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Tuesday , December 14, 2010
Style Icon: Geri Halliwell at the 1997 BRIT Awards
Isn't it sort of sweet how uncomfortable I look in that picture? I took it about twenty-five times, then came to the conclusion that I am not Ginger Spice. I'm a sulky Canadian.
Here are some words that begin with "self":
selfish; selfless; self-absorbed; self-loathing; self-assured; self-defeating; self-destructive; self-effacing; self-indulgent; self-aggrandizing; self-involved; self-righteous.
I really like all those words. They're useful. Everybody is at least three of them*, except for Geri Halliwell. She is only one of them, but she is so much that one of them that it is equivalent to a normal person being all of them.
Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell is "self-indulgent." And oh God- how I love her for it.
PART ONE: THE JOHN LENNON OF THE SPICE GIRLS
The Spice Girls hit when I was eleven years old; it could not have been more impeccably timed. I was the exact perfect age for the Spice Girls to maximally impact my development. My chakras were wide open to ingesting their legendary mantras of "Girl Power" and Zig-a-Zig-ahh-ing and spicing up people's lives.
I will NEVER not be grateful for that.
"Girl Power" worked on me. I believed in it so hard. I doodled it in notebooks, I scrawled it on my hand in ballpoint. I also said it. I screamed it, in fact. I screamed it a lot. I screamed it every chance I got.
"Girl Power" provided me with a sense of belonging and identity outside of myself. It positioned me culturally and ideologically; it gave me a stance. When Spice World hit theaters, the People magazine review named Ginger the "John Lennon of the Spice Girls," which meant a lot to me. At eleven, all this Lennon Love you see today was squirming inside of me, nascent, waiting impatiently to be set free. Geri Halliwell being deemed Lennon-esque was important, though I didn't know why. I just knew it all made sense, that they were both parts of my puzzle. Like John to the Beatles, Geri was the Spice Girls' unofficial leader, the first among equals. And "Girl Power" was Geri Halliwell's "All You Need Is Love."
Watching the Spice Girls tear up the '97 BRIT Awards was my equivalent of watching the Beatles' inaugural Ed Sullivan Show appearance. The Spice Girls' bombastic performance of "Who Do You Think You Are?" thrilled the living daylights out of me. It was my first taste of a certain swelling, frenzied excitement, one of those moments in life when you forget that anything was ever bad, when you can't fathom how you are ever sad at all. It was my first adrenaline rush.
In the thick of Spicemania, Ginger Spice once boasted that the Spice Girls' popularity served as proof that pop music wasn't dead. I remember hearing that and thinking, "What even is pop music?" It was a labyrinth. Even now, I find that "pop music" is a near-impossible term to define concretely, but I can explain what I search for inside of it: ascendancy, magic, climax, and grit. But mostly climax. It is a high I chase. It is Scary Spice's saucy cackle at the beginning of "Wannabe," the "Ooooh!" of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," and the orangey strummy geetar that opens up "The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company" by Matthew Friedberger, the #1 song in the world that I would die over and nobody else cares about.
Those moments of pop perfection are what I live for. BUT- I really like clothes, too! If such instances of pop transcendence could be translated into outfits, what would they look like?
1) Friedberger in a hoody? No.
2) Paul McCartney in a skinny black suit? Possibly, kind of, maybe.
3) Ginger Spice in a Union Jack mini-mini-minidress at the 1997 BRIT Awards? OH OH OH HELL YES.
PART TWO: THE DEVIL IN A UNION JACK MINIDRESS
In Two Thousand "The Shittiest Year Yet!" And Nine, there is no way in hell that one of the most famous pop superstars on the planet could get away with looking as (charmingly) unstyled and undone as did Geri in her Union Jack mini. Sure, they look like total skanks constantly, but their sluttiness is always constructed.** It's high-class. Geri's Union Jack minidress looked cheap. It looks like it's made out of a low-quality material. She is wearing too much makeup. She looks trashy. However, she is a confident Leo, a lioness, and her body looks slammin', especially that thigh-crease thing you can see in the photo above. Her sluttiness was genuine, and genuinely awesome. It was self-indulgent. It was her own. Back when the Spice Girls were the Jonas Brothers, I recall there being heaps of media backlash surrounding the allegation that their manager, Simon Fuller, was a total Svengali. Perhaps that was true at the time, but twelve years down the road, the Spice Girls seem as raw and raunchy as a crack whore begging for pennies on the street corner.
I am a big believer in artistry. I think that some people are born to be artists, and that these people have no choice, and that they are both destined and doomed to have every last cell of their body exist as a manifestation of their "condition." Greil Marcus would probably disagree with me, but I sincerely believe that Geri Halliwell is one of those people. Whatever, Greil Marcus. Greil Marcus can go jerk off to "Another Girl, Another Planet" in his creepy Greil Marcus bathroom until the cows come home, for all I care. Greil Marcus was not an eleven-year-old girl when the Spice Girls hit.
But I was.
There is not a whole lot I miss about being eleven years old. Actually, there is nothing I miss about being eleven years old, except for how, when you're a kid, you allow yourself to fantasize about absurd and unrealistic scenarios that have a less-than-zero percent chance of ever happening, and you don't care at all. I still make up fake stories in my head a lot, and they're always so frustratingly unromantic! I sit around and fantasize about going on a semi-crappy date with Friedberger. We eat Thai food and listen to the Beatles. We don't have fun.
After watching the 1997 BRIT Awards, I took to making up a story in my head wherein I visited the
That is the stupidest, most nonsensical situation imaginable. First of all, why would I, an eleven-year-old, be at the Science Centre without parental supervision? How would I even get there? Secondly, why would I, or anybody, wear a Union Jack minidress to the Science Centre? Thirdly, why would Geri Halliwell wear the Union Jack minidress she wore to the BRIT Awards to the Science Centre? Why would Geri Halliwell go to the Science Centre? Why would Geri Halliwell go to the Science Centre alone? Also- I imagined myself wearing a Union Jack minidress because I was obsessed with Geri Halliwell. If we were to run into each other, it would not be a coincidence that I was wearing the exact dress she wore at the BRIT Awards. It would be the opposite of a coincidence. The whole story is just complete idiocy. But how could it not have been?
Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell in her Union Jack minidress was truly iconic. She was also theatrical, costumey, over-the-top, absurd, unreal, and beyond. At the 1997 BRIT Awards, Geri ditched her "real person" status in favor of becoming an image, a photograph, a moment in time.
I was the perfect age for the Spice Girls because I was young and dumb enough to buy it. It makes total sense that I would make up such an unlikely fantasy about hanging out with Geri Halliwell. Geri Halliwell herself made no sense. It, she, was all a dream. On that February evening twelve years ago, when the Spice Girls performed "Who Do You Think You Are? at the 1997 BRIT Awards, there was no Geri Halliwell. There was only Ginger Spice.
And oh God- how I loved her for it.
* Personally, I am -assured, -destructive, and -aggrandizing, just like Guy Debord.
** Boy oh Boy! Doesn't constructed sluttiness bite the big one?
Tags: 2009- The Shittiest Year Yet!, adolescence, BRIT Awards, Friedberger, genuine sluttiness vs. constructed sluttiness, Geri Halliwell, Ginger Spice, Girl Power, Greil Marcus, John Lennon, Laura Jane Faulds, sluttiness, the Ontario Science Centre, Union Jack
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