Cyndi Lauper knew it all the way back in 1983, “Girls just want to have fun!” But the fun is no longer just limited to the ladies, my friend, the boys are getting in on it as well. A growing trend has been happening in the indie community for a while now, which mirrors the androgynous feel of rockers from Christmas past. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones has been wearing women’s clothing for decades upon decades, along with others such as David Bowie, T-Rex, etc. In recent years, the indie community has taken the “glam rock” feel and incorporated into its own dirty, underground, “un-glamorous” style. The past was filled with glitter, eyeliner, feather boas, and much more; the men looked like they were going out on a “Girls Night on the Town.” The indie community has since perverted the once flashy political commentary and used it for art and comedy. Music videos such as Mac DeMarco’s “My Kind of Woman” and the Growlers’ “Not the Man” have adopted a more of a “backroom/rough night/morning after” feel to their cross-dressing. Both Mac and Brooks Nielsen of the Growlers adopt a similar style of drag queen: messy wigs, sloppy makeup, thrift store clothing, and most importantly still masculine qualities.
The “My Kind of Woman” music video begins with a close up on Mac’s infamous tooth gap mouthing the words, “Awh Baby.” He then proceeds to apply lipstick (hopefully Mac brand) very carelessly to his lips. The camera pans upward and he applies mascara to his already smudged eyes: giving the sense that maybe he had a rough night at the “Rock and Roll Night Club” the night before and he’s going back out again tonight. The video continues and Mac completes his transformation with his wig and dress. Much of the video is shot from a shaky close-up perspective of Mac lip-synching the words to the song and him walking through some random backstage area. The video ends with Mac being stripped nude and packaged away into a box. Up until this point the video could be seen as purely for comedic purposes, but the ending adds perplexity to the entire video. Nude Mac being packaged with newspaper into a box gives the notion that maybe he isn’t a human-being after all; he’s just a piece of property being used for his money-making talent ready to be shipped off to the next show. With an ending as perplex as this, it makes the viewer question the content of the entire video: the poor cross-dressing, the back stage scenery, the spot-light and stage, the lyrics, etc. This music video could be seen as a very deep piece of political commentary into the norms of the music industry, but just as easily as a comedic piece. Mac is known for his quirky antics on stage and off; he even dressed as a Revolutionary War era Patriot playing the electric guitar in his music video for “Dreamin’.” Whether or not the video was intended to have a deeper meaning, you can tell that Mac had a lot of fun making it. In an interview with Stingray Music on Youtube regarding the music video, he responded with, “I like to feel like a woman; I like to feel sexy.”
Three years later the Growlers released their music video for “Not the Man” off of Chinese Fountain. The entire video is a play on the lyrics: “I’m not the man that I used to be.” The video, alike Mac’s, features Brooks going through the transformation of becoming a woman: from the make-up, wig-cap and over-highlighted wig, sequin top, to the high-heels. In many shots Brooks can even be seen eating Chinese food, which is a tip of the hat to thealbum title. The “Not the Man” video also focuses on Brooks lip-synching the words to the song throughout the video as Mac did. The main difference between the two videos was the Growler’s purposely cheep edits and shots of the band members in the field; overall, giving a more “artsy” feel to the video, while Mac relied on the ending to give his video substance.
As a huge fan of both the Growlers and Mac DeMarco, I love the similar videos and the growing trend of the sloppy, “down-on her luck” drag queen that the two artists have incorporated in their videos. I hope to see much more of this style in their work and of others: whether it is for political commentary or just to be goofy.