Monday, March 7, 2016

Core Post #2 - Versions of Elvis

The reading for tomorrow evaluated Elvis’s role in popular culture. From his appearance in the 1950’s, Elvis can be seen many forms, his role shifting depending on the lens you see him through. He can be a symbol for sexual liberation and an idol of the White Trash Aesthetic.

I think there is something about his fame that feels reminiscent of Valentino. Elvis is feminized, and sexualized in films, magazines for the viewer’s consumption. And at the same time he is actively sexualizing himself in his performances. Elvis’s performance dragged the private (the sexual, emotional) into the public. It sparked suppressed sexuality and encouraged a “shared access to feeling.”  (Doss) Elvis’s fans were met to gather together in collective hysteria, and sexual delight over him.  Women fainted, “fell down to the ground and screamed,” orkick the seat in front or let out a 'rebel yell.’” These kinds of explosive displays of emotion, the physical reveal cracks in the Cold War era of containment, fear, and repressed emotion. (Doss) Elvis was a physical representation of their inner needs and desires – that felt incapable of acting out in their own lives and irresistibly drawn to in their fantasies, TV screens, magazines. This mirrors Valentino’s effect of young audiences, same goes with countless boy bands of several decades. (i.e. The Beatles, Jonas Brothers, One Direction, ect) He also seems to fit into a lot of what we discussed about Monroe. Elvis – and his body – become a spectacle for sexuality. Like Monroe, he embodies all our sexual desires in his performance and movement.  Yet at the same time, (and this maybe my opinion of Elvis) there is something about him that makes him seem harmless. Maybe it’s that he doesn’t seem too bright. He isn’t interested saving America like Cary Grant or standing up for morality like Jimmy Stewart. He just wants to have a good time. He’s sexual and sexualized but he doesn’t think too hard and therefore he doesn’t seem too dangerous.

On top of this, Doss and Sweeny both get into Elvis’s role in the military and politics that complicate his “rock ‘n roll” celebrity. Elvis’s personal and political affiliations reveals cracks in the way in which society used and saw him during the time period. Elvis was a product of the Cold War. He met Nixon. He was drafted. This may play into the White Trash Aesthetic; the boy does what’s best, and remembers where he cam from but it doesn’t do much for him as a symbol of symbolic liberation from society.  He’s not going against the establishment. He’s feeding into the system. This makes him incapable of sitting comfortably in a sexualized, liberal “rock n roll” life style.


Sifting through all these versions of Elvis, I’m wondering how Erika Doss’s very sexualized version of Elvis works with Goel Sweeney’s Elvis and his White Trash Aesthetic. What relationship do these two versions of Elvis have? It feels as though they counter and complement each other in ways that Dryer would only describe as “leaky.”  Doss’s description of the sexualized Elvis, I think complements Sweeny’s description of the White Trash body being a place for excess. Elvis in his performance is excess in movement and desire. His body is a place for hyper sexuality and fantasy.

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