Friday, January 30, 2009
I'm trying to figure out how I went to see the best, funniest most varied burlesque show of my life at Alcove Gallery the other day (It was an omnibus show put on by Blast-Off Burlesque with special guests from Syrens of the South.) but the most heart-stopping part of the show for me was this blockhead guy, Hammerhead Andy. He pounded a nail into his head through a nostril (gently tapped, really) crunched up a light bulb in his mouth and may have drank bleach. His partner "The Mysterious Masticator" may have eaten cat feces for our edification.
So, our question for the day is: Why is this hot? Because it is. If you don't believe it in this context, consider all of the women you know who refer to one or more members of the Jackass franchise as their "husband."
I think it is hot for the same reason androgyny is hot, it totally destabilizes the patriarchy. For a dude to do physical harm to himself in order to amuse me, he has to give up some of the power and dignity that goes with his normal role as a straight guy. It's not generally emasculating, though, and this holds true for straight cross dressers from Eddie Izzard to the New York Dolls. It just creates a situation of sexual anomie.
I'm saying that applying a staple gun to your scrotum (or dressing up like an organ grinder's monkey and mortifying your flesh on stage) is a kind of atavistic gender activism, that it creates an archetype of liberated and liberating masculine chaos that is not traditionally aggressive, and is, therefore, dead sexy. I'm serious about this. Think how disappointed these guy's dads must be. Think how much worse that is than disappointing mom.
To clarify: traditional, unmitigated patriarchal archetypes are not sexy. They are boring and suffocating (unless we're talking about campy fascist role playing or something.)
I think these things occurred to me because the show, a send-up of '60s sci-fi called Mysterious Mysteries of the Unknown featured a drag king, a straight male strip tease and nearly every other point on the spectrum of performative sexuality. In this gorgeously kaleidoscopic context, Andy's act seemed like a variety of straight drag. Tellingly, the "Mysterious Masticator" affected an upper-class accent and wore a mask, claiming that, if his identity were known, he could lose his standing in society for the strange arts he practices.
I think it's also interesting to note here that side-show geekery and burlesque have gone skipping hand in hand almost since they were invented.
For some reason, human suspension (see image below) or any other kind of self mutilation done without humor and/or claiming to be art doesn't turn me on. The straight face ruins everything and makes me question your sanity and your motives.