August 12, 2011

Real Life Androgynous Femmes: Tilda Swinton

Hey there gender blenders,

Today I spotted Tilda Swinton on the cover of W Magazine, and holy andrytastic, extraterrestrial androgyny is actually a thing! (That is, Lady Gaga and Tilda Swinton both pull it off gloriously.) Look at Tilda! 

There are two small articles that go along with a collection of amazing photographs of Swinton, one of which is an interview about her latest film We Need to Talk About Kevin. The other article--by Diane Solway--discusses Swinton's style, something that encapsulates more than just her fashion sense. Swinton says, "For someone to know what you need to make you comfortable, they need to know who you are. Having them [designers she is friends with] make clothes for me is like being cooked for by someone who knows what you like to eat." For her, fashion is about a lot more than what one is wearing, it is about expression. And expression for Swinton often involves varying degrees of androgyny, from mild to near alien.

Swinton tells Solway, "People talk about androgyny in all sorts of dull ways. Cahun looked at the limitlessness of an androgynous gesture, which I've always been interested in." (Claude Cahun was a French artist famous in the 1920s and is an inspiration for her "explorations of gender role play.")

It is clear that Swinton recognizes gender as something that is performed and that can constantly be played with without ever exhausting the possibilities. It is fitting then, that she has played such roles as Orlando in the adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel by the same name (about an androgynous time traveler), and Gabriel, the gender ambiguous angel in Constantine.

In some ways, I think, the more alien aspects of some of Swinton's gender performances makes it more difficult for us to force her gender presentation into something more familiar, comfortable, and intelligible to us as viewers. What do you think of the alien/extraterrestrial component?

Did you like the first edition of Real Life Androgynous Femmes? You can leave a comment and suggest who you would like to see featured here!

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