Monday, May 21, 2012

Mr. Pitt and Chanel No. 5

 So, I got this amazing reminder last week that when it comes to feminist aesthetics, perfume advertising, and critique, I am falling woefully down on the job. So, my advice? Go read Paul Aguirre Livingston's piece on the annoucement that Brad Pitt is about to become the first male face of Chanel No. 5, which is terrific, then come back here. It's cool. I'll wait.


Okay, good. Look, here's the deal.

My first thoughts were: "That is a weird and unexpected choice for Chanel." Why take (arguably) the most womanly scent in the world (in terms of identity in the market place) and have a dude front it? Is he planning to wear it for his wedding version of Spectacular, Spectacular!? Is he about to reclaim No. 5 as a unisex scent? Because if so, then wow, this could be awesome. But more likely? Chanel wants to use their wedding as a promo opportunity and didn't want Angelina Jolie associated with it for some BS gendered reasons ("She's too slutty! She's too sexual! No. 5 is classic/classy!) so they went with her more palatable husband.

My second thoughts were: "Hey! Maybe this will mean a new trend in Chanel ads that don't focus so much on how women are incomplete without men (Audrey Tatou's No. 5 ads) or how women can control men with the possibility of sex and their perfume (Keira Knightley's CoCo Mademoiselle ads). That would be nice. I'd appreciate that. And if anyone has the market prowess to try, it's got to be Chanel."

My third thoughts were: "Really? That guy? The guy who punked people in Jackass while in a guerrilla suit so no one knew who he was while he bashed into their cars in a rogue shopping cart?  The guy who famously dumped The Good Girl for a sex kitten? (Literally. Jennifer Aniston starred in that movie.) It's the most famous case of madonna vs. whore in all of modern pop conception.  And he stayed with her! And they're happy! With babies, lots 'o babies! There was no weird retribution. He never saw the error of his ways! It cuts against all things...normative and sexually regressive. How can Chanel possibly spin a narrative that cuts against their traditional fairy tale stories?"

My fourth and final thoughts were: "Wait and see."

So part of the reason I haven't commented is because I thought it made more sense to wait and see the actual ad. Because despite my best instincts, I'm hopeful that this could be different and interesting.I mean, I know this hopefulness basiclly makes me just a huge sucker, but what can I say?

Hope springs eternal...even in perfume advertising.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Saved by Steampunk: BPAL The Obsidian Widow

Yesterday I walked into the student lounge outside my apartment and was immediately taken with the scent roses, patchouli, and tobacco smoke. "Who smells so good?" I wondered. Turned out my friend Hilary was there, looking all awesomely steampunk and smelling terrific. FN1. "What are you wearing?," I asked/demanded.

What was she wearing? Dare I tell you? Something steampunk, of course! It was Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab The Obsidian Widow. The scent is described as follows:
Tinkling tiny feet scuttle across a massive oak desk, navigating through a flurry of papers and a maze of discarded books, wires, and bolts. Glistening green venom beads at its chelicerae, and a ruby hourglass flashes from the creature's underbelly as it begins to weave.  
Notes: Pinot noir, dark myrrh, red sandalwood, black patchouli, night-blooming jasmine, and attar of rose.
The scent is terrific, a total knock out. All night long I kept sniffing at her and sighing. The Black Widow was a strong smooth patchouli rose with strong jasmine and sandalwood notes. I don't own it, or have a sample, so I can't tell you how it stacks up against other scents with similar notes like L'Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses, Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance, or Frederic Malle Une Rose. All I can tell you is that the smell of it was pretty and it made me happy.

I've been struggling for a while now. I keep smelling good things but I am having a hard time finding new words to describe them. New ways to explain to you the happiness I feel with I ind a particularly nice scent, even when I don't have new words to describe it. I kept trying to talk to you, and feeling like what I have to say is not good enough. I kept starting and never finishing, doubt defeating my feeble words and dumb, numb fingers over and over. I think I'm done with that, now. I never thought I'd say these words (outside of some piece of fiction, anyway) but The Black Widow freed me. So I'm going to tell you what I can about what I'm smelling and what I like and how pretty it is in the best way I know how, and you'll have to take what I have to say with all the authority I have ever had: none whatsoever, sans my own perfumey wanderings.

Yep. I'm back, friends. Thanks for waiting for me.

The Obsidian Widow is a perfume oil, and is available in a 5ml bottle for a mere $17.50, available direct from the perfumer here. The stuff is very strong, so a little goes a long way. In gratitude for to BPAL and The Black Widow, I'm thinking of buying some myself.

FN1. Seriously, she looks camera ready for a spontaneous photo shoot all! the! time! -- I'm convinced she probably even looks awesome when sleeping. Two days ago she was rocking a purple hat with a giant white and purple plume on it, and she did not look ridiculous, she looked awesome!

Who can do that? Not me, let me tell you. But Hilary? She looks kind of like this girl on the right every single day. She wears pirate boots without irony, works them like she's working a catwalk, and then pulls her keys or a knife from them at convenient moments, for like cutting up an apple or opening a door. She's more like a comic book superhero than the college student she masquerades as.

In fact, maybe she is.

Images from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and Pegasus Inn, respectively.