Confessions of a tit-o-crite: Victoria's Secret 2011 Show lead-up
Who's saying what
This season, the biggest news stories are that the show will be adding fifteen first time walkers, that new mother Miranda Kerr will be softly lactating into the 2.5 million dollar diamond studded bra, and of course, the biggest story of every year that - like prize fighters before a weigh in - Victoria's Secret models put their bodies through astonishing things in the lead up to the parade.
Let's talk about the new girls first. The biggest name on the roster of virgins is the barely legal Karlie Kloss. Kloss is up there with Lindsey Wixon in her reputation as America's Favourite Teenage Model, but the candles had barely been blown on her eighteenth birthday cake before VS cast her in an underwear campaign. Since Victoria's Secret have already made it very public that she'll also be stepping out on the catwalk for them, it seems a pair of weighty, tinselled wings will follow in short order for the model.
This story is breaking at the same time as furore rages about the years of abuse, and the administrative coverup, of young, disadvantaged boys by a Penn State football coach. Jerry Sandusky, the alleged abuser, found his victims through a charity he had established. If he is guilty, the reason he avoided detection for so long will be because of how carefully he selected - and groomed - the children he is accused of molesting. While I am not saying walking in a Victoria's Secret show is analogous to child sexual abuse, Kloss was pretty clearly being groomed for her work with the company since well before she turned eighteen. In a culture that is paranoid about the sexualisation of children, surely this kind of pre-selection - let's call it lay-buying - is something that should be called out as problematic. It has the same aura to it as the creepy countdown calendars you can find to various teen stars' eighteenth birthdays.
I would like to make it clear that what I take issue with is not the flourishing of adolescent sexual expression - it is an inevitable and often beautiful part of growing up. The problem is the first tentative strokes into the weird and wonderful pool of human sexuality should be awkward, stilted, tender and private. One should not be thrown in on an inflatable clam shell, like a Las Vegas Venus de Milo, with a bikini sketched on in hot pink marker. That is not becoming a woman, it's becoming a vaseline slicked repressive fantasy figure. The virginal cheerleader performing no-touch lapdances for the benefits of fifteen year old boys and their stunted fathers who (fed on a diet of Vic Secret pap even as they're falsely told that actual pornography will make them violent perverts) have sexual imaginations which contract as their waistlines expand.
Speaking of families, let's talk about that shade to the show. It is aired at primetime, a stimulating spectacular to be gawped at by men and boys, and held up to mothers and daughters as an utterly unrealisable benchmark of beauty. Hence the glitter, the "glamour", the $12 million dollars of ridiculous spectacle. The musicians who soundtrack the show - this year video-vixen-in-Muppet-form Nikki Manaj and Kanye West, who is rumoured to be dating Angel Chanel Iman - have a slightly more mature fan base than last year's Katy Perry, who may as well be a children's entertainer, but still, the message is that sparkly lingerie is fun for the whole family. The choice of new mum Kerr as bearer of the diamond bra reinforces that point, although, as I observed last year, to send her down the runway when she was actually in the family way, would have been far, far too risque for the brand. Dealing with the viscous biological realities of how families come together is one thing, greedily lapping up afterbirth's moral glow is quite another.
The Victoria's Secret Show is held in the lead-up to Christmas each year, and that tinsel tarnish surely informs some of the logic behind dubbing VS girls angels and slapping them in wings. Even one of the show's key looks, the 'Passion Play fan wings' have this peculiar, quasi-religious, Christmas time double entendre element. The festive season feeling also ties back to the whole faux-family-friendly vibe the parade has going on, while, given all that Christmas connotes, leading nicely in to the third story that is always served when showtime rolls around: food.
Christmas is a holiday that is, in large part, about feasting, so there's a perverse dichotomy to the starvation and intense exercise routines angels confess they slog through in the lead up to the show. Adriana Lima spoke to The Telegraph about how she gets into Secret-shape, explaining a life of "no solids" for weeks, twice a day work outs and, for twelve hours in the lead up to walking "no liquids at all…"
"You can lose up to eight pounds just from that," she confessed in a quote that is no-doubt already plastered across pro-ana blogs.
The overeating that comes par-for-the-course at Christmas (along with familial tensions and the utterly unflattering nature of rudolf jumpers) is part of the reason the holiday traditionally has, and ought to in perpetuity, come with an essence of sexlessness. Nothing is less erotic (for most) than a belly filled with ham and gravy, and equally unappealing is the Angel's comparative famine. Have you ever smelled the breath of someone whose body is in ketosis? It's awful.
So, to summarise, this year the key themes to the Victoria's Secret Show are babies (both new borns and the just-developed), family and food. I know those are the three things at the top of my mind when I think of sensuality.
Now, those of you that reached the end of this wondering why I'd bother to critique - and thereby lend hype - to this carnival of commodified titillation, the answer is, to be honest, because I'm as much of a hypocrite (a hit-ocrite? a tit-ocrite?) as Victoria's Secret. I'm aware of the vast interest this bubblegum peepshow generates, and I wanted in on the traffic. And for those of you who just came for the photographs? Well you'll find them above, rather a lot of them in fact. And a video from the show's casting can be seen below. But please, while you're watching, I'd like you to think about how much better it is when the promise of eroticism leads to happy endings.
The Cut is the only source I can bear to check for Victoria's Secret info, so if you're hungry for more, go visit them.
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