Baz Luhrmann “Elvis”: How the King redefined masculinity in rock

Elvis – “I saw that skinny boy turn into a superhero. Tomorrow, all of America will be talking about Elvis Presley.” This was confirmed by the King’s manager (played by Tom Hanks) Elvisan autobiography by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet Moulin Rouge!) Dedicated to the artist who bears his name, released on June 22, 2022 in cinemas. A portrait of Elvis Presley that promises to be flamboyant. But not only.

Because film director Baz Luhrmann is also known for his visual enthusiasm, his penchant for combining classics with modernity, and his ability to exceed expectations. Infringement and Elvis, a logical equation? Without a doubt. Across the Atlantic, many papers remember the amazing modernity of the king of rock. Either in terms of music or in terms of playing genres.

Thus, observer Feel free to stress it out: Elvis was the first great androgynous artist of rock culture. The first to reconcile masculinity and femininity in every destroyer. A singer who would inspire Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury…even pop star Harry Styles.

Would Elvis have redefined the way masculinity is considered in rock music? journalist for magazine number author of rock booksCourtney Love, From Evil Hell to Charming Salvation), Violin Schutz bowed to Terrafemina On this rich question.

Terrafemina: observer He sees Elvis as the first great hermaphrodite rock icon. How did he help redefine masculinity in rock music?

Violin Schutz: It’s true that he had an androgynous side, back then. Baz Luhrmann also highlights him well, especially through Prada-signed costumes: baggy trousers, tight-fitting shirts, openwork lace shirts … Baz Luhrmann interviewed those close to Elvis Presley, in particular his ex-wife and daughter, so this aspect Absolutely wonderful. TRUE.

And then, we also see Elvis putting on makeup. We even make a note about it: he will be made up as a girl … We always talk about the fact that Elvis stole his music from black people (which is true) or that he invented rock and roll (this is not true, he is rather a pioneer), but rarely Because Elvis was one of the first figures in popular culture to associate masculinity with femininity, as James Dean was able to do at the time. Long before Mick Jagger, long before glam rock and Brian Eno (Roxy Music).

In an interview with the magazine rolling rock Dated 1995 and mentioned before cheat sheetMick Jagger says, “Elvis was very androgynous. The older generation was afraid of Elvis because of that. It’s one of the things they saw in Elvis. They called him androgynous.”

The “effeminate” was already an insult at the time. At the time of his first concerts, Elvis developed in a very heterogeneous environment in the country. And we saw him swaying – his famous sway… It’s a woman’s sway. It is believed to be inspired by film actress Tora Satana Pussy faster! kill kill! Written by Ross Meyer, who would have taught him to dance like this [Tura Satana était également gogo danseuse, ndlr].

Likewise, people would say of Elvis that he danced like a black man, which wasn’t really a compliment – the stereotype of the black man dancing “wild,” among other overtly racist portrayals of the time. But also… that he danced like a woman.

Here’s what bothered you: Elvis was changing the standards of the genre. A man should not shake, or move his hips in this way, as women in strip clubs in particular do.

What were his reactions during his first concerts?

Obviously, these dances were horrific. Soon, Elvis was sued for his bad manners. The authorities were trying to lock him up. It was a very new thing. We will call him Elvis pelvis (“pelvis”), referring to her swaying hips. But Elvis also, in the mid-fifties, sleek back hair, pink clothes, tight shirts, cool features, eye make-up…

In 1957, Elvis’ director, Colonel Parker, would persuade him to force him to perform his military service in Germany. So we will send him to the army in March 1958, and remind him, ie: shave his hair. This amounts to shedding what makes it a powerful, sexy side. Elvis’ hair is somewhat similar to that of Samson in the legend of Samson and Delilah…

We talk a lot about fashion. Why do they contribute to his androgynous side?

We note several periods of Elvis in this topic. A person in very baggy pants gives the impression of being floating. Somewhat rockabilly fashion, with rustic shirts, nice shoes, sleek back hair… He really loves the clothes.

Then we will have Elvis in the army. Then 1968 Elvis, who came back during a legendary concert, was Elvis Presley 68 Special Return, which airs on NBC, having serialized highly questionable films in which he wears Hawaiian T-shirts and shorts. He’s back in a rock leather jacket, molded into it, and a super sexy jacket and pants, he’s so cute.

But there’s also Elvis in the mid-’70s, who fills Vegas every night. He appears in a rhinestone jumpsuit and a super-shiny jumpsuit, large glasses, long hair, ankle boots, a plunging neckline, a shaved bosom, and he wears jewelry. At the time, it reminded me a lot of Elton John.

It’s annoying to see how much Elton John reminds us of the Elvis of the Vegas years. Glam rock images generally reflect this special era of Elvis. Elvis of Vegas also reminds me of the music hall pianist Liberace, whose costumes were full of liveliness and dynamism.

Elvis, from what we know, was not gay, but he did play a lot with female symbols and gender stereotypes. Like offbeat icons like singer Cher, he had this over-the-top, this extravagant side, that’s not easy to wear by everyone (especially outside of Vegas)…

Appearance is important to artists, rock and rap today – as shown for example in the Netflix show, new school. We imagine it the way a pop star like Harry Styles puts himself on stage — in dresses, with nail polish. We have to create a very strong image.

It’s hard to imagine Freddie Mercury without Marcel Tight: it’s sound and music that borrows as much from opera as heavy metal, but also from looks that will alarm him as much as he fascinates.

One of pop culture’s most iconic venues, Elvis’ Getup has inspired countless imitators. Has the cult of costumes and crossovers made them popular at queer parties?

I don’t know because when I think about it, I think of more Elvis lookalikes, ones we could have seen on Evelyn Thomas shows (laughs) lookalikes who would look like Dick Rivers by the way. In the gay community and music hall, the most popular costumes refer to singers Donna Summer.

Elvis’ costume has almost become a carnival disguise. But the fact that it’s become one illustrates its iconic content, as does Jessica Rabbit’s. Diva question, it is also necessary to know that Elvis failed to play, at the end of the seventies, in A star is born With Barbra Streisand…

Did his voice bring something different from the male bells of the time?

It is indeed an interesting aspect. Recently released a record for country artist Orville Beck, an official cowboy and friend of actress Riley Keough, granddaughter of Elvis – it’s all connected. Well, he definitely sounds like Elvis Presley. Elvis’s voice wasn’t really masculine despite his truly humming moments. Because it’s sexy, some intonation can seem more intrusive.

Androgyny appears to be a central aspect of rock culture. We think of David Bowie, Robert Smith, Prince, Kurt Cobain… Why is this aspect so important to you?

Little Richard, at the start of rock culture, wasn’t already very manly either. Not really The Beatles, Mick Jagger, or David Bowie. How do we explain it? I would say that rock is essentially dissenting music: we’re talking about the devil’s music.

Music is what makes the noise, upsets the authorities and parents, and breaks the rules. When you swing, that’s how you feel differently, you want to offer something alternative to the world you live in, which is in conflict with it Establishment. There is an idea of ​​rebellion, rebellion.

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See also on The HuffPost: Trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated biography of Elvis and the promises of brilliance and rock ‘n’ roll

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