How the rebellious strange joy overwhelmed the corporate camp

“I spent a lot of time wishing I wasn’t gay,” Ollie Alexander, lead singer of Years and Years, told fans at the 2019 Glastonbury Festival. “So now I seem to make up for lost time, you know?” Standing in front of a crowd full of colorful flags, with a glittering string vest, the back of which was decorated with the words “queer is beautiful”, Alexander made a touching speech, thanking the generations fighting for his rights. It was a strange, happy character. It is not difficult to understand why members of a wiped out, embarrassed community accept the aesthetics of disrespectful happiness. For some, it’s a resistance movement.

The existence of so-called “queer aesthetics” has been debated for decades. The less consensus there is on what exactly this aesthetic is, the more agreement there is that strangeness is constantly evolving. Right now we see the dominance of the happy peacock horse. The gay-sexual revolution in pop music has been led by Lil Nass X, who dances the devil with a variety of wigs, but the style choices of LGBTQ + musicians such as Janelle Money, Troy Sivan and Rina Savayama are also gaining traction.

Elsewhere, RuPaul’s Drag Race has transformed the art of drag into a major cultural phenomenon. The show has seemed a bit unfocused in recent episodes, however; Netflix’s “Qeer Eye” transformation show is also experiencing a strange joy with its “expert” cast combining design and emotional training to improve people’s lives.

What is the reason for this increasing visibility? It’s wrong with what Alexander said about “making up for lost time” in Glastonbury. After so many years of LGBTQ + people being minimized or their self-expression limited to weird bars, clubs and pride parades, it is a pleasure to take up as much space as possible.

This intensification of the mainstream is also due to capitalism, which places a higher value on the visual manifestations of strangeness. In 2021, artist Brenna Drury and photographer Julia Komita created an exhibition of vintage-style fake beauty ads featuring LGBTQ + models to highlight how brands have marginalized themselves over the past decades. But now that trans author Paris Lis is featured in Pantene commercials, Rihanna’s inclusive Savage X Fenty campaigns are unbelievably weird. YouTube has created a generation of LGBTQ + makeup tycoons like NikkieTutorials. Drag Race is not just a reality show, it is a global brand with conventions, tours and products. And the Queer Eye’s “Top Five” is a team of mega-sponsored influencers with their own product և platforms.

Visual culture codes are also much more widely used. Jockstraps, a sportswear symbolizing American masculinity, first appeared among homosexuals in the pages of Physique Pictorial, a conservative bodybuilding magazine in the 1950s that acted as gay pornography when the distribution of such material was illegal. Homosexuality is now a very common norm, from which brands are happy to make a profit. Lingerie giant Calvin Klein now sells a variety of Pride-themed ribbons, and in 2020 Lady Gaga delighted her gay fans when she released a limited edition Chromatica to promote her album.

Ollie Alexander in Glastonbury 2019

Ollie Alexander in Glastonbury 2019 Photo by Richard Isaac / Rex / Shatterstock

Quir culture is repositioning itself, questioning this new normal. I saw this for myself at the height of the epidemic when the greater Pride celebrations were canceled in London. Instead, I participated in the Black Trans Lives Lives Matter march in the summer of 2020, which was followed by the Trans Pride protest in 2021. There were no unprotected sponsors or branded swimmers. The marches were more angry և, no doubt more protesting than the party, but somehow even happier than the #LoveIsLove pedestrian campaigns. It felt closer to what Pride should have been like in the past.

The anarchist energy of these protests reminded me of Rebel Dykes, a group of bizarre trans women who founded Chain Reaction in London in the 1980s, the S&M Club of the world’s first famous lesbian. The punk aesthetics of the group were interrelated with their politics. They regularly staged demonstrations against the Thatcher government’s AIDS legislation, cuts in public services 28 28 homophobic section legislation, including the invasion of BBC News ելը the invasion of the House of Lords. Rebels Dyke were angry, but there was something joyful about their rejection of gender stereotypes, their pursuit of a life centered on pleasure and freedom.

It was around this time that the New Romanticism, a gender aesthetic embodied by musicians such as Boy George, was in the United Kingdom. Conservative In the 1980s, there was escapism, a perceived sabotage of it. But the movement was later interpreted by some, such as style commentator Peter York, as a tacit acceptance of Thatcherite values, such as individualism and materialism. Re-evaluations of the new romanticism make me wonder how we will perceive the strange policy of joy through Paid Partnership, which is placed on such a pedestal when there is still so much to be politically angry about, such as the cynical attempts of the British government to turn trance into a weapon. problems տ split LGBTQ + people.

Related: “I saw myself in RuPaul.” how Drag Race inspired LGBTQ + Kenyans to find freedom

Boris Johnson’s disgraceful failure to include a ban on trans people’s transgression last weekend took LGBTQ + people to the streets in protest. Just like the popular pride marches of the epidemic, it seemed like fresh air in the deprived lungs. The scenes made me realize that expressions of strangeness are most joyful when combined with that sense of interruption or even anger at the wider world, LGBTQ + culture. And I am not alone. After consulting with the local community, Manchester Pride confirmed that this year’s event will no longer be an expensive pop concert. Instead, as a protest, it will again focus on Pride’s activist roots. Even the Drag Race, which is now the culmination of the representation of the main votes, has to change. Now white women, trans people and even straight men are competing. The judges used to criticize the contestants, who were not innocent women, but now there is a more chaotic, androgynous mess.

As your culture evolves, it will continue to challenge political-visual conventions, including its own relationship to the mainstream. What happens next is unclear. But whatever it looks like, no matter who tries to suffocate it, strange joy will find a way to shine.

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