I realize the need for office privacy is not quite as urgent now that many of us — if not all — are no longer in offices and/or being supervised, but if you have rugrats in your life who move like spies through the house at the most inconvenient times, you still might want Lee Pace up there to warn you that you should save this reminiscence for when you know you’re alone. Because, behold:
Not that we should let Marilyn Manson slide, of course. Marilyn is by many accounts a terrible person, which makes his antics seem that much less appealing. But in this one instance, Marilyn is also wearing something I could see on any number of other celebrities now, in a way where it’d be campy and amusing. Like, if Lady Gaga or Rita Ora saw it, they’d probably exit a hotel in it, at the very least, and we’d be like, “Oh, you scamp.” So the focus then swings to Rose McGowan — assuredly the point of this outing, as well — and the fact that she did the thong-netting combination long before it was even a twinkle in Rihanna’s erogenous zones.
At the time, everyone thought this was shock for shock’s sake; attention for attention’s sake; tawdry and thirsty and all the other adjectives. And it IS an objectively shocking outfit. It’s hideous. It’s ass-floss. I shudder every time I imagine her sitting down in that theater. If she had a deeper intent, none of us were the wiser. So when I sat down to write this, I was going to keep it simple. But then, as it feels like I’ve missed a bunch of pop-culture stuff in the past year due to the book cave we were living in, I Googled the dress and learned that in 2018, Rose said she wore this a Weinstein protest. As this was her first public appearance since he allegedly sexually assaulted her, she wanted to emerge like Russell Crowe in Gladiator (her comparison, not mine). That context was a secret known only to her.
Obviously, I’m not at all saying she should have spoken up then just so that we would understand her butt chains. This isn’t about that. Women still don’t feel safe coming forward here in 2020; imagine how lonely and terrifying it must have felt in 1998. But I see this, and I remember the reactions — I had some of them anew myself, an hour before I sat down to type. Without knowing why she picked it, the outfit turned her into the literal butt of an easy joke. Now, obviously, artists don’t always explain their work, preferring to let the beholder take away whatever meaning they personally find. But I can’t help but wonder if this achieved what she had hoped, or whether the proverbial tree fell in the forest but didn’t make the desired noise. I suppose that if it felt like armor when she chose it — and amid the gasps thereafter — then it doesn’t matter if we got the point. After all, first and foremost, you have to make artistic choices for yourself.
But I still would have brought a purse stuffed with seat liners.