I have always thought there was something murderous about metrosexuality. Not least because, as Mark Simpson has observed in his latest book, Metrosexy, metrosexuality can be seen to mark the beginning of the death of sexuality (and even gender difference) altogether:
“Contrary to what you have been told,” says Simpson, “metrosexuality is not about flip-flops and facials, ‘man-bags’ or ‘manscara’. Or about men becoming ‘girlie’ or ‘gay’. It’s about men becoming everything. To themselves. In much the way that women have been for some time. It’s the end of the sexual division of bathroom and bedroom labour. It’s the end of sexuality as we’ve known it.”
Once the categories of ‘gay’, ‘straight’ and even ‘man’ and ‘woman’ that we have relied on so heavily up till now, to anchor us to our senses of self, have dissolved completely, what will be left of us? Of humans? The signs of the impending zombie apocalypse that will be the ‘post-sexual, post-human’ world, are already starting to appear. From Lady Gaga’s mannequin/robot/monster performances, to models playing dead on photo shoots with increasing frequency, to famous fictional metrosexual murderers such as Patrick Bateman, to hyper-real vampire tales like True Blood, to pornography as deathly nihilism in the form of The Black Spark, we can see The End Times staring us square in the face. But at least Armageddon looks so very pretty.
Then there’s Anders Breivik. He is not a fashion model or an actor, or a porn star. He is not very pretty either. Breivik is a non-descript youngish man from Norway, who has just murdered approximately 80 of his co-patriots in cold blood. Suddenly this is real. What links Breivik to the ‘metrosexual murderer’ of my nightmares? The evidence of their similarities is compelling. Metrosexuality, men’s desire to be desired (within consumer culture), has taken the latent narcissism that exists in all humans, to its logical, mediated, flagrantly self-regarding conclusion. So, when we learn that Breivik refused to have a mugshot taken on his arrest and incarceration, because he didn’t want to ruin the ‘look’ he had so carefully constructed via a portfolio of self-portrait photos, that he included in his ‘manifesto’, are we really surprised? The fact that Breivik demands, when out of his cell and anywhere near the public eye (and its cameras), to be dressed in a bright red Lacoste jumper, seems almost normal to me. Almost sensible. If I found that Lacoste had a sponsorship deal with all up and coming mass murderers, I don’t think I’d even be shocked.
However, the media, who always needs to find a pathology or a conspiracy theory to explain random acts of violence, has latched onto Breivik’s blatant narcissism and suggested it is part of his ‘sickness’. As The Telegraph reports:
‘A narcissist and a fantasist, Breivik, 32, refuses to have his prison “mugshot” taken to ensure that the carefully stage-managed photographs he took of himself – in full Masonic regalia or clutching his rifle – are not replaced by more humbling images.’
This observation, whilst interesting, says nothing to me about narcissism as a mental illness that may lead to a killing spree. Even the powers that be in the world of psychiatry have bowed to reality and are removing ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder’ from the DSM, the psychiatrists’ own huge ‘manifesto’, as I write. Because nowadays, far from being a sign of illness, narcissism is presented in our culture as a signifier of a ‘healthy’ individual. If Breivik didn’t display vanity and narcissism it would be a lot more noteworthy.
I am reminded here of when I first heard the name Julian Assange, when he was under the spotlight due to accusations of sexual assault. I clicked on the Wikileaks website for the first time ever, and I was met by a glossy, large, full-frontal image of Assange’s perfectly turned out face staring back at me. Narcissism is not an explanation for the violence Breivik commited. If it were, we would all be quaking in our beds at night (rather than just me), as this world is full to bursting with narcissistic, especially young, men. Maybe Breivik’s narcissism is just unfettered and not kept within ‘healthy’ limits, due to other aspects of his life/background/mental health. But even then, ‘healthy’ limits of narcissism seem to be pretty expansive. Bono is ‘healthy’ but Breivik is ‘narcissistic’…
Even the fact that has recently emerged, that Breivik had plastic surgery, apparently, to make him look ‘more Aryan’ does not really surprise me or make me think ‘ah, that explains it!’ Metrosexual masculinity is becoming increasingly bland, uniform and commodified. Look at the ‘actors’ on shows like Jersey Shore and Geordie Shore for example. Tits, abs, tans, they all look almost exactly the same to me. And you don’t get whole armies of indentikit tits and absified men without a bit of assistance.
‘Body Fascism’ is a complex and controversial subject. I know that Nazi Germany was very ‘body fascist’, especially with regards to young men. I also know that when I speak out about my underlying hunches about links between ‘body fascism’ and actual Fascism, that people seem ready to lock me up, declare me insane, and throw away the key. But, I find it impossible not to make links between totalitarian, racist, body-conscious regimes and rows and rows of white boys with perfect torsos*. These images haunt me. And I think we ignore our own sense of ‘haunting’ at our peril. I don’t think Breivik’s ‘body fascism’ and his ‘fascism’ are what made him kill though. If they were, again, we’d all be running scared, as the world is full of both racism and gym bunnies. It is an echo though, of something…
Another interesting aspect of Breivik’s murderous metrosexuality, is his denial and hatred of the femininity and blurring of gender identities that is such an important part of metrosexuality. The metrosexuality that he himself demonstrates so clearly. According to his mammoth manifesto, he believes:
‘The “feminisation of European culture” has been underway since the 1830s, and by now, men have been reduced to an “emasculate[d] … touchy-feely subspecies”.’
This could be seen as a display of ‘masculinism’, a nostalgic wish for a time when men were men, and women were women, and everyone knew their place. As I suggested in my recent article for The Good Men Project:
‘I think that the whole notion that once upon a time, life was all Me, Tarzan; You, Jane, is completely wrong in the first place. And what [the author of the piece I am responding to] really means is: how can men demonstrate their full, red-blooded heterosexual masculinity, in this age where gender roles and identities, (and sexual roles and identities) are becoming increasingly blurred and fluid? As Mark Simpson said, “metrosexuality,” men’s desire to be desired within consumer culture, has changed all the rules about what makes a man, a man. And, for some, the “feminine” aspects of metrosexual men, who love to look good and scrub up and wear nice clothes just like women do, is a bit too much to take’
But I think we could be reading too much into Breivik’s ‘metrosexual denial’. When Mark Simpson first heard of Breivik’s vanity and body-consciousness he tweeted:
‘If true he wouldn’t be the first metrosexual in poisonous denial. But certainly one of the most deadly cases.’
As Simpson and I have both written about, the ‘denial’ of metrosexuality is very common amongst men, and so to suggest it is ‘poisonous’ and ‘deadly’ seems a bit extreme to me. It also reminds me of how traditionally in culture, ‘homosexual denial’ has been suggested as a cause of murder. Films such as Rope, American Beauty and Capote, all had characters who had hidden homosexual tendencies, who committed murder. Indeed, one journalist pointed out that ‘Breivik appears never to have had a girlfriend worth mentioning’. As if that is a ‘clue’ in the mystery.
But as Simpson’s work has also shown, ‘repressed’ homosexual tendencies amongst men are just as common as ‘metrosexual denial’ in our culture, and are actually indeed linked (the attempt at rejection of the ‘feminine’ is pertinent to both) and so can’t explain why somebody is moved to kill. And yet, like the narcissism and the body fascism, this denial hangs over the Brievik case like a shadow…
Feminists – ah, feminists! – have decided to portray Brievik as a traditional mysoginistic murderer. They have read his manifesto- with some relish it seems- and decided he demonstrates ‘chilling anti-feminism’.
Well, I am as devout an anti-feminist as Brevik, maybe even more so! I have been accused by feminists of being ‘sick’, ‘vile’, an ‘uncle Tom’, a ‘colluder’ and ‘an enemy at the gates’. But, I have not killed anyone, and I have not been diagnosed as insane or a danger to myself or others.Anti-feminism, dear ladies, is NOT A CRIME. It is not chilling and it is not a sign of mental illness! The fact it is portrayed as such, in a major national UK newspaper, says a lot to me about the state of feminist-influenced politics and gender politics today. Indeed, Norway and Scandanavia as a whole, as Julian Assange knows all too well, are as feminist as they come. So anti-feminism is bound to exist in those places, maybe even more than here in the UK. And, it could be argued that feminism itself is ‘chilling’ in its misandry. With writers like Bidisha seeming to write their own ‘manifestos’ of hatred and violence:
‘I want a 3D glow-in-the-dark dodecahedron, a planet-sized Matrix of Misogyny, a Trillion-Faceted Dynamo of Jet Black Turbo Hate. Then I’d heave it aloft and hurl it into the sun, where it would set off a massive chain reaction and shoot out sky-scraping beams of feminist rage which kill anyone, male or female, who’s ever used those words, wiping out (I’d say) 90% of human society, but leaving the non-woman-haters behind.’
It is natural to want to find reasons for heinous crimes. I think there are probably some reasons for Breivik’s seemingly irrational actions. But I don’t think they can be found by analysing every dot and comma of his manifesto, or comparing that with his method of metrosexual self-presentation. If there are reasons, I think they lie in yes, his mental state, but also in the complex web of our cultural norms, our socio-economic conditions, our alienation in the contemporary world (which is a metrosexual world). And, maybe in the plain fact of life, that one of the things that human beings do is kill each other. The media coverage of Breivik has uncovered some interesting aspects of our culture, that I think are worth examining a little closer though.
I have that tune running through my head: Metro Killer- Quest-ce que c’est? Fa fa fa fa fa fa – Fa fa fa fa fa fa…
* The models in the Abercrombie video are not in fact all white. Maybe this is a sign of hope…