26 January, 2011

Mod Mirage

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those only of the author and may only coincidentally reflect those of Mystic Metals, its employees, or associates. All responses should be posted as comments here, or mailed directly to the author, A. Robert Basile, at ihatebasile@gmail.com. Mail sent directly to Mystic Metals will not be read.

Mod Mirage


I found a website that sells drivers’ education scare movies. Guess what I’m spending my next paycheck on. I remember in high school we would watch all of those drunk driving scare movies right before prom. They were fantastic, poorly acted, dated as hell, and fantastic; did I say fantastic already? I’m going to spend way too much money on scare movies, and it’s going to be the greatest day of my life.

Let me preface anything I’m about to say by saying that my opinion doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. I’m an observer, someone who looks on the goings on around me and makes an assessment. I’m a cranky dirtbag from Jerz who has found a forum. With all that said, thanks to all you cats and kittens who have been reading me. Last week, I hit 4600 reads on the blog since we moved it here to Blogspot. Thanks, kids. I mean that fervently. Maybe I should have waited to say something until 5000 reads. 4600 is kind of a weird number to be excited about. Man, I’m an idiot.

Since I’m an observer, I’m going to make an observation. To be fair, it’s not really my observation. I’ve been getting asked by many different people quite a bit about this thing that’s happening, so I’ll talk about it. (To be fair, Izzy mentioned it to me first, so here’s your name, Isz.) What’s the thing that’s happening? Fake body jewelry sold by Hot Topic.

Now before we all knee-jerk at the idea that Hot Topic is a poser store and it just capitalizes on what’s trendy, let’s be smart for a moment and look at the name of the place. It’s called Hot Topic. It’s the hot topic, which is an idiom for what’s fresh and new and trendy. It’s not like they’re hiding the fact that they are exploiting trends. Full disclosure, I used to work at a Hot Topic, and man, we sold the dumbest shit. I was also the only dude that worked there for a long time, and all the broads had their ‘time’ at the same time, and one of them was pregnant. Some days I cried on my way to work. So let’s not crucify Hot Topic straight off. Besides, where else am I supposed to get Megadeth shirts in a mall full of clothing stores that look like restaurants?

Back to the point. Hot Topic is selling new, fake body jewelry with the hook, “No pain, all gain.” To be fair, I haven’t actually seen these pieces of jewelry, so I don’t know how exactly they work. I don’t know if they’re magnetic or magical or if they stay on your skin by wishing really hard. My first reaction was pretty simple. I don’t really care. It’s something for tweeners to spend their not earned money on instead of jelly bracelets and My Chemical Romance posters. Everyone plays dress up once in a while, don’t they. We dress a certain way when we go on a date, maybe wear something we don’t often. We shave for formal gatherings, we look like whores when we go to ‘da club.’ We play dress up. Why would we be so adverse to people playing dress up with our culture? Should we be so covetous of our behavior that something like a pretend septum ring is offensive? Part of me anticipates that in the year four thousand, all of the fake jewelry Hot Topic is selling will be piled in a box in the corner of the closet with the bellbottom jeans, hemp necklaces, leg warmers, and jelly shoes (and with a little luck, those rubber rain boots). Culture is a something that ought to be co-opted, to a certain degree. Whites co-opting black culture, Americans co-opting eastern culture, Japanese kids going crazy for British heavy metal. That’s what people do; they find elements of different and sometimes alien cultures and take what they enjoy from it. Is that a terrible thing?

Another part of me thinks that maybe we ought to be more protective of our culture. Our beautification through modification is a something that most of us in the culture hold very closely to the vest. It is a something that can be spiritual to some of us. It’s much more than a hobby or a weekend modder behavior. The pain of modification is a thing that is important to me. Not because I’m a sadist, but because it is a part of the experience. The end result is a byproduct of the entire happening. Walking into the shop, talking to your artist, smelling the A&D ointment, hearing the gloves snap, breathing and closing your eyes before the needle beautifies your skin. And then there’s jewelry at the end. Like the cake in “Portal.” If you got that joke, you’re just as much of a geek as I am. Nerd. There’s a certain pride in the process, isn’t there. There’s a certain pride and satisfaction that everyone, modded or not, knows that nipple piercings hurt; and you have your nipples done, don’t you. There’s pride there that you experienced that. We all know that tattoos near the elbow and knee hurt. There’s a satisfaction in having experienced that, isn’t there. It’s all part of the experience of being modified. The end result is a reminder of the process. And yeah, the jewelry is cool too, but that is only one layer of it. We seem to live in a society that dwells chiefly on getting to the end and not wanting to witness or experience the path to get there. We want to own the company, but we don’t want to mop the floors. We want to wake up next to the girl, but we don’t want to go on the first date. We want stretched lobes, but we don’t want to go through the process of stretching.

I think, primarily, I still don’t really care about the new, fake jewelry at Hot Topic. There are bigger things to worry about than if kids are pretending to have nostril piercings. At least, there ought to be. There are dangers, though. One danger is that a kid, an underaged and under-educated idiot kid will use the fake jewelry experience to take the initiative to self modify. We all know how I feel about that. We also have to take care in the culture to be assured that we are properly represented. A thirteen year old with a fake Monroe doesn’t help us, and it probably damns us in the eyes of the unmodified majority. On the other side of the same coin, we have to also take care to not create an isolationism in our beauty. We should invite others to be a part of our beautiful culture. We’re not a secret, treehouse club with no room for new people. There are online communities (whom I won’t name) that very much create an ‘us versus them’ scenario. If you’re not modified, you’re not whatever. This doesn’t help our culture either. At the end of the day, we are doing two things. We are beautifying what is already beautiful, and we are co-opting thousands of years of human behavior. To be so covetous of our practice of modification seems a bit unreasonable when we think about how we arrived at those practices. We didn’t make up lobe stretching, kids, and no one you know did either.

What we do is participate in a human beauty. That’s not a bad thing. The bad thing happens when people lose respect for the practices and behaviors that help define our comfort and beauty. Some kid wants to pretend he has his septum pierced? Whatever. I know mine is real, and at the end of the day, it’s not a competition. If it were a competition, though, I have inch and an eighth lobes; let’s see some tweener fake that. Stay beautiful, kids.

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1 comment:

  1. This non-Thursday thing is really throwing me off. So is your new look for that matter. Ummm I agree, there are more important things. This isn't new. I remember back in my day we used paperclips or mom's over-sized earrings to make it appear we had our ears pierced. Hell, I made a retainer out of a paperclip because I thought it was cool to have one...that is, until I really had to have one. Kids are dumb, they have this crazy need to either clone themselves to fit in completely or go out of their way to stand out, pushing the envelope. I would much rather them play pretend than do something in the moment that will affect them their entire life.

    I sincerely apologize for the "time" at the same time. Horrific!