right there and a camera right there,” she said, pointing around the room. “But if I were to be sitting in this bar, and we didn’t have a scheduled interview, there would still be a camera over there and over there and over there. I’m always on camera.” Camera phones have become a medium that has ruined more than one stars career; whether it be incriminating photos, video or voice messages. 

In an interview in early 2011,  Anderson Cooper remarked  Lady Gaga uses the photographers as much as they use her, that her over-the-top outfits were specifically designed to make the headlines and provoke people in order to get them talking “I’m a true academic when it comes to music and when it comes to my style, my fashion”. In the same interview, she noted “There’s nothing that I’ve ever put on my body that I didn’t understand where it came from, the reference of it, who inspired it. There’s always some sort of a story or a concept that I’m telling”

In 2010 she wore an outfit made of raw meat to the MTV Video Music Awards, accompanied by several discharged gay service members, a commentary on “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

A few days after the award show she spoke at a rally in Maine to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, her speech was entitled “The Prime Rib of America”.  In her speech she argued that not all citizens of the United States were equal, namely homosexuals in the military. She argued that it was unfair of the United States government to have the ability choose which rights citizens had based on their sexuality, even when these citizens put their life on the line on a daily basis to protect the United States. She said “Equality is the prime rib of America, but because I’m gay, I don’t get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer. It’s unjust, and fundamentally, it is against all that we stand for as Americans. If you serve this country, is it acceptable to be a cafeteria American soldier? Can you choose some things from the Constitution to put on your plate, but not others? A buffet, perhaps. Equality is the prime rib of America. Equality is the prime rib of what we stand for as a nation. And I don’t get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat that my country has to offer.”

The reason she had the ability to cause such a stir in the media was because she is a celebrity. She had access to the stage, and upon that stage she informed the public on the inequality in the ‘Land of the Free’–the United States. 

Lady Gaga has been on the world’s stage for a number of years now, but she does admit to being insecure because she was bullied at a young age. She has now made it her mission to breed compassion and bravery to the world. Without compassion and bravery, Lady Gaga would not have been on that stage wearing a dress made of meat to inform the masses about social and political inequality. She believes that if she can overcome, so can anyone. “You have the freedom to pull the superstar out of yourself that you were born to be. We are all born superstars”

 What Lady Gaga cares about first and foremost is her music. Her ability to rise to fame and receive critical and commercial acclaim in such a short amount of time is due to her ability to sing and dance on stage. Through that she has collected one of the largest fan bases in the world, spanning continents and generations. Through her fans she gets to spread compassion and pushes the world to think outside the box and communicate. In less than five years, Lady Gaga has achieved superstardom. She is currently the most famous person on Earth according to The Guinness Book of World Records, and all it took was a little theatricality.   

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Some Like It Hot

Performed live at Louder Than A Mom 7/15/19

Today in 2019 you can type in “thick thighs” and the first thing that’ll come up is “saves lives”. We’re in a quote un quote “body positive” moment. I’m not going to get into the fact that a majority of the world is still fatphobic because I only have seven minutes and I’m not Elizabeth Warren who HAS A PLAN FOR THAT. 

So although I have always been super supportive of the body positive movement it never really affected me, I was a size double zero to two at my largest, AKA extra small until I was 21.

That’s most of my life.  Up until my senior year of college. I’ve actually been out of college longer than I ever was in college. But I don’t want to be one of THOSE people who talks about the past all the time, one of those people who can’t move on. Like Joe Biden. 

I was about to graduate college and I gained over 70lbs in under a year. I was put on a medicine to help me sleep because I was having a lot of trouble sleeping at the time due to my depression and anxiety and one of the side effects was weight gain. At first I didn’t notice too much but after about 15 lbs and some tight jeans I went back to my third parent, the internet, and googled the medication and the first thing that came up when I typed in the medication was “Weight Gain”. I’m like really into google algorithms if you couldn’t tell. 

So I went straight to the doctor and asked her to take me off it right away because I was uncomfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life and she basically refused because it was doing its job & she was right, I was finally sleeping. I backed down because I’ve always had an issue with authority figures, something I can blame on my upbringing in the Catholic Church. 

I quickly went from a size 2 petite young lady to a size 12. Now, to be fair, a size 12 is pretty average; I’m just saying that I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel like myself, who I identified with a certain size. 

So when I gained “The Weight” as I like to call it because I’m a dramatic Gemini I felt lost. I was about to graduate college with a pretty weird useless degree in basically fashion psychology and I was offered a job in Tennessee working on a congressional campaign. I moved to Tennessee two weeks after graduation, in June of 2014. 

When you gain a considerable amount of weight in a short amount of time you start to notice things you’ve never noticed before, like how uncomfortable the summer heat is. I remember that summer in Tennessee I experienced what people refer to as “chub rub” for the first time. I already have sensitive skin, and as you’ll learn, I also have a sensitive disposition so when my thighs touched for the first time it began to get raw and painful. Especially when I walked outside in the Summer when wearing dresses. I honestly, this is not a joke, thought it was some kind of allergy to Tennessee but when I asked my friends they just looked at me like I was bananas, haven’t I ever had chub rub before? They told me to get bike shorts or to apply an expensive LUSH product called “silky underwear” to my inner thighs to help combat it. I just saw it as one more thing that was wrong with me.

I was so uncomfortable in my new body that I saw every “little” thing as a big issue. From the chub rub to the zebra-like stretch marks that appeared first as raised red lines and then dissolved into opaque silver-ey uneven lines on my inner thighs, under arms and stomach, every reminder of my changing body affected me deeply. 

The depression and anxiety did not help. That summer of 90 degree days in Tennessee full of high humidity made me feel horrible in my body. It was a never-ending cycle of depression and anxiety, then pills to fix the depression and anxiety which had the side effect of weight gain which led to more depression and anxiety to higher doses of the pills that caused my weight gain.

I remember the Fall before, one of the few mornings I was conscious due to my depression. I was so excited to be awake before noon that I went outside to get a bagel sandwich to celebrate. It was a beautiful day and I didn’t need a jacket, I walked outside in my pajamas of an oversized t shirt and leggings to walk down the street to the bodega that had the good bagels when I realized I wasn’t wearing a bra. This wouldn’t have been an issue three months before with my “mosquito bite” breasts but my breasts had grown so fast I honestly hadn’t noticed. I only noticed I wasn’t wearing a bra when a group of high school boys began yelling at me and to each other that “my tiddies were bouncing”. I ran home with tears stinging my eyes without my bagel and cried about my body for the first time in my life. 

I felt such deep shame that the boys had noticed my body and that I wasn’t wearing what society expected me to wear to shield them. Looking back, I realize I obviously was comfortable in no bra, that’s not the problem. The problem lies in others expectations of us. 

I suddenly got extremely sensitive, everything from a look I interpreted as snotty to a critical word made me dig deeper into myself. Before my weight gain I never cared what anyone thought of me, I wore floral dresses to high school, bows the size of Lady Gaga head pieces and when I wore one brown shoe and one black on accident I just laughed and Made It Fashion.

The new me would be genuinely embarrassed to wear anything that brought attention to my body. 

I started performing improv the summer after that dreaded summer full of undiagnosed chub rub in Tennessee.

That was four years ago. This past spring I performed stand-up for the first time (click here to see THAT) at an Irish “selection” of women aka a pageant. It’s called The Rose Of Tralee and although I have an issue with pageants as a whole this was a wonderful experience for me. I never thought I’d do a pageant due to what my mom calls me “feminist agenda” but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was young and I decided my little cousins who are five and eight need to see women of size performing.

They of course can’t come to my improv shows at bars so I saw this as a great way for them to get me see perform. They see me have fun and do cartwheels with them at my parents Lakehouse and going on the tube but to see me stand on a stage and command that stage was something really important to me. 

Although I say did it for my cousins I really did it for myself with them as cover story. I knew I had to finally accept my body– flaws and all. After all, it’s been almost six years since I gained The Weight. Flaws and all I still refuse to fart in front of my boyfriend of two years. Don’t get me wrong–  I believe everyone should be able to fart in front of their partners– I just could never go through with it. I guess I’m pro choice that way? 

So I did the Rose of Tralee and it honestly changed my life. I’m sorry to say I didn’t win the selection but in a way I did win. I won my confidence back after six years of dormancy. Getting a dress was tricky because stores don’t carry my size, luckily David’s Bridal did but I had to order a size 16, the largest size I’ve ever worn.

The funny thing is I remember my mom visiting me my sophomore year of college and taking me shopping at Ann Taylor Loft. I remember refusing to buy a dress because it was a size two and I was convinced I only wore zero’s.

Here I am, buying a size sixteen. And never feeling more attractive.

My confidence has soared since I did The Rose of Tralee in April and my creative performance, work performance and just about every other aspect of my life has gotten better too. Some like it hot, and some don’t, due to chub rub. Every once in a while you have to trick yourself into doing something with the intention of doing it for someone else just so you can do something nice for yourself. You never know, it may change everything.

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Fashioning an Identity and the Culture of Clothing

Rationale for Colloquium

April 2014

I transferred to Gallatin after my first four semesters as a student in the Liberal Studies program so I could focus on identity cultivation and clothing. After studying how art history impacted culture and how culture impacted art for three semesters in a series of core classes called Cultural Foundations, I was extremely interested in diving deeper into this conversation with a narrower scope. I originally planned to be an American literature major because I love the way characters are crafted and understanding why they behave the way they do. My concentration grew from this interest in human personalities to the way in which visual representations of the inner self are portrayed through clothing and adornment.  After living in New York City for two years I wanted to see how and why real live people chose to cover their bodies- or not. In transferring to Gallatin, I had the opportunity to take tutorials that were purely about fashion while also exploring other topics that did not mention clothing at all. Some of my favorite classes at Gallatin were the ones that had nothing to do with fashion because they gave me the opportunity to make the connections that solidified my passion for what may seem like a niche area of study. Gradually, I began to form my concentration: Fashioning an Identity and The Culture of Clothing.

Over many centuries, the meaning of the word fashion may have evolved into a description of an entire industry but the root of the word is a means to shape something, which is central to its application. It was in the 15th century that fashion was first used to describe the self, inside and out. Prior to the Italian Renaissance, it was widely accepted in the Western world that humans were stagnant in their being; they were merely creatures of God. Fifteenth Century theorist Giovanni Pico della Mirandola wrote Oration on the Dignity of Man where he explored the intersections of theology and philosophy. He explained that due to what he called “The Chain of Being”: God had given man the ability of free will, meaning that man was limitless in his nature and had the ability to absorb and apply information in order to grow or transform into whoever he or she wants to be.

There are hundreds of books published on how to better oneself but there are only a handful that have stood the test of time. From the begrudgingly written Ancient Chinese philosophical text known as The Tao to You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You, by one of the first self-professed fashion psychologists, it states that we as humans have been looking to literature for self-betterment for centuries. In The Tao, Lao Tzu explains that humans are made up of their past, present and future. Jennifer Baumgartner, the author of You are What You Wear explains that our choice of clothing is based on our past and present experiences and feelings, as well as the recognition that the clothing choice impacts our future. Just as Pico explained, humans are limitless creatures who have the ability to change based on prior knowledge.

In everyday life the word fashion is most often used to describe the act of adorning one’s body. It has been asserted by Sociologist Erving Goffman in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life that humans are always performing: our choice of clothing is one visual aspect of this. When we choose the clothes we wear, we do so to convey a message that will be received by our audience. The way in which we choose our clothing is impacted by our past experiences. One of the most oft quoted Shakespeare lines is “All the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players”. The concept of performativity as explained by Goffman and Shakespeare is that humans are performing or “playing” at all times.

Fashion has been at the center of multiple revolutions throughout history, whether it be the sumptuary laws predating the French Revolution or Mahatma Gandhi’s choice to wear a loin cloth made of local fabric rather than support the British economy. Gandhi was educated in England where he wore a suit and tie to class every day.  When he moved back to India, he knew he needed to advocate his political beliefs on a visual level.

https://www.thebetterindia.com/171267/madurai-gandhi-iconic-dress-loincloth-freedom-india/

Having the right to choose how to adorn one’s body is an important means of self expression that we often fail to recognize because as Americans we have the ability (within budget) to choose our clothing– a privilege not all of the citizens of the world have. Even post-dating The Civil War, Black Americans were not allowed to wear certain clothes because clothing was an indicator of a social status they did not have the right to. In the decades following The Civil War, Black men began to dress in outrageously formal fashions as a way of exerting their new status. These men mimicked former slave owners by wearing top hats and suit jackets. This style is now known as “Dandy”.

The fact that certain pieces of clothing have implied meanings further indicates that we visually represent how we feel through our clothes. We wear black to funerals, describe pleated plaid skirts in any environment as intrinsically like a “Catholic school girl,” while robes are a sign of power worn by judges, royalty or religious leaders. A white lab coat has become synonymous with medical Doctor’s uniform so much that if one were to create a Doctor’s costume all he or she would need to add to the coat to be recognized as a doctor would be any medical instrument.

Fashion academia suggest clothes influence how the wearer behaves. A Northwestern University Study titled “Enclothed Cognition” tested the effects of wearing a simple, white lab coat.  The pre-test established that lab coats are predominantly associated with attentiveness and carefulness.  Galinsky and Hajop predicted that wearing the lab coat would produce increased performance in attention-related tasks.  Their first experiment showed that the physical act of wearing the lab coat increased selective attention compared to its absence.  In the second experiment, participants wore a “doctor’s” lab coat then a “painter’s” coat.  Participants displayed increased sustained attention while wearing the “doctor’s” coat versus the “painter’s” coat.  

This study is an example of current research which suggests the principle of “enclothed cognition”: wearers’ psychological processes are systematically influenced by the articles they wear and dependent upon both symbolic meaning and the physical experience of the clothing.

One of the earliest pieces of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh written in 2500 B.C., describes the archetype that will come to be known as the the “Hero Journey,” in conjunction with becoming “civilized” through clothing. The hero, Gilgamesh defends the people from monsters and savages. Humans are the only species that wear clothing because unlike animals, we are not covered in fur and therefore cannot be protected from the elements. Gilgamesh’s’ first challenger is a creation of the goddess Aruru. She produces Enkidu, a human man who lives outside the city with the animals. After being taught the way of physical love by a harlot, Enkidu discovers his humanity and is no longer capable of interacting with the animals. Enkidu then gets ready to go inside the city to fight Gilgamesh. The harlot presents clothing to Enkidu because, in order to go into the civilized city, he must be clothed lest he be mistaken for an animal. The clothes communicate not only one’s civility but also place within civility. Because Gilgamesh is the king, he wears a crown and robes. There is even a difference in the way the civilized people who live in the countryside dress compared to the citizens of the city. The country folk wear furs because they are readily available while the people in the city wear clothing made of fabric.

The dialectic between what we wear and how that impacts who we are and who we are impacts what we wear is extremely important. How we feel is one of the major influences on what we wear on any occasion — even occasions that have implied dress codes. The proof can be seen everywhere, from weddings to business meetings to red carpet events. Terms like “business casual”, “cocktail attire” and “black/white tie” are typically specified on invitations to events that do not have unspoken dress codes. Given these social cues, people generally wear different variations of the same dress length or color, or sometimes even the exact same outfit.

Stories like Gilgamesh  that include a transformation narrative typically involve some sort of makeover (or under) scene in terms of clothing choices. There are times when the makeover is necessary in order to survive or a sign of deterioration of the spirit. The latter is exemplified in the character Miss Havisham in Great Expectations who wears her wedding dress every day after being left at the altar. She wears only one shoe because she learned of her fiance’s betrayal as she was putting on her shoes.

Her reaction to rejection is to live in her sadness from the moment her life was brought to a halt. Constantly wearing her deteriorating wedding dress for years perpetuated her sadness.  As her dress got tattered and became yellow, her personality became surly and she became more vicious.

However, clothing does not merely reinforce the status quo but has the capacity to transcend and transform embedded societal boundaries, such as race, class, gender, and sexuality.  In order to transform, one or more of these boundaries has to be crossed. Once the boundaries are crossed and transformation is complete the wearer can “pass” for whatever the wearer is looking to achieve. This is exemplified in clothing and can be used as physical and psychological armour. In As You Like It Rosalind, the daughter of the former Duke, wears mens clothing to get safe passage through the Forest of Ardenne. Dressed as a male she is not only crossing gender boundaries but also class boundaries as she dresses as a common male youth. After taking the bold and inspired decision to dress as the youth Ganymede, Rosalind fully transforms as a character. Through dressing as a man and performing that identity she allows the headstrong woman inside to come to the forefront for all to see.

From an academic and literary standpoint, the connection between clothing and identity is clear but this connection has practical implications and connotations.  Clothing is not only functional but transformative.  As a learned species, we make instant assumptions based on visual cues. The way we interpret those cues are based on our past experiences and the present context and environment. These cues are not merely reactive but are instrumental in creating and reinterpreting new identities.  From epic characters like Gilgamesh, Othello, Jay Gatsby to glorious heroines like Eliza Dootlittle, Rosalind and Shug Avery we as readers have learned that bettering oneself is possible. Although clothing is often the first step to creating a character identity it is not the last. As Pico explained over half a millenium ago, humans are limitless–  we have the agency to learn and apply skills in order to protect, disguise or better ourselves and clothing may be the easiest option to convey a visual message.

Book List:

Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Classics

At least seven works produced before the mid-1600s;

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Othello– William Shakespeare

Oration on the Dignity of Man– Pico Della Mirandolla

As You Like It- William Shakespeare

The Analects- Confucius 

The Prince- Niccolò Machiavelli

The Treasure of the City of Ladies– Christine de Pizan

The Tao– Laozi

Modernity-The Humanities

At least four works, produced after the mid-1600s, in Humanities disciplines such as Literature, Philosophy, History, the Arts, Critical Theory, and Religion;

Pygmalion– George Bernard Shaw 

Passing– Nella Larsen

The Great Gatsby– F Scott Fitzgerald

Great Expectations– Charles Dickens

The Color Purple- Alice Walker 

Modernity-The Social and Natural Sciences 

At least four non-fiction works, produced after the mid-1600s, in the Natural Sciences and Social Science disciplines such as Political Science, Economics, Psychology, Anthropology, and Sociology.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life- Erving Goffman

Theory of the Leisure Class-Thorstein Veblen 

Feminist literary Theory and Criticism- A Norton Reader

Rennaisance Self Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare: Stephen Greenblatt 

Sexing The Body – Ann Fousto Sterling

Area of Concentration 

At least five additional works representing the student’s area or areas of concentration; students whose area of concentration already appears among the above categories may simply choose five additional works from these categories.

Fashion and Celebrity Culture- Pamela Church Gibson

Enclothed Cognition- Adam D. Galinsky and Adam Hajo

The Social Psychology of Clothing:  Symbolic Appearances in Context– Susan B. Kaiser 

The Celebrity Culture Reader – P. David Marshall

Personality’ and the Making of Twentieth Century Culture- Warren Susman

You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You– Jennifer Baumgartner 

The Psychology of Clothes- J.C. Flugel 

The Psychology of Fashion- Michael Solomon 

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Putting the Art in ARTPOP

12/20/13

Lady Gaga is far from the first pop artist to attempt to fuse Art, fashion and music and she will hardly be the last but you would be hard set on finding another who has put as much effort into what she calls ARTPOP.  Often flouted as being too pretentious for the Pop Music world but too campy to be considered a great Artist in her own right, she set out to create a dialogue between Art and Pop in an unprecedented manner. ARTPOP, which The Haus of Gaga  describes as “a reverse Warholian expedition”  was not just an album, but an experience. Through the use of new media, The Haus of Gaga has attempted  to bring art culture into pop. While Andy Warhol took soup cans and brought them into museums, Lady Gaga has taken Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and put it on the cover of a pop singer’s album sitting in Walmart and Target stores.

In Fashion and Celebrity Culture Pamela Church Gibson discusses the relationship between fashion designer and pop musicians. She questions the authenticity of the story the team is telling and examines who has the most to gain.  “Today, these relationships (between popular music and fashion) have the potential to stifle the spontaneity of music, and in our complicated commercial arena, the authentic, sought by the young and music writers alike.” (158-159). When there could be a very interesting dialogue between popular music and fashion, it has become more of a business transaction than a labour of love in the past twenty years. The fact that so many musicians and those who Church Gibson describes as “celebrity by ascription” can produce fashion without knowing how to thread a needle takes all the Art out of Fashion.

This is a woe Lady Gaga has appointed herself to mend. Promotional tours are a large part of life of any entertainer and while many entertainers spend their time promoting their capsule collections, Lady Gaga has spent the promotional tour for her album promoting artists that inspire her. From the cover of her single “Applause” invoking the Pierrot “sad clown” who originated as a stock character in the art of Pantomime. 

The “Sad Clown” character could just as easily be applied to the modern day “Celebrity”, both start out naive, striving for attention but often end up melancholy. The clown, all made up ready to make others happy foolishly trusts the crowd and ends up sad, makeup running with tears.  Church Gibson perceives the links between the music, fashion and art worlds in terms of celebrity. The people that exist in all three worlds are the most popular because they have three audiences. In many cases, one can become recognized for their trade and then get completely enveloped in the fashion world, no longer having to practice their trade. As Church Gibson explains in the introduction, we’ve seen Chloe Sevigny go from an Oscar nominated actress to a woman who is famous for her personal style. She has gone on to design a line for the boutique Opening Ceremony and starred in a number of music videos. This does not take away from her acting abilities, it merely distracts from the girl we were originally introduced to. To be fair, Sevigny is one of the better examples.

There are countless other actors and musicians who use the medium of fashion as a means of branding but are completely unaware of what they are doing. Many artists become contrived caricatures of who they once were because of fashion. Other artists simply do not have the skills to explore the world of fashion so when they do they fall into the easy trap of commercializing what once made them authentic. 

Music and Fashion are both Art– and the people who create fashion and music are considered artists. Artists such as Andy Warhol and Oscar Wilde have been influenced by Celebrities while people who are recognized by the general population for excelling at a skill (I don’t want to say celebrity) are influenced by Artists. Whether or not those influences are commercially driven or authentic  is the point of contention. With ARTPOP, Lady Gaga blurs the line between commercial and high (or authentic) art– pushing the audience to question what Art is. 

Church Gibson comments on Lady Gaga’s place in the entertainment industry, explaining that  “She has completely divided commentators, some of whom have criticized her music itself, complaining that it is peripheral to the performances or simply disappointing by comparison. Others have championed her for her desire to provoke thought and to shock, rather than simply entertain or titillate.” (154) It is this questioning of authenticity that has plagued the artist the entirety of her five year career, with ARTPOP she “smashed the critics” as she sings in “Applause” by teaming up with a few of the greatest Artists of our time.

For the cover of ARTPOP, Lady Gaga enlisted in the help of one of the greatest contemporary sculptors, Jeff Koons. Koons certainly did not need the cultural capital that came with working with Lady Gaga, a pop star who many believe has reached her peak. In November 2013, Koons “Balloon Dog” was sold as the most expensive piece of art acquired by any living artist.

That isn’t to say that Koons was a household name by any means but by late Augustc 2013, Lady Gaga had a top ten single with the lyrics “One second I’m the Koons fan, then suddenly the Koons is me” with “Applause”. These lyrics foreshadowed the cover which was released in October 2013 where a sculpture of Lady Gaga reminiscent of his famous “Woman in a Bathtub” piece sat open legged, straddling a large blue “gazing ball”.

The sculpture is set against cutouts of Botecelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and reference photos taken of Lady Gaga posing as the God of Music, Apollo.

In her song “Mary Jane Holland” on ARTPOP she references the myth of Apollo and Daphne “So if you have fear, Apollo sit on my lyre, and play it like a piano, man”. 

 While the sculpture was undeniably of Lady Gaga, the pose and use of the gazing ball were completely Jeff Koons. He didn’t change his craft to fit Lady Gaga, he just incorporated her into his trademark means of creating art. In an interview given shortly after the unveiling of the ARTPOP album cover, Koons scholar Lynne Warren explained to MTV News  “Jeff seems to have really good senses to choose people who are not only at the height of their careers, but are going to be iconic…He must feel like Lady Gaga is not going to be a flash in the pan.” Whether or not she will be a flash in the pan remains to be seen and isn’t valuable to my research but Warren does explain that Koons likes to sculpt artists when they are at the top of their field, citing his sculpture of the late Michael Jackson in 1988. 

By all accounts, the relationship between Lady Gaga and Jeff Koons seems to benefit the general population more than Koons or Gaga themselves. It’s obvious the pair enjoyed working with one another and it seems their aim was to make art more accessible. The message of ARTPOP was introduced in the lead single and the album artwork but Gaga brought it to life during a series of appearances in London. On December 5th she was photographed wearing a dress baring the face of Mona Lisa while her face makeup was contoured to mimic Mona Lisa’s world famous smirk.

The next day she dressed as Pablo Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror” utilizing clothing and makeup once again.

A few days later she was spotted wearing a moustache only Salvador Dali could pull off and a monocle.

Although it is obvious Gaga is the one who was gaining cultural capital in these appearances she was bringing attention to some less infamous artists and works of art (Mona Lisa not included).

Lady Gaga became the Art in Robert Wilson’s “Living Rooms” exhibition at the Louvre. His recreation of her as “The Head of St. John the Baptist on a Charger” and  “Mademoiselle Caroline Riviere” are in the same gallery as The Mona Lisa.

She managed to do what Andy Warhol never did, take both Art and put it into Pop and then Pop immersed in Art. 

Pamela Church Gibson believes that there is a very intricate relationship between the worlds of Art, Fashion and Music. Many artists attempt to weave these worlds together to better brand themselves and heighten their level of celebrity. Lady Gaga used her celebrity to put Art back into the forefront of the music and fashion aspect of her Art. While branding herself as a sort of an obnoxious art student she introduced her legions of fans to a world they may not otherwise not be aware of. 

Works Cited

Gibson, Pamela Church. Fashion and Celebrity Culture. Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

Creating Intimacy through Traditional Irish Music in Waking Ned Devine

Intro to Celtic Music

Film Paper

11/25/13

The music featured in Kirk Jones’ 1998 “Waking Ned Devine” ranges from live music being played at a pub while the characters converse, to background music composed by Shaun Davey and Kirk Jones to set the mood, to the crossover popular traditional Irish music song “Fisherman’s Blues” written and performed by The Waterboys. The intimate portrait of the small village of Tullymoore in Ireland that sees one of its residents win the lottery is coupled with brilliant storytelling through the use of music. 

The characters participate in traditional Irish drinking songs on more than one occasion, which lends itself to proving the authenticity of the film. For a film that was filmed exclusively in Ireland with an ensemble of some of the greatest contemporary Irish actors the film maintains the small village ambiance despite a riveting story. 

Kirk Jones wrote, directed and oversaw the soundtrack of a film that feels not only authentically but more importantly genuinely Irish, despite being English. He managed to capture the soul of Ireland through the music as well as the dialogue. The film did receive a good amount of critical and public acclaim but due largely in part to the music. It feels like a quaint movie despite winning Best Feature for the film in 1998 at The New York Comedy Festival  

The beautiful solo flute compliments the thunderstorm after a party thrown to feel out who the lottery winner could be brings up no answers. The tune transforms from an air to a reel after a joke is made between the two main characters. Going from a beautifully slow air to a spritely reel seamlessly is one of Joneses signature affects. Slow to fast then slow again helps to set the mood surrounding genuine conversation between close friends. 

When Jackie goes over to see Ned after he misses the chicken dinner, a singular violin creeps up the scale, mimicking Jackie’s movement into Ned’s dark living room. The use of the violin to portray the lead up to the climax is extremely common in filmmaking but the violin played in this scene is so obviously a fiddle. It’s these minor details that convince the audience that this film is authentically Irish.  

While Jackie sleeps, the quiet voice of a woman singing an air in Gaelic seems to solidify the authenticity for the first time. The Irish language is only in song, none of the characters speak a word of Gaelic the entire movie but its use in musical accompaniment is an intentional use of music to set the scene. 

The Piob Mhor which was at one time outlawed in Ireland is a common instrument played at funerals. It is used throughout the movie either on its own or in accompaniment with other instruments, harmonizing, reminding the audience that the film is about a death. During Ned’s funeral mass the priest sings a hymn in Latin, once again using language in song as a means of proving authenticity. 

The chase scene that was always my favorite as a child due to the elderly man racing naked except for his brown oxford shoes and some socks on a motorcycle through rural Ireland comes with a great fiddle piece that mimics the speed of the motorcycle. 

At one point a minor character is seen walking through the village playing a tin whistle as Ned’s coffin is carried through the village adding to the authentic ambiance of the film.  As a helicopter looms overhead more whistles join the tune as well as some percussion and fiddle. 

During the celebration for tricking the Lottery official, the entire village meets in the pub. The fiddle and bodhran play an up tempo duet while smoke lingers in the air. The village gathers round, some dance while others stand watching with smiles on their faces. As the duet comes  to a close the fiddle player bows so passionately one of his strings pops. The village cheers and a hornpipe delivers the final scene, Jackie, Michael and friends lifting their glasses to the late Ned Devine as “The Parting Glass” takes the audience out and the credits roll.

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