Being a fairly malleable cultural sponge and young person, there has been much in the artistic world to influence me in my life. Whether or not I am an accurate representation of ‘the times’ might be up for debate. I am attracted to all things finely tailored as well as to dusty Victorian novels. I like things to be presented beautifully or in an absurd manner. I appreciate all things hysterical and like nothing more than to laugh. I think music and film can change and influence a culture in a supremely unique way, reaching right into the core of how people feel and react to their worlds. I think literature and poetry are the two things that really make us into people, and help us understand how we see the world or want to see the world.
In fashion I think we have seen a resurgence of all things Vintage. Maybe we should just blame the popularity of AMC’s ‘Mad Men.’ As a devote follower of the flea market I have truly enjoyed this trend and am so glad that what I wear suddenly makes me cool or at least socially acceptable (and no longer just dress up). ‘Mad Men’ tells the story of Don Draper, an add man in 1960’s New York. The show follows Don and the entire office of ruthless and competitive young add men and women. ‘Mad men’ has a huge following, which is not at all surprising considering the snappy plotlines and the engaging characters. However, I am drawn into the show for the fashion alone. Costume designer Janie Bryant is the genius behind the look and is therefore an artist to watch in the New Year. Bryant’s work on the show is supremely fabulous and her entire cast is always costumed to the nines. A designer specializing in period pieces, Bryant won an Emmy for her creations on the brilliant show ‘Deadwood’. I think in drawing such a large following ‘Mad Men,’ and the costumes created by Bryant, have distinctly changed the way that popular culture views vintage. A once daring fashion choice is now quite acceptable and current, and little snippets of vintage sneak their way in everywhere.
As well as ‘Mad Men’, I think this year we will see the vintage trend’s rise in popularity of the actress Audrey Tautou, as a result of the much-anticipated film ‘Coco Before Chanel.’ The film tells the story of the young Chanel, played by Tautou, as she makes her way (or sleeps her way) into the glamorous world or the upper crust where she enacts her fashion rebellion. The fashion created by the young Chanel broke aesthetic barriers as well as gender ones, and her importance as a designer and cultural figure is not the underestimated. The film itself has received glowing reviews, particularly praising the fabulously talented Tautou. The ‘look’ of Chanel, distinctly classy and vintage, has been popping up all over popular fashion. It is an aesthetic that I hope to see continue well into the New Year and beyond.
A unique and creepy trend in culture these days is obviously that of the vampire, also known as the desire to date the undead. Ever since Bram Stoker’s publication of Dracula, the vampire has haunted the popular psyche. The character of the vampire encompasses all things unknown and escapist, not to mention supremely sexy. I think this trend takes its most attractive and interesting form in the pair of artists starring in HBO’s ‘True Blood’ (‘Twilight’ can bite me). ‘True Blood’ tells the story of Sookie Stackhouse whom the fabulous Anna Paquin winningly plays. Sookie is a telepathic yet bubbly waitress from small town Louisiana who works at Merlotte’s, seemingly just your average restaurant and bar. In the alternative world that ‘True Blood’ creates, the vampire is very real and “out of the coffin.” They live amongst humans and are fighting for their rights as citizens and as people…well sort of people. This creates an interesting tension in the show as lines are drawn between those who think vampires should fry, and those who believe in their right to exist. Sookie is well thrown into the latter category when the staggeringly handsome vampire Bill Compton, played by Stephen Moyer, sits in her section. Vampire Bill is a Civil War throw back with a kind heart and a dark past. He and Sookie obviously fall in love, they are both to attractive to help themselves. Engaging and creepy adventures in their world ensues. The show is like crack; you really can’t stop watching. I don’t believe the recent vampire craze is anything too out of the ordinary, indeed, I think this mania works on a cycle. I have seen it before, with likes of one Ms. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and hope to always see it reinventing itself through the work of talented actors like Paquin and Moyer.
In music I feel that the most interesting trends in expression have come primarily from one man, Mr. David Bowie. No other artist has so influenced the musical scene in so many ways and so many times. Bowie has been responsible for numerous musical trends and has broken barriers for all sorts of young people. He is first and foremost an innovative artist who after five decades of working is still able to create with the same fervor that he began with. In terms of a wider social context, his music created a dialogue for queer expression as well as in support of making radical, supremely unconventional, artistic choices. Bowie is an artist whose work can be categorized into eras, and that’s saying something. The list of what he made cool is long and potentially never ending.
One of the most interesting trends in music these days is the genre of Indie or Alternative Country. The main players in this game are often women, like Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss, but my favorite is Neko Case, a brilliant lady also a member of The New Pornographers. All three ladies take their own spin on country and make it fresh and current. Emmylou Harris records with Indie artist Bright Eyes and Alison Krauss collaborates with Robert Plant. Neko Case is a poet and an innovator whose most recent record, Middle Cyclone, is pretty much always playing on my itunes. All three women take a fairly convention sound and shake it upside down. They infuse their own artistry into the genre and make it truly a thing to listen for. Another woman working in the music business to watch is the artist Santigold. Released in 2008, her album ‘Santogold’ brought with it a pop funk all its own. Sanitgold embraces Hip-Hop, Pop sound, and R&B with exemplary skill. She is L.E.S artiste to watch in the coming year.
There are far too many fabulous wordsmiths to even try and pick the best of the best, but let’s give it a shot with the attitude that this will be but a random sampling. I have recently been a huge fan of the writer Amy Bloom, whose novel Away received much critical acclaim. Bloom was previously known to me as the brilliant mind behind the heartbreaking short story ‘Silver Water,’ an absolute must read. Bloom’s style is that of a carefully crafted genius. She has a way with words and her novel Away proves that her skill extends to a solid understanding of the intricate nature of the plot of human emotion.
I think one of the most famous writers of all time has been enjoying interesting pop culture resurgence is Ms. Jane Austen, the author behind six of the most beloved novels of all time. Austen’s works are constantly being brought back to life in a variety of forms, mostly Masterpiece Theater related. Her work is timeless and always finding a new audience. The most interesting offshoot of her popularity currently might be the work of Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Smith’s take on Austen keeps with Elizabeth Bennett’s basic shape, but sets her tale in an alternate universe where zombies roam the English countryside. Obviously, hilarity and oddness ensues, but it is interesting and uplifting to find our culture still so willing to enfold Ms. Austen. I am a fan of cultural mutations, and as long as people don’t forget that before there were zombies there were simply drawing rooms, I will continue to be much amused.