Thursday, 12 January 2012

Pastels? Pastels??? Plus some thoughts on the Thatcher film

A mixed bag of a post this (or should I say handbag) but there it is: the time is short, the churn of impressions and ideas quite incessant, the discipline to take careful notes and write thoughtfully later instead of watching some trash on TV, frankly, non-existent.

So, back to the first matter at hand - faithful readers of this two months old blog, all 13 of them, will know I'm one for the occasional bout of verbal joshing against the vagaries of fashion. Which might seem odd to some because, just like in the matter of having children, there is no actual gun to any woman's head forcing her to take a blind bit of notice on what Vogue says "we are loving" this week.  
On the other hand the magic market fairy which should provide us with all this choice, freedom and opportunity to express ourselves, live life to the max etc works in such a clunky, self-serving, unidirectional, almost Soviet way that you can be sure if Vogue was featuring the ghastly pastel haute couture gracing the catwalks some 6 months ago for Spring 2012 this edict will by now have trickled down, via steadily more downmarket mags, newspaper supplements and so on, to the steadily more downmarket but still strictly on-message designers and retailers.
So that you eventually reach a point when you cannot walk into M&S, John Lewis or whatever store you consider to be suitable shorthand for "the death of style" and avoid buying something pastel-coloured if you wish to wear any clothes this spring.
Why? I mean, why?
At a more general level, why is it that the richer and more sophisticated our societies and economies become the less actual choice about anything do consumers actually seem to have, just acres more versions  of the same kind of thing (in other words no genuine choice at all)?
Last winter my sister wrote amusingly in her Italian blog (what a multilingual family we are)  about Her Struggle to find a pair of dark brown, low heeled boots. No such boots in such a shade were on offer in any of Genoa's shoe-shops on accounts of the fact that boots were meant to be black with a medium heel last winter, end of. A city of 700.000 people could not accommodate the (hardly extravagant it seems to me) preference for the colour brown.
Secondly and more pointedly: why, dear god, oh why, does it have to be pastels this spring? I accept a person might look good in a particular shade of light green, say. Say it goes with her hair colour. But who, over the age of 7, looks good in baby pink or in "pastels" in general? The whole pastels aesthetic is wrong in the grown up woman. Nothing else goes with pastels, no other colour for starters but also shall I put this... job title or pay-cheque worth having.
Now about the Thatcher film :
She is portrayed as having made it to the top propelled by nothing more than extreme parsimony and a gigantic chip on her shoulder (if you could bottle that you'd be looking at green fuel indeed) as well as psychotic (i.e. male) levels of ambitions, of course.

Carol's portrayal, as well-meaning, visually brash but pathetic non-entity, the un-favourite twin, was very sympathetic I thought, and oddly moving.
The only other women featured in the film were tea ladies, seamstresses and Downing St cleaners, a silent, purely visual reminder of how she was so unique that she changed precisely nothing as far as gender was concerned.

In the bonkers phase of her leadership she is seen berating her cabinet for not having the courage to go the whole nine yards with the (clearly regressive) poll tax. It's because they were all privileged toffs, ashamed of the privileges they enjoyed, she argued, while someone from her background didn't feel she had to be apologetic about her success and compassionate about others' failures. She also berated them for being too concerned about popularity, opinion polls and essentially re-election to do the “right thing”.
Now look around today's millionaires' cabinet and tell me whether you can spot either:
A)     a grocer's daughter or
B)      any sense of shame/embarrassment about all that privilege and corresponding compassion for the less well off.
On the other hand the current PM is certainly a master of the U turn and British politics as a whole has been run on focus groups since the early New Labour days. Progress or what???

That said, there was precious little actual politics in the film - in the end it was less about ideas and ideological conflict  and more about one’s failings as a human being through the time honoured method of being cruel/selfish towards those who love you/closest to you.
The scenes with Dead Denis,  so cheerful, so comforting (until he switches to tormentor as she comes to fear the allucinations as a symptom of incipient madness) brought tears to my eyes and made me long for my husband. He's very much alive, and had simply stayed home sulking as he “did not want to see the Thatcher film”. He spent the evening slaying orcs instead.
I tried, but I really cannot think of a funny or clever way to bring this back to pastels. It’s two in the morning, I’m going to bed. I need the full four hours as I intend to take back the Faulklands purchase a pale yellow sweater tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo!
    Pastels are simultaneously infantilising and aging, which is actually quite hard to pull off.