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What the normal people are doing while fans still believe in their own weirdness - Input Junkie
September 17th, 2011
10:10 am

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What the normal people are doing while fans still believe in their own weirdness
Miss Universe Competition, National Costumes

It sneaks up on you. Miss Albania is wearing something pleasant and dignified. I'm not saying anyone would wear that on the street, but it wouldn't wreck your day to try.

Miss Angola's dress is kind of overdone, but it's still rather like clothes.

Miss Argentina is looking kind of Las Vegas.

Miss Aruba is definitely Las Vegas, but at least there's a coherent design and color scheme.

Miss Australia-- the look is kind of grab-bag and pointless, and I wonder what anyone was thinking.

With Miss Bahamas, The Mummers Parade has begun to show up. It isn't going to leave.

At some point, I realize that they're alphabetical by nation, and I begin to wonder what the US costume will look like, but I decide to let events unfold in their natural order.

I'm not going to describe every costume. I wonder if there's such a thing as cultural self-appropriation.

There's a lot of Vegas and a lot of mummers-- I guess they overlap. From their expressions, I think some of the women are not entirely pleased with their clothes.

I've reached the point where Miss Dominican Republic's outfit looks tasteful and reasonable. It's like going to a big juried craft show where everything is so expensive that the hand-carved $700 wooden room divider doesn't look especially high priced.

I have to admit, what Miss Haiti is wearing looks like fun.

Why is Miss Hungary wearing a vaguely futuristic outfit with cat ears?

Miss Portugal is wearing an actual national costume or something close to it. Not only could she walk in it, she could dance. Who let that happen?

Miss Tanzania's costume seems to have been influenced by video games.

We're made it to Miss United States. We have no culture to appropriate. No, I'm not going to describe it. I suffered, you can suffer.

Link thanks to [personal profile] dglenn.

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From:kgbooklog
Date:September 17th, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC)
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Why is Miss Hungary wearing a vaguely futuristic outfit with cat ears?

They look like bat ears to me, so it may be a reference to Strauss' operetta Die Fledermaus which was set in Vienna when Austria was merged with Hungary (though it really needs wings, or at least a cape like Miss Romania has). I notice that Miss Austria had the good taste to avoid this trainwreck.
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From:dcseain
Date:September 17th, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
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Most of the "vegas" and "mummers" ones are also national costumes, mostly derived from Carnival.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 17th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
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Good point.
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From:bradhicks
Date:September 17th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
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I don't understand how blind somebody has to be to cling to the illusion that science fiction fandom is at all weird in a world where Star Wars, Harry Potter, and the Avengers' movie series are the best-selling, most profitable media franchises. Science fiction is as mundane and mainstream as it gets. (Which goes a long way towards explaining my last decade's worth of convention experiences, frankly.)

The young people who are the most like the old pre-Star-Wars science fiction fandom crowd I remember are ending up in the burlesque scene, here; the older lit-snobs are trying to retreat into highly stylized, niche science fiction conventions and clubs like the steampunk scene. And all of them are already worrying that their scenes might be about to go mainstream and be over-run by mundanes. The Internet Age is not kind to niche creative scenes.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 17th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
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It's quite possible that my subject line is based on a self-concept of fandom which is no longer current.

Actually, the only way I can think of that fandom is odder than the mainstream is acceptance of polyamory, and that one may be crumbling.

Also, fandom is (I think) somewhat kinder to fat people-- the prejudice is there, but it kicks in at higher weights.

You're right about niche creative scenes getting blended into the mainstream much faster. Probably mostly a good thing, but I wonder whether cultures can be developed farther in their own directions if there's some isolation.
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From:lilairen
Date:September 17th, 2011 11:35 pm (UTC)
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I have thought for a long time that the experience of people on either side of the Star Wars generational divide is irreconcilable, and the pain dealing with it caused me is a big chunk of why I dropped out of active fandom back around when someone snottily declared that real fans would never consider going to Dragon*Con (because it schedule-conflicted with WorldCon).
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From:vvalkyri
Date:September 18th, 2011 05:20 am (UTC)
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I keep looking at so many of them and going, "hunh"? Israel, I got nothing. Many of them are enhanced bikinis, too.
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From:vvalkyri
Date:September 18th, 2011 05:22 am (UTC)
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perhaps miss Romania is going for a dracula reference, what with the red lined cape?
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From:gildedacorn
Date:September 19th, 2011 03:37 am (UTC)
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>We're made it to Miss United States. We have no culture to appropriate. No, I'm not going to describe it. I suffered, you can suffer

We're not anywhere *near* the worst ...

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From:nancylebov
Date:September 19th, 2011 05:43 am (UTC)
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Probably not, though it's hard to define "worst" in this context.

It's like the Olympics figure skating, but reversed-- I find it hard to identify the best skater when they're doing such different things. In the case of Miss International, many of the costumes are bad in such different ways that it's hard to say which one is the worst.

I suggest that the US costume had no competition for its particular sort of bad.
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From:richardthinks
Date:September 19th, 2011 07:20 am (UTC)
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Everyone who has a tradition of carnival went for carnival costumes - so I see those in that context (and Vegas as an appropriation of carnival). Still, it's a really interesting map of Catholic influence on hybrid cultures.

In this context it's the half-hearted entries that bother me. Serbia just isn't trying, while still not going for elegant. Britain and Ireland baffle me: I have no idea what they're trying to achieve, while the Netherlands has at least got a clear program in mind - the US equivalent of their outfit would be a woman with a model of Mount Rushmore on her head. My award for most offensive goes to Canada, for sure.

...is there such a thing as cultural self-appropriation? Well, it's pretty well-discussed in SE Asian studies, and Miss Thailand as usual is the shining example: really, the whole concept of "national costume" is exactly this (cf. Greece, which generally gets a free pass for classical timelessness, but imagine if China showed up as Atilla the Hun). Indonesia will have been the result of long, fierce and clandestine debate deep in the halls of government.

The USA actually being the flag (cf Brazil, only not quite so much)... is not at all the worst thing you can do. You're trolling with "we have no culture to appropriate," right? The US could have gone with Steamboat Willie or played Canada's game and done a sexified KKK.

My hands-down favourite: Curacao. Just. I don't even. Awesome.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 19th, 2011 11:55 am (UTC)
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dcseain's comment about carnival left me thinking about that style as a strong transnational cultural element, and, as you say, a measure of Catholic influence.

I don't think Greece was trying to recreate a particular person.

I guess it makes sense that some governments would get involved in this, but do you know whether Indonesia in particular is inclined that way?

The US flag isn't the worst thing you could do, but the costume was a combination of boring and cheesy. I was expecting an explosion of weirdness after some of the other costumes, but the US costume was almost boring, so I was disappointed in two ways.

"We have no culture to appropriate" is an indication that I'm not running quite as scared. I suppose it's a marginal troll, but I mostly intended it as a joke.

Before you say any of the usual things, please read this.

There is a tremendous difference between Canada and a sexified KKK. Aside from the detail that Canada was one of the less revealing costumes (there may be a bare midriff, but you can't tell), but no legs and no cleavage, there are worse things than cultural appropriation, like a revulsion that goes so deep that one won't take on the trappings of another culture.

Edited at 2011-09-19 12:01 pm (UTC)
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From:richardthinks
Date:September 19th, 2011 01:55 pm (UTC)
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I figured you were joking with the "no culture" thing. "Trolling" was bad word choice. Also, I have to apologise about my Canada comment.
there are worse things than cultural appropriation, like a revulsion that goes so deep that one won't take on the trappings of another culture.

...after I sent the comment I remembered that I really don't know anything about Canadian-native American relations or the history of the building of Canada as a nation; I was just imagining that it would be the same as the US, so I shouldn't have done that. It's quite possible that Canada did not fight a war of extermination against the native population, continue to celebrate that war into recent times with movies and kids' games, and exploit the image of its native population for commercial purposes while keeping the people themselves in ghettoes. Its entirely possible that dressing as an Indian chief is nothing like showing up in blackface (which is what I should've said instead of "sexified KKK" - my only defense is that once I'd thought of that phrase it drove everything else out of my mind). I try not to jump to that many assumptions right off the bat and this time I failed. Sorry about that.

...now if the Miss USA showed up dressed as an Indian chief, with no hint of a text that she was doing it as any kind of commentary - if it looked like she was just cheerfully repeating old colonial rhetoric - then that would strike me as remarkably offensive.

But maybe I'm missing the point entirely. I didn't get why you appended that link.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 19th, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
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From:richardthinks
Date:September 19th, 2011 02:06 pm (UTC)
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hmmm, maybe I do get what the link had to do with my Canada comment. Even in the USA case it's not really my fight: native Americans who get offended are free to speak up and tell us they're offended. But I also say history does matter. This is not just dressing up as another culture - in fact, the point is that it's not "another" - it's national dress because it's contained within the nation, and it was contained within the nation (in the US case) by force.

The Indonesian problem is basically similar: Indonesia was invented by the Dutch and Japanese, it contains a whole bunch of ethnic identities, and post-independence has had enormous trouble trying to build a national identity out of them - one that is simultaneously Javan (the elite) + inclusively "Indonesian" + "modern". There are many well-documented cases of trouble arising from the deeply political game of national identity building that spring from displays of the nation comparable to dressing a miss world contestant.
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From:ice_hesitant
Date:September 19th, 2011 03:46 pm (UTC)
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The Canadian costume doesn't make sense. It's a totem pole design dress (Pacific Northwest) combined with a feather headdress (US Great Plains). It's incoherent.

If you're going to be tasteless enough to appropriate a first nations culture that's supposed to represent Canada, you need to appropriate from the Inuit. It's what they did for the Vancouver Olympics logo.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 19th, 2011 06:31 pm (UTC)
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I don't know whether my fast google check was enough, but it looked as though the long-tailed eagle headdress is Lakota Sioux, and their territory was in both the US and Canada, and likewise for northwest Indian art.

I agree that it doesn't make sense for one person to be wearing the headdress with the clothing.
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