If fetish is the objectification of sex then fashion is the objectification of the self. At least it is if you happen to be online.
It used to be that no-one really cared what you were wearing to relax in at home; now there’s a whole hashtag for it. It used to be only models that were credited with the words ‘stylist’s own’; now we’re all at it. This old thing? It’s just a pricelessly rare, vintage Prada backpack I picked up in the slums of Buenos Aires when I was working with the Peace Corps over there... Hang on, I’d better tweet that.
The formation of a self online necessitates the same sort of costume design as a big budget movie, and it begs similar working methods. What sort of clothing suits the persona I want to create? Who do I want to be? What would that person wear? And, most importantly, who do I want to impress? Never why: there is no discussion of impetus or inspiration. Just log on and get that picture or post up there so I can be validated by all and sundry.
What Anna Trevelyan and Grace Ladoja have pastiched in their film is the soft line between objectifying and subjectifying as far as those in the blogging realm are concerned. Theirs is a witty proclamation that all these numerous individuals who claim to have created an identity for themselves online are really part of a homogenous, mutual lump of tropes that can be found in every city, every country, every last corner of the worldwide web.
They’re all the same, from their poses to their Pucci pants and their bedroom backdrops. The turned-in toes, the iPhone clutched above the head, the lip-tugging, the skirt-fretting: the ubiquitous paradigm that the web created from nothing some seven or eight years ago, and which has since eaten itself, burped and gone back for second and third helpings.
How can this be anything other than objectification? Self-publication is as much a stake claimed by a bumptious ego as it is a craven need to be evaluated. It’s like sexting: you don’t do it to get off or please yourself, you do it to be appreciated and let other people know that you should be.
Given that positive and negative reactions rarely occur in equal measure naturally, the rules of the game have altered since we started playing: what begs comment or consideration has been skewed so as to be as appealing as possible. The bias is visible in every hyper-sexual, overtly feminine and unnecessarily skimpy shot.
Where once the desire to create a profile on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, to build a blog that would catalogue one’s inner workings, was driven by some urge to communicate one’s sense of self – to objectify and distil whatever that may be - the discipline has been hoist by its own petard: everything is subjective, and everything comes back to being one of the popular kids.
And so there is the sexy pose, the nearly-nude pose, the logo pose, the completely gratuitous crotch shot, the elaborate mise-en-scene of a backdrop which just happens to codify, by way of décor and design, exactly how cool the rest of your life is.
Trevelyan reaches into the human psyche, like an anatomist plunging into a cadaver, and she lifts out a tangle of, what? Brains? No. Nor Brawn. Just bloggers. Hundreds of them compressed into two minutes worth of delightful caricatures, a synopsis given by tags such as #cybersexy and #whoworeitbetter.
Not, of course, that we who cast our critical eye over these are much better. We, who judge and find fault and click the ‘like’ button, are as embroiled as these teenagers, and are equally responsible for a cult of personality which has precisely zero identity at its swirling centre.
It all comes back to trends, as most things in fashion usually do. But with blogging – as opposed to clothing or music, say – there doesn’t yet seem to be a need for anything new. Rather, the watering down of the original passes for something seminal. Trevelyan and Ladoja see this, and they tackle the subject head on, ending with the ferocious question, ‘What next?’
Working the web is every bit as tough as those who comment scathingly upon the medium. And if you can’t create a unique persona, you’re just a graven idol.