April 25, 2011

she's full of secrets.

The Virgin Suicides takes place in a bare Detroit suburb in the 70's and Twin Peaks in a secluded Washington industrial town at the time it was made in the 90's. Neither towns distract from their sadness with pastels and picket fences, as they slowly give up on holding up an illusion of a friendly town. They are yellow and gray and chipping paint and bags under their eyes. It's the perfect place for the kind of tragedy no one can figure out how to justify. Laura Palmer was murdered at 17, and the Lisbon sisters, 13-17, all killed themselves.

The show and movie are both known for giving extra camera time to the details of the ways their characters live, keeping specifically with the middle-of-nowhere feeling. But the moments spent on details of material memories of the girls align with this feeling most perfectly, combining the mixed pain and comfort of remembering someone who is now gone with the mixed pain and comfort of living in a place so secluded. The point that both Twin Peaks and The Virgin Suicides make to focus in on seemingly minor details -- a photo on a mantle, an eyelash curler -- when the larger story is so tragic gives pathetic tchotchkes and tiny memories significance. Depressing details of boring houses in boring towns become weirdly beautiful when they end up the only remnants of people who are now dead, leaving the neighborhood boys to smell the Lisbons' stolen lipstick with wistful desire and Mr. Palmer to dance in the living room with Laura's photo to keep from crying.
These are the only memories we get of these girls, too. Laura is found dead in the first episode, occasionally recalled throughout the series with flashbacks and dreams, primarily remembered with the homecoming photo that always ends the show. But a video tape of her dancing at a picnic with a friend that's shown in the pilot is when we first fall in love with her spirit, and first notice that something is at work underneath her joy as a muffled voice begs "help me" over a close-up on her eyes.
Though the Lisbon sisters actually are alive for the majority of the movie, we hardly know them any better than the boys across the street do, and join them in their search for any clues or contact. Half of the idea of the Lisbons is definitely a teenage boy fantasy about blonde unicorn fairies, but the moments we get to witness of them all spending time together -- lying strategically like Tetris pieces on the same bed, fixing their hair for the spring dance, smoking together in the school bathroom -- indicate a kind of unspoken bond they've created amongst themselves out of colors and songs and stares. Along with being the total babes the neighborhood boys fawn over, they're complicated and human, mysterious and intriguing, already thinking about things you're not supposed to consider until you've exhausted the world of your bedroom and school and want more answers. As it goes, not all answers are as dreamy as the world the Lisbons had previously pieced together. One scene focuses in on Lux Lisbon in a class photo while one of the boys recalls the tips the school administration had told them to look for in their possibly troubled peers: "Were the Lisbon girls' pupils dilated? Had they lost interest in special activities, in sports and hobbies? Had they withdrawn from their peers?"
It's strange to feel strongly about characters who are talked about more than they're shown, but Laura and the sisters have turned into faces for me that feel less like fictional characters celebrated in the outside world and more like local legends, personal legends, combinations of various teenage figures I watched avidly when I was little, of my sisters' friends and dad's students and cool and weird and pretty babysitters, who I so desperately wanted to be friends with, if not be.

The "little things in life" aren't supposed to be this morbid, but right now I'm more affected by ugly living room decorations than by flowers. I'll take a few extra moments to look at a tacky ceramic on a thrift shop shelf or someone else's school photo hanging in their stairway or a friend's older sibling's souvenir of adolescence left on the dresser of her old room. All of a sudden there can be something really endearing and personal about a pitiful trinket, and I've become more nostalgic for all those small bedside table objects my sisters and their friends once held to such importance. As another person who fell in love with Laura Palmer and the Lisbon sisters, I feel compelled to nurture my own memories of the girls, paying close attention to any cheesy iconography or vomit pink figurines or crackly ashtrays or shiny stickers I may come across. Even if it is more about a romanticized idea of this age that ended up less true than a younger me had hoped. Even if it is less for the sake of paying respect to fictional characters and more for my own fantasies.

April 22, 2011

burpday

Yesterday was my birthday (15! I can already feel my back giving out!) so I wanted to dress like a Birthday Party Girl. My sister tells me that when I was little I said I wanted to be a "Birthday Party Girl" when I would grow up, which I guess means it's your occupation to have your birthday every day, probably because I wanted cake and presents every day. (I also think this is the definition because I remember feeling like I had to replan my life when I saw the Jimmy Neutron episode where it's his birthday every day and it ends up being not fun or something.) Now that I am 15 and can claim to totally get what Taylor Swift was talking about in that song where she talked about being 15, I think I'm finally grown up and can take on this job of Birthday Party Girl.
(Grinning devilishly and fifteenishly at Ella as she took this picture.)
Like any professional Birthday Party Girl, I wore a special crown to school. Ed of Meadham Kirchhoff gave it to me as part of a mutual mixtapes/barrettes/stickers/ribbons exchange. It might be my favorite thing. Wearing it yesterday was such a good decision that I think I'm going to start wearing it all the time, and hopefully the fact that it's a crown and not something like douchey sunglasses well keep me from seeming like an obnoxious person who thinks they're in a Wes Anderson movie but actually just looks like a dumbass for making turtlenecks their "thing." ("Yeah, I went through a phase where I wore a fedora for, like, a year." -Dude from school at auditions for a play.)
And since I've been going through it for the first time, and in honor of the marathon Ella and I had last night in honor of my birthday, and because the fall vibes/back to school vibes on that show are so good, I tried to get a bit of Twin Peaks in there, too. This shirt is the top cut off a dress I had when I was little, the perfect white picket fence shoes were sent to me by Rachel Antonoff, and the Laura Palmer pin I bought from Bookhouse Creations on Etsy. Worn above with a skirt from American Apparel and my mom's socks. I think this "Birthday Party Girl" thing is working out to be a pretty good gig.

April 19, 2011

young & tragic

Been thinking a lot lately about mah gurl Laura Palmer as I've been going through Twin Peaks with my hands half covering my eyes. Made a real life moodboard on my shelf, with LP and vomit pink on my mind.
I bought the bible thing at the Salvation Army and had to explain to my mom that I was still a practicing Jew and simply desired living a life as aesthetically close to The Virgin Suicides as possible. Then I laughed and cried simultaneously at how much I am living Tumblr in real life and obediently chomped on my matzah. Happy Passover, fellow chosen ones!

1. Laura Palmer's Prom - You Say Party! We Say Die!
2. Miss World - Hole
3. Behind Blue Eyes - The Who
4. Suicide Blonde - The Weepies
5. Teenage Whore - Hole
6. Criminal - Fiona Apple
7. So Far Away - Carole King
8. Little Trouble Girl - Sonic Youth
9. Young & Tragic - Dead Man's Bones

April 17, 2011

spring

Tim Walker for Vogue UK 1996, Mariacarla Boscono by Juergen Teller, Tim Walker, Stephen Eichhorn, unknown photographer, Juergen Teller, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe in New York by Katie Simon in 1979.

April 12, 2011

COGs in an ideal high school

Thinking about Rayanne got me thinking about "regular" girls whose style I admire, which came back around to GIRLS ON THE INTERNET, DUH. These fine ladies remind me of Rayanne for the thrown-togethered-ness, but mostly because their style makes me feel like if they went to my school they'd be my Cool Older Girl for the simultaneous mystery and boldness that emanate from the ends of each technicolor hair and every sweater fiber.

Plus, their styles all remind me of teenage bedrooms which I am really fascinated by since it's the environment a person tries to create for themself while constructing new identities and in an attempt to run away within their own home. Then there's all this old memory sentimental junk lying around even when someone tries becoming a different person, childhood leftovers and embarrassing souvenirs among hair dye and newly discovered music. (If you too share my obsession, maybe even to the extent of knowing that feeling of creepiness when asking someone whose house you're in if you can see their room, or feeling even creepier when you sneak a peak without asking, I recommend this.)




Maddie has mismatch-legged jeans like Rayanne's and takes wonderful photos.




Marlena makes a lot of her own clothes (I SEE YOU, "EXCUSE ME" GRRRL MANIFESTO T-SHIRT) and is generally a print-mixing goddess.



Writing about mollysoda makes me feel like I'm exploiting a gem of the internet but she gave me permission and I feel like a lot of people need to know about her rat, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Plus it wouldn't be a post about Cool Older Girls if there wasn't anyone to be deemed a bad influence! STOP LOOKING AT HER TUMBLR IT WILL MAKE YOU BUY A RAT AND SMOKE MARIJUANA WITH IT

April 6, 2011

this is when we talk about rayanne graff. (spoiler alerts for the entire series! don't say i didn't warn you!)

I was in middle school when I first tried watching My So-Called Life and I quickly lost interest, still in that period of time where you know some things are over your head and that you're not supposed to identify with them and that you'll revisit later. That's the great thing about teenage-centric pop culture, though -- as fewer things around you make sense, the more a series like MSCL does. And so I restarted it with the beginning of my freshman year and finished it over spring break a couple weeks ago. It only lasted a season but is so chock full of stuff happening that it feels like a journey, you know? I marveled at the uncanny resemblances between Angela Chase, the 15 year-old protagonist going to a public high school in the suburbs, and myself. When Angela was upset with her parents, I had the same beef with my own. When Angela danced in her room to the Violent Femmes after getting over Jordan Catalano, I did, as well. I too was familiar with a Brian Krakow, the kind of person you were family friends as third graders and who finds your desire to grow and change blasphemous. And red hair! Angela Chase and I both had shades of Crimson Glow! A lot of these parallels are typical, but too bad. At this age I think most people are extremely dependent on drawing those parallels, on finding something to latch on to and call one's own, so just let me be delusional for a second.

Though most of us know a Catalano and a Krakow, the most universally familiar aspect of Angela's life, at least among teenage girls, might be her narrations. They're wise words spaced out with "likes" and "reallys," and, when the show was still on the air, were sometimes regarded by critics as too intelligent for a teenage girl. Many people have also found them overly cheesy or deep, but that's how some of us teenage girls think! All these experiences are new and sometimes we think of something that sounds really poetic and perfect and think we are brilliant because of it! These thoughts often fall into cliches, but cliches can also be uniting experiences, with girls like Angela acting as mediator! So shut up!

Angela shares nice bonding moments with even the most irritating of characters throughout the series, but forget the mother-daughter fashion show, or the exchange between Angela and Jordan about the shapes of his cuticles. The only person who I think really saw what made Angela so truly special, who could see that she had secrets and thoughts that went beyond even the profound narrations the rest of us got to hear, was her best friend, Rayanne Graff.

Rayanne is what Harold Weir might call a bad banana. She has a bit of a drinking problem, definitely earned her place on the sophomore list as "most slut potential," and never developed a filtering system when it came to polite conversation. Rayanne takes Angela under her wing at the beginning of the school year and helps her to blossom -- encourages her to go for Catalano, is responsible for the red hair, and introduces her to a few new dangerous settings. Around the middle of the series, Angela's face is noticeably meaner; a little wicked, a little more fire in that head of Crimson Glow. She delivers her retorts to her parents with more confidence, and learns a thing or two about the boiler room.

In the first episode of the series, Angela's old friend, Sharon, interrogates her concerning this new friendship, making sure she knows that Rayanne Graff drops friends as quickly as she gains them. It sounds like sour grapes from a reject, but we soon learn that Sharon was right. People like Angela are Rayanne's source of normalcy; she lives vicariously through her plain-faced friend to experience the cliches viewers like myself identify with. But Rayanne, no matter how many bad habits she has, is almost maternal in how she nurtures lives like Angela's, simpler and so-called. Of course there's selfishness there, but Angela isn't just Rayanne's little project, or the Tai to her Cher. Rayanne really appreciates and admires her. And when Rayanne recognizes the beauty and truth to Angela's simple thoughtfulness, any viewer like myself who identified with it might felt valued, too.

Unfortunately, we also felt almost just as betrayed when Rayanne slept with Jordan in the third to last episode. Rayanne's recklessness that was once the source of her and Angela's friendship's excitement also becomes the reason for its bitter end, and the circumstances are too awful for them to find each other again by the season finale.

Obviously, the series didn't end the way I wanted it to. If it had been up to me, Angela and Rayanne would've made up. They would've spent the summer on a Deadhead bus like Lindsay Weir and Kim Kelly, grown together, and vowed to be BFFS for forever and ever.* But that, too, would feel wrong. Rayanne is, more realistically, the kind of person who leaves someone's life just as quickly as she changes it -- in a flash of color and compassion, and with a little guilt, because she does have enough of a conscience to feel responsible for letting an innocent soul like that of Angela's explore her world. And because, well, she cares about her. In a time of unfaithful Catalanos and misunderstanding parents, none of whom realize how lucky they are to know someone like Angela, Rayanne really knew what was at stake when she lost Angela's friendship, and she felt terrible about it.**

Rayanne didn't change Angela -- she's just one of the only people who let Angela change, and the first who encouraged her to try it. It might've been just a phase. No, it was definitely a phase. And you get the feeling, by the end of the series, that Angela will go through a number more phases before finally feeling comfortable with herself, and before knowing who "herself" is, and all that good stuff. But at the root of all that was Rayanne Graff. That's one of the only parts of Angela Chase that I can't yet identify with, but I think those people enter and leave for a reason and at just the right times, so I'm confident that it'll happen. Until then, Rayanne is inspiration enough.

*I also wanted Danielle and Krakow to get together and move away because they're both so damn annoying, and I wanted Jared Leto to not go on to be responsible for this.
**She also didn't make Krakow write some dopey note for her. GO TO YOUR CORNER, CATALANO.


And now we shall talk about Rayanne's style, duh. It's really perfect for her, mishmashy and piled on and thrown together and semi-ugly at times. Details of the same outfit will change over the course of a day, and she's often adjusting some part of her hair during school. Also these are all from a single night when I capped the whole series and it got tiring so these are not the cutest captures of A.J. Langer's facial expressions. And most importantly, I really really recommend this piece about Rayanne and teenage girl friendships in general that Emma Straub wrote for the Paris Review. I read it before making this post, actually, and reread it frequently for the same reasons I need to convince myself that Angela Chase and I have a lot in common.

PART I: FULL OUTFITS.

Floral (?) leggings and sporty dress.

Fringe, because she's a free spirit n stuff.

YEAH, I HOPE YOU FEEL AS GUILTY AS YOU LOOK. Rayanne matches the color palette of the student activities board.

What's this? Patchwork pants?

YEP, PATCHWORK PANTS.

Chill P.E. uniform, faded longsleeve and printed leggings.




Leopard coat and jean shorts over red tights, obviously.

With the Frozen Embryos.


Ricky, L, deserves a discussion of his own one of these days.

Note the mismatched Converse, and wearing a bunch of stuff that's different prints but all the same colors -- ah, classic Rayanne.

KNEE SOCKS WITH HEARTS ON THEM.

Really good printed floral dress.

Red tights + jean shorts again (A LOT of her clothes/accessories make reappearances, realistically so) and two-toned hoodie.


Grateful Dead tee.


Rayanne wore a lot of open shirts with just a bra underneath.

PART II: DETAILS.


IMPORTANT: rainbow hair bands coordinated with sequins on old lady cape and strand of orange hair.

Pipe cleaner hair.

Madonna earring and CAN I GET A BETTER LOOK AT THEM HAIRS?

Yes.

Casual, beanie and safety pin earring, just one braid, you know, whatevs.


Leopard coat again and hat that kind of sucks. (Okay, all of Rayanne's hats suck. Mostly because they hide her earrings.)





Pipe cleaner necklace.

Frequently reappearing Yin/Yang earring.


Crazy hair for that time she threw a crazy party.

She gets a lil sporty sometimes.

So many Rayanne elements to this one.

Sharing her candy bracelet with Ricky! That's another thing about Rayanne, she has candy with her randomly, like that time she offered the school counselor or whatever a bunch of lollipops.


For the longest time I thought those earrings were bunches of grapes, but after the strenuous process of all this screencapping (I think I can now take an official title as Rayanne Graff Style Biographer or something, the way people study people like Bob Dylan for like, a living) I discovered they are in fact just clusters of green beads. IT'S OKAY EVERYONE, WE KNOW NOW, YOU CAN ALL CALM DOWN.

She wears these weird queen of hearts earrings a lot.







Only time this klassy jacket makes an appearance.

Recurring cap.


Mismatched earrings + plaid bra underneath open shirt.

When she got back from the Grateful Dead concert.


Ring pop!!

GOD THAT TOOK FOREVER. I kind of never want to see Rayanne again after this.