Lip Up Fatty – The Impossibility of the Macho Male Pop Star

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Masculinities, Metrosexual Murderers
Tags: , ,

I am writing about how the metrosexual murdered subculture. In addition to the narcissism and the consumerism and the ‘neo liberal individual’, that caused the ‘radicalism’ of subcultures to fade away,  I am trying to articulate something about how subcultures e.g. Punk, Mods Skinheads drew on a ‘retrosexual’ model of ‘traditional’ machismo but they could not sustain it. This was due to metrosexuality emerging, in part through the homoerotics of pop music and its imagery and the way male fans and male stars became such obviously commodified objects of desire.  Also subcultures could not maintain their ‘macho’ cohesion due to the homosocial/homosexual dynamics of all male or male-dominated groups.  The army is rare in that its ‘homoscial’ environment is strictly regulated, and occurs under the shadow of war. Male subculture groups were more anarchic and as we now know, have dissolved and disappeared for the reasons I have just listed.

I hope I am on the right lines. I am using this quote from Mark Simpson’s Male Impersonators:

‘Eventually of course, they stabilise (eg Heavy Metal) but that is also the moment when they go out of fashion- i.e. lose their power over (hip) young people. To be effective rock and roll has to appeal to the ‘kids’ desperation to escape the mortifying squareness of heterosexism, a route out of the crushing sex/gender Scylla and Charybdis* that await them on their voyage into adulthood.’ (Simpson 1994: 207)

This great quote made me think not only of the ‘mortifying squareness’ of heterosexual adulthood that I feared and resisted as a teen – and that I still do, but also of just how camp some of those macho pop stars and subculture heroes were. Buster Bloodvessel the rotund Ska singer, looks like a cross between Matt Lucas and Fred off Coronation Street!

My favourite punk pop star who really showed us that ‘traditional masculinity’ had no place in pop music or youth subcultures, is possibly David Bowie. And Simpson writes about him beautifully in Male Impersonators too. You know, Hugh Laurie can stick his L’oreal moisturiser up his tight retrosexual ‘clearly heterosexual’ ass. I am sticking with the beautiful things of ambiguous gender and sexual identity.

(*aka ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’)

  1. marc2020 says:

    Usually not my style to leave 2 quotes in one day (Its entirely your fault by the way, stop writing awesome stuff) but I must say “‘mortifying squareness’ of heterosexual adulthood” is something I’m going to try and work into my everyday speech from now on because its so fucking true.

    • It’s an honour to have your comments!

      It is so fucking true isn’t it. What’s more the man who wrote it is gay so he never even had to deal with that mortifying squareness (except for its treatment of him as a homo- which is not exactly delightful). But I think Simpson is a unique writer as he takes that ‘outsider’ looking in perspective on heterosexual life.

  2. redpesto says:

    QRG: “Punk, Mods Skinheads drew on a ‘retrosexual’ model of ‘traditional’ machismo but they could not sustain it. This was due to metrosexuality emerging,”

    Mods, ‘Retrosexual?’ With all those Italian suits and scooters? This runs the risk of reading the subcultures of the past in terms of the present (if ‘retrosexual’ is a 90s/00s term, used in relation to ‘metrosexual’, how can it be applied to a 1960s subculture when it was brand new?). Secondly, where’s the ‘metrosexy Other’ to Mods for them to be ‘retro’?

    Buster Bloodvessel the rotund Ska singer, looks like a cross between Matt Lucas and Fred off Coronation Street

    …or the kind of skinhead you’d normally cross the street to avoid in the 70s/80s. The shift in skinhead culture from ‘left’ (ska music) to ‘right’ (NF/BNP) and perhaps back again (Two Tone) is a PhD thesis in itself – and that’s before we get into the phenomenon of gay skinheads (which I think you’ve covered before). See also Shane Meadows’ This Is England.

    I’m with you on Bowie though – but where does that leave Bolan and Glam Rock? Or perhaps even Sparks?

    • Hi Redpesto – I put ‘retrosexual’ in brackets as I know it is a problematic, contemporary term.
      You can leave it out and the sentence still stands – the subcultures of the 60s/70s/80s did draw on machismo.

      Like I said in the post below about Spain and machismo – the ‘matador’ is a macho image despite the fact matadors look like gay ballroom dancers! That is what machismo is -high camp!

      See Mark Simpson:

      Bolan and Bowie and Sparks are all brilliant examples of ‘the impossibility of the macho male pop star’. I just picked Bowie as he does it for me, as a performer.

  3. P.s. ‘retrosexual’ does not in my use of the term represent actual people. It represents an attempt to deny the passive, ‘feminine’ aspects of commodified masculinities. It is its own ‘other’

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