Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bird Is The Weird

No one ever aspires to grow up to be weird. Remember the seventh grade? Fitting in felt life-or-death, like we all needed to master safe ways of doing our hair, of dressing, of interacting with our friends and foes and teachers. I was fettered with unforgivable sins: I was more comfortable with adults than I was with kids my own age (not so mysterious, since twelve-year-old girls are second only to wild dogs in their viciousness); I was smart; I was an early and awkward bloomer. Weird, which is what I was, was disastrous. Weird was unforgivable. Weird was decidedly not good.

No one admits to being the popular kid in middle and high school; comparing notes, we were all huge dorks with tragic glasses and unsettling orthodontia. (Which is a total lie. Some of you were cool - some of you had to be cool. I was very uncool - eating-alone-in-the-lunchroom-uncool, to be specific. Even the religious South African twins in the frumpy long dresses were cooler than I was, because they had an interesting accent.) By our own telling, we were all freaks and geeks, losers, with some humiliating incident from the school bus/lunchroom/playground/locker room that haunted us, maybe even to this day.

But now, weird has turned into something kind of...desirable. Especially in the creative realm, weird consistently has more street cred than the forgettable top-40 pap that's piped in around us like foam. Bjork, for example, whose mid-90s oeuvre still stands up as a solid, interesting collection of songs, and whose more recent releases, what with the vocal chicanery and the electrobeats backing her signature shriek-and-release voice, are challenging without being alienating. I'll admit to not really understanding Bjork's appeal, since I find her voice startling. And, yes, weird. But I also like Bjork very much, because she gets into airport fights and once inspired a fashion-spread caption that was basically a transcription of her description of the clothes: "Dees blouse is a hoppy yerrlooow," which I just love. Plus, one of the greatest emotional releases when you're feeling sad is to rent her film-acting debut Dancer In The Dark and just sob throughout. I swear to god I pulled a muscle crying at that movie.

Sometimes the weird is just too much. I like The Knife a lot, but their latest release is a head-scratcher. Inspired by Charles Darwin's writings, Tomorrow, In A Year is the sort of electronic album that is long stretches of empty headphones, interspersed with some opera and some random-seeming bleeps and bloops. I'll freely admit to not getting it.

But when the perfect weirdo balance is struck, it's a delightful thing. Exhibit A: Tilda Swinton, the British actress known equally for her inexplicable fashion choices as she is for her film choices, and who lives with both the father of her children and her much-younger boyfriend. I am fascinated by her. I love the makeup of her household. I love that she can flip between blockbuster Hollywood flicks and strange little indies. I love that her look seems equally inspired by German Expressionist films and HR Giger. She seems like an intergalactic ambassador who would be totally comfortable preparing a rabbit stew.

Weird isn't precious. To be a weird woman, you need to be aware of, and in control of, your sensuality. Obviously, it doesn't need to be used, but ignoring sex altogether isn't a weirdo move, it's just sort of sad and damaged. Same with crazy; weird isn't crazy. Even at her most bipolar, Britney wasn't weird. She wasn't harnessing her rage and insanity and turning it into creative expressions; she was threatening photographers with umbrellas. Unstable doesn't equal weird. She needed some professional help.

When you're a woman, you're supposed to be pretty. But when you're not blessed with starlet-y looks, or you're not interested in shoehorning your face and body into someone else's standards, or you're more interested in seeing what your brain or your voice or your talents can do, then you have to come to terms with your particular weirdness. Women in the entertainment industry who choose not to play the looks game are, to be blunt, weird. They're unusual, and sadly, sort of scarce, but when the gamble pays off, when their weirdness is balanced by their prodigious talent, it's a great thing to behold. It gives the rest of us weirdos some hope.

1 comment:

  1. And you're gorgeous on all counts.......

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