I landed on a program recently, flipping through: two headstrong Brits take motorbikes through Africa. Somewhere in Tunisia, they stop for a day to spend time with the locals. In a sunken desert dwelling a cloth covered woman makes coos coos by an ancient method. The riders watch her sift through a handmade basket on the dirt floor. She has a good batch and reaches down into the basket, scooping a handful of the grains and offering them to her guests. When the commercial hit, it is two women there, in the kitchen. One is in white and one is in plum and they are both discussing household cleaning products. The screen is sharp and the makeup is tonally sound and the scene is clean. Though I’m drowned in chemicals, I can still taste the plastic framed stylists behind the actors, painfully sharp and recounting their previous night in the sarcastic way, the previous night so well trodden its beneath them now. The stylists talk about the night as if it was something they had to do, like a big pathetic mandatory show-up. Their actors nod lovingly with expressions that dance around toe-stepping. They are newly married and picking up good commercial work. They are thinking about kids and they cant quite relate to these reckless outings as well as the stylists think they can. The makeup goes on heavier than they would like, when their faces dont need much, even for TV. The stylists are over dabbing, covering up their own dark marks and acne scars from a million nights out. I leaned in on this timeless scene, because I’d been in those back rooms a few times and heard all of the over-glossed life complaints.
And in the end, the stylists come out the unstable heroes. The revolt of the unclean is a natural energy, more than any manicured TV mockup. The actively clean, the prescribed and presentational are the new idols. Can we chip away at them? Where is the psychotic who took a hammer to David’s foot at the Academia? The neurosis of food, the neurosis of exercise, the neurosis of productivity, the neurosis of style.