Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Scissor Sisters, 3.3.07, The Theater at Madison Square Garden

by Charlotte Deaver

"It does not go away, this ecstatic possibility. Despite centuries of repression, despite the competing allure of spectacles, festivity keeps bubbling up, and in the most unlikely places."
– Barbara Ehrenreich, from Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

Bodies slam, arms fly, feet hammer the dancefloor, and the stage erupts. Here we are again with the Scissor Sisters, who celebrate pleasure like it's church. This band performs what Ehrenreich describes as "collective joy," where sexual liberation, the body, choice, difference, and ecstasy are expressed not as spectacle, but as communal experiences. Eherenreich offers Burning Man and Greenwich Village's Halloween parade as rare contemporary examples only, I'm sure, because she's never seen the Scissor Sisters.

Both liberating and socially bonding, a Scissor Sisters performance encourages a dialogue with the audience that is political at its most personal. If individual sexual expression remains the #1 taboo topic in America, the Scissor Sisters supply the best revenge for much that's repressive, cruel, and wrong.

Of the two main performers, Ana is, for me, the main focus. She doesn't demand the attention the way Jake does, but I can't keep my eyes off of her. I love her movements, the way she dances, her tranny-trash outfits and wig, and her irreverent sass. She swears. She's nasty. She's "filthy" and "disgusting." And she's gorgeous. And yet I read her also as an archetypal earth-mother, nurturing figure. I could imagine her as the "mama" of a whole brood of outcasts and misfits, like Lilian Gish in "Night of the Hunter," or Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music."

Jake, the real centerpiece, is hyper-enthused. His eyes pop, and he runs out on stage like Richard Simmons preparing his overweight ladies for an aerobics class. On Saturday night at the MSG theater, Jake's comfort level seemed to increase with each item of clothing he took off. Fittingly, the more naked he was, the calmer and less strained he became. A welcome effect.

Ehrenreich acknowledges that her book is motivated by a "sense of loss." In the past few centuries "ecstatic pleasure," she writes, "of the kind once routinely generated by rituals involving dancing, music, and so on," has been just as routinely repressed. If that's the case, the Scissor Sisters, then, are doing more than entertaining — they are performing a public service.


Blogger konflictofinterest said...

"If individual sexual expression remains the #1 taboo topic in America, the Scissor Sisters supply the best revenge for much that's repressive, cruel, and wrong."

And this is exactly why I don't like the Scissor Sisters. Because they're instruments (read: tools) of a revenge that doesn't need to take place.

And sex isn't a taboo topic. Cancer is a taboo topic. Sex is just naughty.

Thanks for your comment back over at my blog. Let's keep doing this.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Charlotte Deaver said...

Nicely put, Konflict!

But I still think their kind of (and others') revenge, their celebratory, sweet, and yes, naughty revenge, needs to take place. Sex is deep, deep in the closet, except in gay culture. And where it's out, it's largely reviled, especially by politicians, who then screw themselves with their hypocrisy when they get busted. Unhealthy repression leads to all kinds of unhappiness, agression, and abuse, and ours is a deeply repressed culture.

Thanks, and yes, let's keep this up.

12:55 PM  

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