The vicissitudes of the red carpet
Red Carpet is a multifaceted queen. She is shameless about her own artifice. She’s extremely private but she pretends to be public: by restricting access to the non-initiated she simultaneously grants them the full view… at a televised distance. If it’s is axiomatic that there is no such thing as a space devoid of asymmetrical transactions, Red Carpet takes this to biblical proportions.
She is an orgy of high camp, senseless theatricality, polished rhetorics and outrageous garments. Cornucopia of product placement and performative stardom. Breeding ground for UGC, plague of influencers feeding the content industrial complex.*
Not merely a backdrop, Red Carpet asserts her own presence and her sovereignty despite literally being walked on. She is a masochist suffering under the weight of a highly standardised behavioural etiquette.
Perversely enough, she is often understood as the site of social upheaval, hijacking the #MeToo movement from grass-roots initiatives and continuously proving to be relatively futile in revaluing gender politics (#AskHerMore). Liberal feminism is her ally (CANNES 2018: KRISTEN STEWART REMOVES HEELS ON RED CARPET IN PROTEST OVER DRESS CODE). But of course we all know that her revolutionary potential—embodied in her red exterior—is suppressed the second she gets stomped on by designer heels and suffocated by lavish fragrances. Yet she couldn’t care less about her detachment from the working class issues. She is here to fuel the superstructure, to fabricate the myth. She is her own mode of production.
What is the temporality of Red Carpet? It seems to be both instantaneous and somehow trans-temporal: for people indoctrinated into the western showbiz paradigm, her semiotics are instantly recognisable. When one sees the red carpet, one knows it’s either a serious gala event, its approximation, or some kind of a postmodern pastiche comment on it. Red Carpet is reductive. She’s her own parody, her own intertextuality. She is old, sad and tired. She is the locus of badly scripted pranks (AMY SCHUMER PRANKS KIM AND KANYE ON THE RED CARPET AND IT'S PRETTY AMAZING), wardrobe malfunctions (NICOLE KINDLY WENT TO HUG ONE OF THE TOUR BUS ATTENDEES AT THE OSCARS – AT THE EXPENSE OF THE DELICATE BEJEWELED STRAPS OF HER CUSTOM ARMANI PRIVÉ GOWN) and mediocre attestations to the ‘humanness’ of the famous (JENNIFER LAWRENCE FELL ON THE RED CARPET…AGAIN).
If she could talk, we would only be interested in hearing her 'spill the tea', thirsty for the next hot take on various celebutantes and fallen teenage idols. But what might she actually say? When she speaks, Red Carpet remains dignified and calm, despite all the drama that’s happening on top of her. She knows she’s the centre of attention, but she is longing for something more substantial. “I just want some peace and quiet, away from the hassle”, she says, rolling herself in the fetal position and revealing herself for what she actually is: an introvert masking as an extrovert.
*Dena Yago, Content Industrial Complex, e-flux journal, March 2018