April 6, 2017 (Thursday)

by Yule Heibel on April 5, 2018

Today I was up at the crack of dawn – by my lights, anyway, 6a.m. is dawn. There’s a trio of crows winging across the thickly clouded sky now, at 6:40a.m. Such a spongy texture, so soft, just a hint of the rains to come (or at least predicted). One crow remains, the other two quickly disappeared from my rather large sunroom window view finder. Now, looking up, I see that it too has gone. It made such great arcs in the sky, I could see its wing feathers stretching out, each one straining – or simply catching with ease – the current bearing it along. Four crows just flew past. The sky is still soft, vague indentations high up in the cloud cover suggest movement, shape, volume, but they are about as distinct and salient as the floaters which plague my vision when my brain can’t auto-tune them away. Two gulls just passed. Smaller birds – sparrows, mostly – whip along. Fall, really. They are so close to the ground, to the trees.

Last night I looked briefly at Twitter; saw a clip of an interview with Ivanka Trump in which she disavows any conflict of interest and maintains her “transparency.” I’m not going to pile on with the other partisan haters who think she is somehow especially venal (just as Republicans couldn’t not believe that HRC was the most venal woman on Earth), but one @-reply did resonate in a weird way. It was from a woman, and she asked how in the world does Ivanka get her face to look “all melty [sic] like that,” and that Melania Trump has the same appearance. Someone else replied, “Waxen,” and suggested it’s dermatological intervention provided by the same doctor (hence the similar skin appearance).

There is something really unnatural about the soft, “melty” and “waxen” (but soft) appearance of their skin, at least the face. It’s like cell death is not allowed to happen there, like cells have to be kept in a perpetual state of freshness, as though they were fetal tissue bathed permanently in amniotic fluid (which rather takes neoteny to a whole new level…). It is also a little bit like looking at the portrait of Dorian Gray, and one wonders where, at what level, cell death and decay are allowed to happen.

It’s absurd to call Ivanka’s appearance merely unnatural – even though that is what it is: I’ve never seen a more “plastic” (in the hippie sense of “fake”) face anywhere, if we agree that a mature woman’s face really shouldn’t approximate a baby’s bottom. Even more so than Melania’s, Ivanka’s face appears unnatural. It’s the exaggerated eye makeup and eyebrows, certainly, but mostly it’s the skin. She has a small face and a low forehead (her hairline is quite low), so there’s not even that much skin on that face. But what there is of it sends out signals at high volume. Mostly, I think, it signals attention given. No one gets out of bed in the morning and looks like that, so she herself gives herself a lot of attention and time to look like that …so that we can in turn look at her.

It’s a shield, protection: “No matter how much attention you give me, I have greater resources (and reserves) than you, and I prove it with this face, to which I alone have given more attention than all of you combined can muster.”

It’s one way of winning in the Attention Economy, through staging a potlatch of attention spent (in a potlatch ceremony, the family or clan that spends the most “wins”). Ivanka “wins” the appearance- and attention-wars – at least by those standards, which are also, seen from another perspective, potentially rather empty and superficial ones. But they do matter. One way to ensure “winning” is to keep us guessing as to how she does it (i.e., back to the comment about “melty”). And “winning” also has to suggest access to resources mere mortals might not possess. A goddess isn’t hoi polloi, she is ariston (arista?), the very best, separate, elect, and select. All of it signifies “winning,” and with a father like Donald Trump (who knows all about image and brand and superficiality), Ivanka is well versed in and primed to accept “beauty” as the battle field she needs to conquer. It is a very shallow field, though, and might leave no legacy. How women can wage battle and win in the Attention Economy is an interesting topic. How they get slaughtered is also instructive.

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