Friday, January 18, 2008

Just Wondering

Is taste necessarily a normalizing force? 

Last night I watched one of my favorite movies again: American Psycho. For me, it marked the transformation of one of my most adored teen idols, Christian Bale (from Newsies and Little Women), into a (murdering, monstrous, brilliantly acted) man. The whole thing is based on a novel by Bret Easton Ellis, and is meant to satirize a particular cultural moment characterized by professional and personal greed. Decadence is the name of the game, and the film totally skewers the 80s' unabashed material indulgence by turning everything into a soulless pursuit. 

What does this have to do with Cowboy Pants? By some measure, very little. But in other regards...well, let's just say it touched on some of the guilt I harbor for dwelling on what to some may seem like a petty concern: clothes. A particular scene struck a chord with me this viewing, and that is a hilarious moment early in the film in which the businessmen who populate the Wall Street world compare their business cards. Naturally, these business cards are wholly uninteresting and nearly indistinguishable from one another, save for some variation in font, off-whiteness, and any of the thousands of "details" that the cards' manufacturers would have you believe are markers of taste and style. Hardly, right? But how far off is this cutting scene from the actual world of fashion that some people imagine, and very well exists? There are certainly Patrick Batemans in the world, who tan and have a rotating closet of dark suits. Variations on the same thing, trading one luxe marker for another...surely these are to be found in fashion's cities and streets. What do these things service if not empty status? 

Not my fashion. I pray that I'll always remain poor enough not to indulge some of the emptier fantasies of the fashion industry, and instead look at style as a means of real expression, as something in touch with history as well as the future. I guess what I'm wondering about is the status of the term taste. Does it carry connotations of refinement or elitism? Probably both. 

I was surprised to return to the movie and find the iconic Chloë Sevigny. Her part is memorable, but knowing now who she is and what she means for fashion really makes her pop as the secretly smitten secretary who wears boyish clothes and girlish bangs. I'm glad Bateman didn't shoot her in the head. What would Opening Ceremony have without her?

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