Monday, February 22, 2010
the never ending debate: Unicorns vs. Zombies
This is going to be long... and because I can't find this article anywhere online, I am going to type it out for you, thats how FREAKING DEDICATED I am....
Mallory Bater, that was her name. She was in my American History class in high school, and she sat in the back, her face perpetually half-hidden by a heavy curtain of black hair. Her notebooks were covered in band stickers and inticate drawings that suggested a rich innner life, but she scarcely spoke to anyone- although sometimes I'd see her out at indie rock shows with cute, morose-looking boys and black clad girls who didn't go to our school (or, I suspected, any school). She wasn't one of the rock chicks who smoked behind the detention trailers; nor was she your garden variety goth- she was a class apart; and she was fascinating. And when my 10-year reunion came up, it wasn't any of the homecoming queens I wanted to see... it was Mallory Bates.
What is it about girls like Mallory that makes them stick in our minds so insistently? For me, it was because she was, on the outside, the girl I felt like on the inside: She was unconventional, iconoclastic, thoughtful, and kind of a freak; she was an outsider,a nd proud of it, unafraid to be herself at the very age when the rest of uswere desperately trying to fit in. Characters like her have appeared again and again in films and TV shows and songs, and they're always the ones I identify with most: from sharp-witted, wry smiled, emotionally complex habitual eye-rollers like Margot Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums to Angela Chase in My So Called Life to the darker-minded (and darker-haired), deadpan damsels like Lydia Deetz and Violet Baudelaire from the Lemony Snicket stories. These girls said what they thought, did what they wanted, and more whatever the hell they felt like. They knew that life, a lot of the time, really kinda sucks, and we shouldn't kid ourselves otherwise. They realized so much earlier than the rest of us that the ony way through life is to be true to yourself- and every decision they make, every line they drop, every dress they put on is a testament to that.
It all started, of course, with one 6-year-old Wednesday Addams (middle name,Friday). Her creator, the cartoonist Charles Addams, described her thus: "Child of woe is wane and delicate... sensitive and on the quite side, she loves the picnics and outings to the underground caverns... a solemn child, prim in dress and on the whole, pretty lost... secretive and imaginative, poetic, seems underprivelidged and given to occasional tantrums... has six toes on one foot..." We love Lisa Loring's incarnation of her in the 60's TV show particularly. With her intense inscrutability, her slightly scray willingness to do the wrong thing, her tight, 19th century style plaits and her never changing, impeccable black dresses, shes our ultimate anti-heroine. Whether practising ballet in her black tutu, playing with her pet spider, Homer, or beheading her Marie Antoinette doll, she embodies the strange and contrary girl we love. But there have been plenty who have folloed in her footsteps-if not her wardrobe- since.
Remeber Ally Sheedy's turn as Allison Reynolds in The Breakfeast Club? Who could ever forget her cereal sandwich, her compulsive lying, or the contents of her handbag? For a time in the late 1980's and early 90's, Winona Ryder was the archetype for our alt-girl, with her snow-white skin and pitch-black hair; she was as spectrally peculiar as she was beautiful. As Vernica Sawyer in Heathers, she may have been in with the popular crowd, but she resented her friends and their tiresome focus on superficialities ("I used my grand IQ to figure out what color of lipgloss to wear and how to hit three keggers before curfew," she complains.) As the super-morbid Lydia Deetz, she skulks around dressed exclusively in black (long skirts, veils, and wide-rimmed hats, so her powder pale skin isn't touched by the sun) , uttering perfectly gloomy lines. When her parents offer to build her a darkroom, she says: "My whole life is a darkroom. One big, dark room." She herself acknowledges that she is "strange and unusual," so when she figures out her house is haunted, she isn't afraid, she intrigued. That's the mettle we should all aspire to- and not the sort who stands on a chair and screams when a spider creeps into view.
As Enid Coleslaw in Ghost World Thora Burch instantly added a heroine to our list. In her heavy black glasses, vintage dresses, dyed black hair, and red lipstick, Enid is a sulky wise-ass, a willful underachiever who gets an F in art class even though she's a talented illustrator; but occasionally her heart slips out on her sleeve, and for all her weirdness and intractibility, she's suddenly leagues more likable and compelling than her more conventional best friend. Old, wise, and witty beyond her years, ever though we never see Enid in highschool, we know that she was the cynical, dark girl in the corner who we all either were or wanted to be- the one who was too busy thinking about moving to New York and becoming an artist to worry about whether or not she had a date on Friday night. We can also pretty safely assume that later, she going to grow up to be the kind of women who would rather spend the day at the National History Museum over Harvey Nichols. She'll always be a creative, independent thinker, a person who never follows anyone's lead but her own.
And it's not just on film that these icons exist, there's a long tradition of cartoon lasses too, who glower and sulk and emanate a kind of intelligent, quirky allure. Darria Morgendorffer was just as distinguished by her cool reserve and sarcastic wit (she'd ask questions like, "Is life always this tawdry, stupid, and humiliating? Or is it just a phase?") As much as she was by her monotone voice and never-changing wardrobe: owl-like spectacles, combat boots, a green fatigue jacket, and a mini skirt. She sat in the back during pep rallies; she considered most of her fellow teens to be complete idiots; her favorite TV show was Sick, Sad World. Being the un-collest girl in school made her, by far, the coolest. And how not to love Violet Parr in The Incredibles: an anxious, gloomy heel-dragger who hid behind her long black hair and possessed untold superpowers. She grew more confident as the movie went on and kicked some out-of-control-robot ass, which was great. But when she finally swept her hair off her face, it seemed like something of a letdown- the joy of these characters is that they never should have to compromise for the outside world. If Violet had stayed true to herself, she would have stayed shy and strange and not worried to much about the boy she ends up with.
Nevertheless, her chrysalis stage was wonderful enough to inspire Marc Jacobs- he named her as an influence for his Fall 2005 Ready-to-Wear Collection.
Maybe we love the introspective literary-minded girl because, especially in today's ultra-public "look at me" culture, we never quite know what she's thinking. She never talks to loudly or chirps vaacuously about boys or shopping or diets or manicures. She knows all the lyrics to every single Cure song btu probably can't name anything on mainsteam radio; she's unfettered by convention and banality and boredom. She's clever and curious and will probably go far. She's become a writer or an inventor or a stylist or designer or a painter, and she's far more likely to affect the world than any J.Crew-clad future soccer mom. And that's why, if we ever knew her, we'll always wonder what happened to her.
As for Mallory Bates, I'm sure she's out there doing something enterprising and unusual, because that's the kind of girl she was. She never turned up at my highschool reunion, of course, no doubt she had better things to do.
:) Hope your day is wonderful and full of awesome.
p.s. I can't believe you read all of that. jeesh.
Posted by Abby