Dynamist Blog

From Glamour to Horror

Cross-posted from my new blog, DeepGlamour.net

TheoneIn an astute comment on my post on horror versus humor in McCain's "The One" ad, Jens Fiederer writes, "I don't think horror diminishes glamor, horror is a glamor of its own. Watch some vampire films if you doubt that. If this ad is supposed to evoke horror..., it works WITH the glamor to paint a glamorous arch-villain and encourage those convinced to choose sides."

Jens is absolutely right to that glamour and horror often go together. The original meaning of glamour was, after all, a literal magic spell cast to deceive the viewer into seeing things that weren't there. "When devils, wizards or jugglers deceive the sight, they are said to cast glamour o'er the eyes of the spectator," explained a 1721 glossary of poetry. The word's definition has obviously evolved, but glamour is still an illusion.

He's right, too, to single out vampires as a glamorous archetype. While horror comes in different forms, some decidedly unglamorous (e.g., Alien, Saw), a lot of horror, including vampire tales, depends on glamour: What starts out as beautiful and alluring is revealed to be terrible and life-destroying--and by then it's too late. Witness not only the vampire but the femme fatale, especially in her 19th-century form. Glamour promises escape and transformation; horror replaces escape with entrapment.

Read the rest here.

Sarah Palin & Identity Politics

My Internet friend Leslie Watkins writes:

Well, I don't know if Palin is the reformer some claim her to be or the faux reformer others (notably a rather snarky Andrew) say she is. How can anyone know? What we read about her is like reams and reams of unclean data that won't be sorted out until long after November.

But her candidacy has clarified something for me: when I think about Obama becoming president, I feel good about it, but for one reason and one reason only: he's a black man (sort of) and surface identity being the primary motivator apparently for most people, his election will have very good effects on the populace. (Like Shelby Steele, though, I think it says much more about the utopian hopes of white liberals than the desires of regular black folks.) He may well turn into an exemplary chief executive--I'm certainly willing to give him a go far beyond the honeymoon stage--but there's nothing to base this on except for his speeches, inasmuch as he has absolutely no track record, in Illinois or Washington, of taking unpopular stands or reaching across the aisle. But, hey, hope floats, at least in politics.

Maybe I'm just falling prey to my own identity politics, but I honestly don't think that's it. I like what I see so far because in Palin's candidacy I see a glimmer of hope for citizenship, for regular folks (that is, nonparty stalwarts) handling things again. She may well crash and burn: it is, after all, an American Idol type of candidacy. But maybe, just maybe, her narrative will excite those "ordinary" Americans like me who are tired of the political parties and the coronation atmosphere of presidential elections and maybe, just maybe, be the opening that allows new faces and new ideas to emerge on our philosophically tired political scene.

I'm agnostic on Palin's policy knowledge or executive qualifications--Leslie is right about the "reams and reams of unclean data"--but I do think the rush to condemn her because she's not an Ivy Leaguer or hasn't spent her life in politics demonstrates a shallow definition of merit and a consequent lack of imagination in understanding just why many people find her appealing.

Besides, there's this precedent. [Thanks to Cosmo Wenman for the tip.]

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