Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Aesthetic Abnormalities: Runaway Masculinity in Heavy Metal Hair Bands

"Fisherian Runaway" describes a process of sexual selection in which a random trait evolves. By random, I mean a trait which is desirable but not a functional in terms of reproduction or survival.

For Example, the peacock's tail:
the peacock's tail requires a great deal of energy to grow and maintain, it reduces the bird's agility, and it may increase the animals visibility to predators. Yet it has evolved, indicating that birds with longer tails have some advantage. Fisherian runaway explains that if a peahen selects a peacock with a longer and more colorful tail, then her male children are more likely to have long and colorful tails and are more likely to be sexually successful themselves, because other peahens have the same preference for longer tails. Therefore, in a circular fashion, having a preference for longer tails gives an advantage. (Wikipedia)

I've written many times about "escalated aesthetic distortions", elements of style that get pushed to the point of abnormality. for instance the Ganguro & Yamanba girls in Japan that have taken the tanning thing way to far.

I had been thinking about stylistic displays of machismo and hyper-masculinity when I stumbled upon the concept of "Fisherian Runaway". It's interesting that the peacock is cited as the example in the Wikipedia article because I had been thinking of examples in which displays of masculinity are pushed so far they become an aesthetic that is fully feminized.

I noticed this in the case of guido's with blowouts, spray tans and waxed eyebrows.

Perhaps the best example comes from heavy metal hair bands. Even the bad boys of Motley Crue were dolled up like a precious cross-dressers. A lot of words come to mind but "tough" isn't one of them.

Motley Crue



kathleen said...

The Wodaabe tribe of Africa hold a "male beauty pageant" called the Geerewol festival:

The National Geographic link also has photos of men in other tribes that are dressed up to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies, which helps them win fights, and therefore "get the girl."

I'm not convinced about the peacock tail thing. I just don't buy that nature is that... shallow. Plus it makes no sense from a survival perspective - they tail reduces speed and mobility, and they don't reproduce fast enough for something that should be an easy food source.

Maybe the eyes scare the crap out of enemies, or at least make them think there's more than one. Maybe it's hypnotic to the females, so it's not really choice as subversion. Peacock date rape?

Thomas Sherman said...

I think nature is just as shallow as we are (we are a product of nature afterall)

I present to you, the bower bird

WOW GOLD said...
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cheap viagra said...

You are quite right. It looks more womanize when they are in a metal band. Thinner with long hair and leather pants. said...

Pretty effective info, thanks for the post.