Friday, August 17, 2007


Antiprincess reminds me of this, roundabout like, with her mention of the ungodly news that Van Halen is back on the road. With Pat Boone opening. No, I made that bit up. Probably.

Anyway! So I've been a-tripping and stumbling down Memory Lane, and it occurred to me to revisit a video that--unlikely, because it sucks, musically and aesthetically, nonetheless--made rather an impact on my tender whenever it was, junior high, high school, psyche.

Feel free to watch this Sammy Hagar-fronted yowling sludgefest with the sound off. Actually if you dub in something better, like Alvin and the Chipmunks, it improves the overall experience substantially. But that's not my point (I'm getting there).

(If you are a serious glutton for punishment, the "lyrics" are here).

Subtle, no?

So, yes, a, ahem, deconstruction of the narrative. Young woman in modest dress and sensible shoes (ALERT) goes to try out for being one of Van Halen's chorus girls. She finds the dressing room, with a conveniently placed hole in the frosted glass window. She puts an eye to the hole; inside is a bevy of beautiful young women in leather, lace, nylon, maribou, ostrich feathers and pink fur (o joy to my girlie heart), cone bras, high heels, makeup for days, fuckloads of hairspray. The young woman is shocked. Yet, she cannot resist another peek. And another. She is too shy or too prudish (we presume that's what the problem is supposed to be) to enter the forbidden chamber herself, but cannot tear herself away.

For the next couple of minutes, we are shown various flashes of this Edenic scene--corset lacing, perfume spritzing, powder puff-puffing, sultry posing in front of the mirror or just in the middle of the floor (like you do), a petite cat-fight--as glimpsed by Miz Sensible Voyeurism; intercut with shots of VH performing on stage, with Sammy lamenting to the heavens of the "poundcake" which has apparently stricken him with terrible cramps, and no Immodium in sight. (There is a profound metaphor buried in that juxtaposition somewhere. See if you can find it).

Eventually, there appears a blonde (who seems to have just entered the dressing room from elsewhere, possibly the stage, except it'd be some other stage besides the one on which Intestinal Cramps!Sammy is playing, because there are no females there. or possibly Narnia. personally I vote for Narnia) who shakes her golden mane free of her football helmet and then begins to peel off her jacket. Emboldened...or, something...Our Heroine takes off -her- jacket. Perhaps she might actually get up the nerve to -go inside!- in another five hours or so. Or perhaps she's going to just change into her audition duds out there in the hall (shy, you know).

Unfortunately at this juncture the blonde, who has a laser-accurate third eye hidden beneath that gorgeous mane of shiksa cornsilk, whips around with an angry glare, clutching the jacket to her bared bosoms. Sensible Shoes immediately ducks behind the door jamb: she sees! Caught! CAUGHT!! But, Our Guilty Heroine is paralyzed with fright, or something, so does not flee; instead, after catching her breath, peers through the hole AGAIN.

A new woman appears on the scene, chewing gum and packing, or rather unpacking, tools. Judging from her short, bluntcut hair, baseball cap, plaid shirt, suspiciously understated makeup (just a slash of red on the lips), clear oral fixation, forward, aggressive manner, and aptitude with power tools, she is obviously being coded, in time-honored media tradition, as a lumberjack. Maybe Tumnus the Faun needed some landscaping done or something. She turns on the drill, to the apprehensive muttering of the femme'd-out wimminz, and heads, a grinnin' and a chompin', straight for the door, and the plucky l'il voyeur behind it. The hazel eye in the hole widens. Our Heroine hides from the rampaging, encroaching drill by turning around and pressing her back flat against the door. Like you do. Lumberjack Lady, grimacing with effort, penetrates the door with her drill; the tool pierces through the barrier, brushes Our Heroine's sensible skirt and comes perilously close to her tender flesh. After two or three of these brushes with danger, Our Heroine flees in terror. Clearly the reminder of her miserable experience in shop class upset her. She just didn't have what it takes; she is not, in fact, coming back a star, or at all. (Please note the unusual narrative technique of taking the protagonist out of the picture before the end).

But from this melancholy note we come back to the idyllic Paradise, now gloriously restored, of the dressing room, where the scantily clad lovelies will continue to make themselves beautiful, rouge and tightlace each other, whisper and giggle, brush each others' hair, playfully spat with powder puffs and pillows, and daintily lap at each others' airbrushed pink pearls with the tip of their little pink tongues oh what a giveaway; until such time as they are needed to strut and fret upon the stage and give Sammy some goddam chamomile and saltpeter tea.

The End.

--oh, right, I forgot, there's also an annoying little moppet in a tutu that appears before and after the video proper, saying something annoyingly moppety.

Eth NEd.


Now, some people would say that this is a -classic- example of Patriarchy's oppressive standards for women, from start to finish. The little girl with her nauseatingly cutesy Shirley Temple posing and tutu, lisping about "sugar and spice," (already in training); cut immediately to a male fantasy of women's space, what the little girl is being seasoned into: a sexually saturated harem of women struggling to fit themselves into instruments of couture torture in order to become toys, mere objects for mens' delectation, (poundcake is CONSUMED, of course), and generally acting like, well, bimbos. Or your term of choice (bows). The one woman who looks remotely like a Real Woman (tm) is mocked mercilessly for her failure to conform to Patriarchal standards of feminine beauty, both by the token Male Identified Patriarchy Fucker (tm) and the cruel, yet vacant, male-fantasy-conforming girls. The men themselves, of course, are safely out of reach (the fuckers) in the place of power; whatever else happens, -they're- safe. Clearly Our Heroine was right to run as fast as her low-heeled but probably still uncomfortable shoes could carry her. Hopefully, some day, she will find a safe space to be herself.

Now, nothing like this floated, even incoherently, across my consciousness, when first I saw this oeuvre. I -was- incredibly disturbed by the video, yes. But the source of my disturbment wasn't the elaborate beauty rituals, which I'd always adored anyway; nor was it the men yowling on the stage, who were less interesting than dead sea-fruit to me.

No, what struck atavistic, complex terror into my heart was the whole woman spies on beautiful/sexual women undressing, gets caught, publically humiliated, and driven off.

-This- was my primal terror all through junior high and high school; -this- is what sent me fleeing down the corridor, mentally at least. And I don't even mean just in gym class. I mean, like, in algebra or Spanish or pretty much anywhere in public really, when some girl would glare (or so I imagined) at me, perhaps one of the pretty ones, perhaps one of her friends, perhaps just some random girl; and send me into blushing fits for the forseeable -weeks- or -months- every time I saw her or even heard her name. Holy shit! They know! They KNOW.

Oh, sure, I -thought- I was safely invisible, and truthfully, I was. But videos like that, like any number of reminders a thousand times a day, kept me constantly vigilant. Because you never know when some lumberjack with understated makeup might just see right through you and EXPOSE you. Maybe even drag you into the circle of angry women and drill you mercilessly. Demand that you explain yourself. And be punished. Clearly, a FATE WORSE THAN DEATH.

Dip me in honey and poundcake, please don't throw me in that briar patch.

x-posted at Big Queer Blog


Vanessa said...

You and I must be like the same age.

Nice post.

I'd say something pithier, but I kind of think this video is a narrative for every feminist blogwar that ever happened.

Daisy Deadhead said...

Yes, fabulous post. I remember that video so well.

I'd say something pithier, but I kind of think this video is a narrative for every feminist blogwar that ever happened.


antiprincess said...

I know what to serve you for dessert the next time I see you... ;)

I've been out there
Tried a little bit of everything
But it's all sex without love
I found the real thing is poundcake

Homegrown and down-home, yeah that's the one
Still cookin' with that old time, long lost recipe, yeah. Woo!
She's down-home and down-home. Oh, that's my woman

food is love, yo.

now, I wonder if "Poundcake" is the intellectual substrate from which grew the American Pie oeuvre ...

and yeah, the oh my god please don't catch me don't catch me don't catch me catch me catch me CATCH ME thing?

been there. oh wow.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I have nothing directly on-topic to say, but I would like to note that this post provided me with sufficient context to actually decipher the words of that song for the first time.

Tziyonah said...

And here I am on the queer border that is the late nineties/early noughties in high school in New Jersey; nervous about staring at the girls, but not nervous enough to deny it if caught. (Certainly not nervous enough to stop.)

I can look back and understand the fear of being caught, though, especially with every girl around me obsessed with boys...

This post also makes me grateful that my queerness was musically centered through Bernadette Peters and not Sammy Hagar.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, it's not just about the girls. I used to feel this way with both the girls and the boys, mainly because with the former it was "Can they see me thinking about why that hot man wants to be with them instead of me?" and with the latter is was all "Hello, just stand there and fascinate me, ohshitohshitheslookingohmygod".

*sigh* I'm fourteen years old again.

fastlad said...

Wonderful, evocative post BD.

I vividly remember my best friend in high school singing "I would like you on a long black lead/You can bring me all the things I need..."

He was looking at me half vacantly. Moments later we had our first kiss. I will always be grateful to Mark Almond.

Cassandra Says said...

Ah, I've missed you...

Be grateful you didn't go to boarding school. Imagine for a moment having to share a dormitary and showers with all the girls you were worried about being caught gawking at.

Of course there was the one time the super-hot jock girl I was buddies with who I assumed was totally straight caught me checking out her ass in the locker room...and winked at me. Made me feel so much better.

Later on it turned out she actually was straight, but was flattered anyway.