Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Cover Girl Boy

As "The Cover Girl Boy" story broke four days ago, it is terribly old news which many may have forgotten. However, it doubtlessly did what it was supposed to do, which was to make us remember that there is such a cosmetics line called "Cover Girl." Personally I am not a fan of dime-store slap and have an annual guilt-laden blowout at MAC. 

MAC has two things going for it. First, my fashionista friend Lily noticed its products actually stayed on my skin. Second, it has acquired high-status glamour, either because it costs a lot, or because it has its own beautifully designed shops in high-status shopping areas. Meanwhile, it already shocked the stuffing out of viewers by featuring a male model--a female impersonator called RuPaul--in 1994, twenty-two years ago. But back to the Cover Girl Boy scandal.

Violent feelings like shock help you to remember things. Various memory guides recommend attaching material to be memorized to violent or sexual imagery. As my mental symbol for the common Polish prefix "wy" (pronounced "vih") is Queen Victoria, a lot of awful things happen in my imagination to the Queer Old Bean.  

Thus, though GC magazine hopes that "The Cover Girl Boy" story will help get the entire US of A to accept the doctrine of "gender fluidity", I believe that all Cover Girl's advertisers were trying to do was shock America into remembering that the drugstore line exists. 

My own thoughts about the Cover Girl Boy have progressed from pity and fear for the  boy and his generation of boys, to horror for the goodhearted person who chastised me for objecting to CG's decision on the grounds that "It's 2016", to interest in the salary of make-up artists (as the Cover Girl Boy is not a professional model but a gifted make-up artist), to a reflection that boys and men have worn make-up before, and not just to signal that they are prostitutes. 

For example, throughout the 1970s and 1980s male musicians used exaggerated face paint to create personae. Sometimes they went with weird designs, but Boy George went with the standard, full-faced multi-coloured look popular with women in 1982. By the late 80s, there was a vogue for black eyeliner among alt rock teenage musicians playing at high school Battles of the Bands. In the 1990s, Goth boys wore white face paint and tons of black eyeliner and lipstick. Meanwhile the "grunge" look included nailpolish for men albeit in dark masculine shades.

And as we know from Georgette Heyer and costume dramas, men of privileged classes once wore thick masks of what we would call foundation, plus powder, rouge, kohl,  and fake beauty marks made of silk patches. They wore high heels and wigs, and you get the picture.  How happy the cosmetics company would be if men returned to wearing makeup--especially as a status symbol.  

I find this article about men-wearing-make-up interesting, for most of it passes what I call the Aquinas Test.  Aquinas ponders the sinfulness of slap, the use of which Saint Augustine considered a species of lying. Saint Cyprian obviously thought it was the devil's paintbox.  However, Aquinas gives married ladies a pass and distinguishes between trying simulate beauty and merely covering up deformities. It is amusing to ponder 13th century students in Paris asking the Angelic Doctor if bags under the eyes count as deformities and if the ravages of age, caused by the Fall, are not deformities, if only in a metaphorical sense. At any rate, I think Aquinas is okay with men covering their zits with pigmented petroleum. 

He is NOT okay with the use of cosmetics to inspire lust.  To return to the Cover Girl Boy, what I found appalling in his use of make-up, and indeed of Cover Girl's use of him, were his sexy painted pout and his doe eyes. The artfully done Tom Sawyer-freckles made him look, if anything, younger, so this added to the overall "boy prostitute" look.  As well-read, intellectually honest people know (paging Camille Paglia), the "cult of the beautiful boy" is an aspect of  gay culture. Meanwhile, at this very moment a cultural civil war  is being waged around the protection of children in light of new fads about "gender." Making-up a 17 year old to look like a boy prostitute and then calling him a "Cover Girl" is certainly provocative--and offensive.

RuPaul was  also offensive, but he wasn't a teenager. He was an entertainer in his mid-30s when he became the MAC "cover girl." He was old enough to take care of himself, and I suspect his influence over MAC's target market was negligible. In the 1990s and 00s, women enjoyed playing with make-up, but we were fearful of looking "like drag queens." I didn't know any women who dressed as dressed RuPaul for his MAC shoots. However, I can easily imagine vulnerable boys--egged on by girls, painted by girls--trying out the Cover Girl Boy look. 

The one man I have met who wore foundation off-stage was the make-up artist who sold me my wedding cosmetics. In my posts on the subject I called him "Albus." I liked Albus very much. He was good at his job, and he flattered my vanity, something which should lead to success in the women's beauty industry. I don't remember if he wore eyeshadow, etc. He spoke in a faux-feminine way which went with his overall Albusness.

So I liked Albus, but I can't imagine Albus having a father-son talk, or browsing for tools at Canadian Tire, or fighting for his country.... Actually, yes, I can, as I have a very active imagination. The father-son talk and the Canadian Tire are just too much, but I can see Albus getting fed up with something or other and signing up to fight. Albus in camoflauge with an AK-47, yes, I can see that. He washes his face first, though. 

Frankly---and I am walking a thin line here, opening myself to critique of being both "a hater" and "a liberal"---I think there is enough room in the world for painted gents with careers in the entertainment and cosmetics industries. What I really object to is the continuing sexualization of children and teenagers and the enormous influence entertainers and celebrities have over society. If young James Charles launches a lucrative career as a make-up artist, all power to him. However, I think a generation of James Charles wannabes would be just as bad for society as a messed-up generation of  Sex-and-the-City wannabes have been. 


  1. I agree with you.

    Women do not want to look like a teen boy. While the ad campaign shocks, I don't think it will inspire women to buy the product.

  2. I agree with you.

    Women do not want to look like a teen boy. While the ad campaign shocks, I don't think it will inspire women to buy the product.

  3. I didn't realize they had hired a boy (and not a transperson). I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse.

  4. Time will tell! It would be interesting to see the hard numbers of CG sales. They certainly got marketing buzz--and their model has amazing exposure to get him paid work as an artist--but I think in the end it will all come down to sales.

    In Facebook arguments, I wish I had stuck to pointing out the contrast between the cute-little-boy freckles and the mascara/lipstick.