Bevin's Blog I'm blogging the relentless pursuit of my joy

2017-03-27

Why Feud: Bette and Joan is One of the Most Fabulous Shows on TV Right Now

Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee and American Horror Story, is back with a new series on FX. Feud: Bette and Joan follows the story of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford while they film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, a horror movie released in 1962. Starring Jessica Lange as Joan and Susan Sarandon as Bette, Feud confronts and explores ageism and sexism in a way I have never seen on TV before and I am LIVING for it. We can learn so much about the effects of body currency by watching this show.

Joan Crawford is obsessed with preventing aging in scene after scene. In the first episode her in-home aesthetician is hustling hard at softening and tightening the skin on her neck while telling Joan there’s nothing to be done about the neck, really. Joan is often staring in the mirror with disappointment, rushing out of the dailies for Baby Jane because she hates how the lighting reflects her visual age. Joan famously said, as is repeated in the show, that twin hazards of fame were alcoholism and loneliness and her alcoholism is very well featured on the show.

Bette Davis is not immune to the sexism and ageism in Hollywood, either. Much like Joan, acting roles were drying up for her because Hollywood studios weren’t producing movies for women their age. This is explained in back story how the two women who were famously feuding came to work on this film together. In the first episode Joan hunts through library books for a story that could be a script with a strong character for her.

OUTFITS. I’m getting so many ideas for my fatshion bucket list for vintage looks to recreate from this show. Especially that dressing gown Joan wears on the set of Baby Jane. This show is my gender.

Joan Crawford’s grief at the aging process is made so much worse by her investment in a system of body currency. This term was coined by Jes Baker of The Militant Baker, and it describes the value placed on certain bodies based on oppressions and privileges. In our society, body size, ability, age, gender presentation, race and a whole slew of other variables receive a certain value. This is why a lot of fat hatred is rooted in fear—if people give up their body currency they will lose some sort of access to privilege, or they are constantly in fear themselves of getting fat and losing their privilege. But we can choose whether we are invested in this system or not, relieving ourselves from that constant source of terror. It’s helpful to remember that the system of body currency is something we are taught to keep us supporting the billion dollar diet and cosmetic industries who exploit the fear they create.

Joan is in agony over her age and her shifting career. I absolutely love that this show is on TV because it shows so beautifully the true cost of investment in this system in the long run and especially later in life (hello, we are all getting older).

I’m obsessed with the set used for Joan Crawford’s house and love the sumptuous colors and saturated pastels and amazing wallpaper and draperies. This is the second aesthetician we see in her in home spa and I wonder if this is to indicate the first woman was fired because she said things Joan didn’t want to hear about the visual affects of aging?

I think a lot about the effects of sexism and ageism on the women I admire. This includes my beloved Grandmother and my idol Dolly Parton. Grandmother cared very deeply about her looks. She was pretty broke in the earlier part of her life, especially as a single mother in the sixties. In those times her beauty was great currency.

She eventually found success as a real estate agent in Beverly Hills, where it’s all image all the time. Aging was hard on her. So was trusting other women. Especially given how many women accused her of sleeping with their husbands before she remarried, simply because she was beautiful and single–“This is what it was like in the sixties, Dear,” as she would say.

I look at Dolly Parton and how she hides more and more of her body, especially her hands. You’ll never see her without something over them. I like to think of it as the “more is more” approach to accessorizing that I prefer, but I always wonder if it is to hide the effects of aging on her hands.

All of Hedda Hopper’s outfits in the show are more is more. I would be such a good mom to that feathery hat.

The men stirring the pot in the feud between Joan and Bette are relying on scarcity and body currency to create the tension between them. It works. Joan and Bette feel like they are fighting over the same few scraps: scripts featuring any roles for older women (few and far between), attention from men, money.

If Joan and Bette divested from body currency, they might be able to be bouyed by one another’s fabulousness. Whenever I’m around other babes who are babing to the max, I feel like more of a babe. I don’t feel overshadowed because I know there’s actually enough light to go around. But Joan and Bette certainly didn’t live like that.

I love that in the telling of the story for the TV show Ryan Murphy uses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Blondell, other actresses of their generation, in documentary interviews about the feud, creating a chorus of women who articulate the experience we see Bette and Joan going through. They talk about how there’s only one “it girl” at a time and how lonely it gets when the roles and attention dry up.

Because Joan Crawford is so invested in the system of body currency she is experiencing multiple, devastating losses. When you divest from the system of body currency, you do not lose when you age. You simply get older and enjoy life more, which ironically, has a pretty amazing effect on you at a cellular level. From what I have learned, the fountain of youth is to not give any fucks about aging.

Ryan Murphy is openly gay so it doesn’t surprise that there’s a great gay subplot.

But you can’t ignore the foundation the patriarchy laid for this feud and there was and still is an actual scarcity of roles for older women actresses. This is where Ryan Murphy is not only doing great social justice work by confronting sexism and ageism in his new series—he is actively interrupting the sexism and ageism by writing a great script for some phenomenal actresses to shine bright. The whole series is sumptuous in its great writing, gorgeous sixties sets, outrageously beautiful clothing and fabulous women actresses. There is even an openly gay character showing what it’s like for gay actors pre-Stonewall.

I lament there is a complete lack of roles for people of color in the series and I definitely think he can do better in that regard. He picks up where Mad Men left off in many ways with the opening credits an homage to the Mad Men opener, attention to vintage detail and casting Kiernan Shipka in the role of B.D. Sherry (Bette’s daughter), whose presence makes you feel like it’s just the next chapter of Sally Draper’s life. In some ways he is using the neural pathways folks already have for Mad Men and other heavy attention to detail vintage series but I wish that more directors working with historical content were willing to use racially revisionist casting reflecting current values the way we see with Hamilton.

So looks like it is a page ripped from Mad Men in the best ways. I miss that show!

Nonetheless, Ryan Murphy’s storytelling is fabulous. Even if you know most of the backstory for the show, the way he tells the story is the real delight. When you get to the end of Episode Four (which aired last night), just note the way he sets up the scene where Joan finds out about the Oscar nominations. It’s absolutely perfect.

Catch-up with Feud on demand as well as online with a cable subscriber login.

2013-02-12

FAT SEX WEEK: My Favorite Places to Buy Plus Size Lingerie

After the success of GAY SEX WEEK on my blog in October 2011, I decided to produce FAT SEX WEEK to celebrate sex for all bodies. This is especially inspired to counteract all of the media about sex around Valentine’s Day that’s all heteronormative/couplehood-oriented/body hegemonic. It’s a week of body liberation and sex and it’s going to be really fun! Check out all of the FAT SEX WEEK magic!

(All the photos in this post are Safe For Work as long as fat girls in lingerie are safe for your work. Fair warning.)

Probably one of the questions I am asked most often by people I don’t know very well, other than legal advice, is about plus size lingerie shopping. I suppose it’s a compliment to my personal shopping prowess and exceptional cleavage enhancement techniques. It’s true, I ADORE lingerie. I wear loungerie to hang out in the house in and to sleep in, I wear fancy lingerie in the bedroom as well as on stage femmeceeing, I often wear vintage lingerie as dresses and shirts. I have the equivalent of a full closet of lingerie. That’s not hyperbole. I believe lingerie is for all times and not just special occasions. It’s like make-up for the bedroom.

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Here’s me in 2008 wearing two pieces of vintage lingerie layered over one another. Vintage lingerie is actually really warm.

I thought for FAT SEX WEEK I would do a round-up of the places that I really like (this list is by no means exhaustive, I could probably do four blog entries about lingerie). I also include a quickie product review of the Milana Bra by Genie!

Torrid is one of my favorite places. They don’t nail it every season, but I usually cruise Torrid’s clearance racks at least once a year and find a couple of gems. I love anything they sell that is called “chemise” and involves a microfiber or nylon/spandex blend, lace panel and/or underwire bust. I have a couple of cute chemises that are extremely comfortable and have lasted years.

Torrid sells online as well as in stores, and you can ask them to hold something in store for you to run and pick up if you’re into going to the mall.

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This piece would be in my wardrobe if I had extra cash right now.

Cacique (the Lane Bryant brand) has been a favorite of mine for years. I worked there in the early aughts and their Plunge bra changed my gender. I still wear them pretty much every day. I like getting their lingerie second-hand via ebay or resale sites because the lingerie (not bras, but lingerie) can be laundered fresh enough like new. If you’re buying directly from Cacique, I suggest shopping near Christmas or Valentine’s day, that’s when the pickings are best, in my opinion. Lots of reds and pinks. Post V-Day clearance is best, honestly. And if you can combine clearance pricing and time it with LB gift check time (the “spend $75 get $25 off” deal) then you just win all over.

Pro tip: wear Cacique pieces as sexy tops out in the world. If you’re down with maximal cleavage it’s a hot look!

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The split-side satin chemise is available now. Super hot and shiny!

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The heart apron babydoll! OMG! So cute!

Size Queen Clothing out of Portland is also a favorite stop for intimates. If I was going to get a super custom made piece I would tap Bertha to design and put it together for me. She’s a GENIUS at spandex and fat bodies, and her pieces are exquisite. All of my Size Queen clothing pieces are treasures.

You can cruise her intimates (“tease wear”) on her website, but honestly, she’s so great to work with I would just chat her up with your vision and go from there. My friend Wyatt Riot got an amazing wrestler costume with a heart cut out for his “chubby” tattoo from Bertha. He wore it to Rebel Cupcake, it was amazing.

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Sadly the punching booth sign covers up the heart but you get the idea of the wrestler outfit. A wrestler onesie is a really great example of genderqueer lingerie!

Big Gals Lingerie is a dangerous place to shop (like, don’t shop there at work) for fat femmes who like other fat femmes. Their product photos are beyond sexy. It’s distracting. But, they go from size 1X-12X. I’ve never bought directly from them but know folks who have and have had great experiences both with “off the rack” pieces and custom made pieces. I’ve tried on their clubwear and lingerie when it came into my old workplace, Re/Dress, and I found the pieces to be good value for the money. They have tons of costumes and various other pieces.

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This pink sequin bustier is only $32!

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If you have a loved one who is recovering from illness or surgery, this nurse costume (up to size 12X) is a great outfit to surprise them with.

In terms of garter belts, I think the best you can get is something vintage style with metal clasps. The plastic ones have broken on me and the garter wearing femmes I know so many times! The metal kind are great because usually if something happens to them they are easy to swap out, but I’ve never known someone who broke the metal kind. There is nothing worse than walking around with a broken garter! Invest in a good piece!

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Rago is my favorite garter belt brand. I have a standard 6 strap belt in black and a full girdle style in white. This version goes from Small to 8X and comes in white, black and beige.

If you want to get some stockings to go with those garters, I buy my costume thigh highs from 3wishes.com. They have a whole section of plus size stockings. I buy the lace top stay up thigh high fishnets, which grab onto the fat at the top of your thigh and stay up that way. I also have their cuban heeled stockings and like them. I once got the black lace top stockings by accident and the sizing was very small on those, so look out for that.

I was given a piece of lingerie to review for my FAT SEX WEEK write-up by the folks at Milana Bra by Genie. It’s basically the same thing as the Genie bra, only with a lace panel in front for “modesty.” I’m the same blogger who earlier in this post suggested you wear lingerie as outerwear so I’m not going to ever buy lingerie for modesty. If that’s your thing, I’m totally cool with it. Despite its marketing towards modesty, there is an incredible amount of awesome in this piece!

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It’s the perfect genderqueer summertime outerwear club piece! I think if you paired it with a pair of vintage 80s dance pants or harem pants and some cool necklaces or a blazer it would be totally amazing. I actually really want to get Jessie Dress in one of these.

I asked for the 3X to try out and I am typically a 3X according to their size chart but it was way too small for me. It’s very boob minimizing, too, if that is your wish. It fit like a sportsbra. I would say go a size up from where they posit you on the size chart. It goes from small to 3X.

Like I said, I have a million more resources for lingerie looks, and hopefully this first helping gave you some places to start! Stay tuned tomorrow for the next installment of FAT SEX WEEK!

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