This shot by Steven Klein of Linda Evangelista for W magazines September 2012 issue, captured a very dark vision of beauty that seemed to define an angst in America.
I called this post 'White Flight to Disturbia' as the styling of this shoot is set in the early 1970's suburbia. The interior is iconic. The football trophies of sons who remain out of sight. The sculpture of the saint with the baby Jesus on the old fashioned television set affirm the Christian values at the heart of this family. The house wife, the home keeper, should be in heaven. Is this not what all women want?. The old off white phone. The net curtains, the putrid colors that denote the safety , the homoegenous ideal of suburbia.
This period heralded the white flight from the urban landscape to the suburbs where visions of everyone looking the same, having the same values, doing and thinking the same things was considered to be the new idea of heaven. 1972 brought with it Nixon's landslide victory.The following year Roe vs Wade was fought . Society was changing and the suburbs were havens from that unrest, racial diversification, violence drugs, gays and communists.
This brings me back to this image. The 'House wife' as suburban superhero, which is ironic in that her power in this conext of her actual life is a fantasy. But , imagining you are a super hero is an escape into a fantasy from an otherwise boringly normal life. However, if suburbia was so ideal, something to escape to, why would one need to escape it?.
Her body is a plastic sex blow up doll, that says a lot about how society views the ideal woman, and the pressures to fit that collective cultural ideal. Eternally young and not unique- Plastic. The icons of Faith and family seem to not satisfy this woman. She is alone with visions of escape and fetishised power, whose deviance emerges under rigid social constraints. The fabrics of the garments are less about Parisian couture and more about kinky dominatrix clothes: Latex, neoprene and the like.
What does she need to protect herself from in suburbia with her ray gun ?. The neighbors who live in homes exactly like hers, next door ?. After escaping all those suspicious types in the urban jungle surely the fear and paranoia in 'heaven' would end, apparently not. This we know to be true with fear mongering amongst the Far Right in American politics and media. They peddle fear to sell guns. The blow up doll body and the superhero fetish an impossible standard to maintain, that can lead to a sense of failure for not living up to that which was never real.
This angst pervaded the fashion photography last year. This is only one example, but the feeling of frustrated personal freedom that deviates in secret from the rigidity of conforming to social norms to succeed on the narrow terms of American society is not yielding much evidence of personnel fulfillment, nor a rewarding pursuit of happiness and the American Dream..
There is no answer to the the thoughts and questions this trend in fashion photography evokes. Am not looking for one. Rather pondering the proliferation of such imagery. This last shot is intriguing to me. The portrait of Jesus, the picture of a baby framed.The saint with baby Jesus sculpture.The Sons football trophies and the fire place, the warmth and heart of this suburban white middle class family. And what is Mother doing? escaping into fantasy where cat woman, her inner super hero, seeks freedom from disturbia. She seems to dream of taking flight from her own hell on earth.
Be careful what you wish for....