Glamorous on Netflix shows another side of femininity and societal pressure.
My last blog was all about the Barbie movie and the deep thoughts it evoked about my relationship to my femininity. I just finished watching a show that made me think about it even more. Season one of the Netflix series Glamorous recently dropped, starring Kim Cattrall, a.k.a. Samantha Fucking Jones, as a former supermodel turned cosmetics empire mogul. She hires a young fan away from his job as a department store makeup associate because he reminds her how makeup can inspire the everyday person’s daily life. Marco, a gay femme man, is the protagonist of the show, and it’s one of his storylines that highlights the femininity dilemma—which, I mean, really, shouldn’t be a dilemma at all.
I’m always drawn to pretty boys and Marco is very pretty. He loves to wear makeup, soft fabrics, and high heels. Marco has his first real romance with Parker, aka Uber Boy, a hard-bodied, gym-going, self-described finance bro. Parker’s basically the adult career version of the high school jock. Besides palpable sexual chemistry, he gives Marco status, adjacency to wealth, and fulfillment of the need for approval.
So what’s missing? You got it, absolute acceptance of who Marco is. On more than one occasion he asks Marco to tone down his feminine side. “I gotta get used to a guy that turns heads,” he says.
Wow, that’s some familiar mixed message shit: “Be pretty enough for me, but not so pretty you embarrass me, and not so pretty you attract too much attention.”
At first Marco resists changing his look for Parker, but finds Uber Boy’s charm and grand apologies a powerful draw. When it comes time to meet Parker’s friends, Marco dresses down, trying to look more masculine. Marco’s an attractive man with or without makeup, but you can see that his decision to play down his femininity deflates him. He doesn’t feel like himself.
Here’s an experience I recently had: I was getting dressed for a presentation I was giving and put on one of my favorite tops. Looking in the mirror, I was like, “Damn. I don’t remember this shirt making my cleavage look so good.” Then I realized it’s because I always wear it with a camisole underneath to hide the neckline. I got to thinking I’d better quick change and put that camisole on. Otherwise, during my presentation, the men will be distracted and the women will be like what is she doing?
That Olivia Pope line from the first episode of Scandal popped into my head— “Too much cleavage.”
So, how much cleavage are we talking here? A hint, just a hint, as long as I kept myself still and upright.
I put that camisole on. And when I looked in the mirror, kind of like Marco, I felt diminished. And that’s how I gave my presentation, feeling less myself.
I’ve probably done this a thousand times. Dressed it down, toned it down, covered it up, and proceeded to go through the day as a less vibrant, less real, less exuberant version of myself. Without even questioning it.
Did I make the right decision, layering up my outfit? It seemed like the right move at the time, because it was comfortable. Safe. Yet I didn’t like how I felt afterwards. It sure got me thinking about Marco standing in his boyfriend’s doorway, shoulders slumped under the weight of trying not to be his glamorous self. Looking at my experience illuminated how important it is to one’s well being to express— femme, masc, everything in between and all around.
It also underlined my observation from my Barbie movie blog, that overt femininity is often reviled. This new awareness might help me think twice before I decide to tone myself down in the future. That, and inspiration from all the celebrations of femininity I can get my hands on.
There’s this scene in episode 8 of Glamorous where Marco gets everyone to reenact “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago. It’s fun and fabulous and still giving me life. It was Marco’s moment of “Yes! I can be who I am to the nth degree.” There was a price to pay, but I guess that’s what it comes down to. Making that choice. Have fun being who you are, or be miserable trying to win everyone’s approval. Sounds simple, but in actual living, it’s often difficult.
“Cell Bock Tango” BTS Post from Miss Benny’s Instagram
And, yes, I did dress up as Velma Kelly from Chicago one year for Halloween. It was just another excuse to be ultra femme.
Are you watching Glamorous? Ever had the too much femininity for polite society dilemma? Let me know in the comments or on social.
(Note: In this blog post I use the pronoun he for Marco, as this is the pronoun Marco’s character goes by. The actor who plays Marco, Miss Benny, goes by she/they.)
More on Glamorous: Glamorous Lets Femmes Be Sex Symbols