Modess, Because…The Blood and Ballgowns Edition

Dear M.,

The glory of your recent post on Maidenform bra ads (does the name “Maidenform” mean “we will make your breasts look maidenly and not matronly? Forget your sagging dugs of today…”) made me think of the glory of the famous Modess ads, where all menstruation was alluded to by pounds of taffeta and the vaguest motto ever, “Because…”.

How to explain biology away in one word…because. The italics are important. The italics mean something special, something relaxed and leaning.  They are the verbal form of gownery and diamonds. In the world of Modess, menstruation is the stuff of soap operas and royalty. Even the brand name simultaneously brings forth ideas of modesty, models, and being de mode. It was a genius aspirational brand.

I have a stack of old magazines I scored from Goodwill, and every time I come across a Modess ad, I gasp. They are just lovely. And insane. They also make me want to be a sanitary napkin model for a day. How could you not? Take a look:

Ah, the glamour of menstruation! I didn’t know it meant you could have pink satin streaming from your behind like a great beacon of fertility.

But let’s get more pensive.

 Hydrangeas! Taffeta! Cursive!

My period always makes me feel like a starlet who ran away from a movie premier to feel the morning dew on my skin. I particularly love the knowing look on her face. As she sweeps her wrap towards us, you know she’s thinking “oh, if you only knew what my uterine lining was doing right now…that’s right. Bleeding all over the place.”

Or, sometimes, menstruation makes you want to sit down in your ball gown, and have a cup of coffee:

Again, do not, whatever you do, associate that red triangle of fabric with blood. And really, how can you chafe when you are so arranged? How can you chafe when you’re swaddled in a pad ballgown? Because, again, your period is pretty much like going to the fanciest dinner of your life, every month.

This next lady kind of looks like she needs our help. I think her elbow has been super-glued (accidentally) to the harpsichord!

Or, you can start shedding, just like your endometrium!

Modess went in a different direction here, where the news is pretty much sunshine and lollipops:

Doesn’t this look exactly like Helena Bonham Carter?

Here are a few more just…because…

Hail to the V!

With the Maidenform ads, I kept thinking what a strange statement it was to wish for a grand (semi-grand) life in your basic undergarment. Who cared what you dreamed in your bra, because you still have to mop the kitchen floor. The ads don’t promise deliverance from a shitty, bra-wearing reality. They just promise that you will dream about being other places when you wear their product, which doesn’t seem like a compelling reason to don their underwires. With Modess, it’s a similar paradox. If Modess means high fashion, high living, and extreme elegance, then how funny is it to aspire to those things with a disposable product that is the opposite of fashion. You want people to see your cutting edge fashion platery. You really really don’t want people to know you are doing that covert monthly activity of bleeding in your pants.

I guess menstruation is pretty damn feminine, as are these ads. And I can see the allure of insinuating that a pad is something like the ballgown of your dreams.  A dream instantly deferred upon use, but, well, I can see what the admen were thinking.

But really, it all really boils down to this Peep Show clip:



Images via Clotho98 on Flickr

Odd Saints: Daisy Steiner (a la Jessica Hynes)

Dear Millicent,

As a Hulu wonder, I have discovered the Simon Pegg/Jessica Hynes vehicle Spaced.  In doing so, I think I may have found a female equivalent of Jez from Peep Show.  Here, both roommates (Pegg and Hynes) are Jez, but it is a special delight to see the female character take hold.  She is ambitious, lazy, full of self-narrative, and as rife with failure and ambiguity as the majority of the actual population.  I love Spaced.  It’s jokes aren’t as transcendent as Peep Show, but they come from the same source: a throwdown of what we are, and of  the pretensions that keep us keeping on.

Midway through this clip (it starts with their neighbor preparing to meet the transsexual love of his life) Daisy goes for an interview at a hip lady’s magazine, and implodes.  When asked how it went by her roomie, she ultimately concludes, “I was a tit.” Could this be a lady version of a dick joke gone right?  Her roommate perfectly understands. When she does finally get the rejection, she gives a full monologue of how they might have loved her, the quirky addition to the office she might be, and then reads, “It’s a no.”

On both Hulu and Youtube for your viewing pleasure.


Wooing Woozie

Dear Millicent,

Just found out that Mitchell and Webb are near-ish our age.   They also induced me to join Twitter, just so I can follow their daily musings.  I am starting to see the allure of Twitter, it offers a strangely intimate access to the faraway. So far, I follow them and my  mum, and am yet to tweet a peep myself.   It was through this that I found this:  Ooey and gooey and rather sweet, for a tweet.

Sex: Now We Know

In response to your lovely observations on how, when it comes to sex, we really sort of always knew. Or else we still have absolutely no idea.

Peep Show Series 1: Having Fun With the Olives

Dear CF,

You’re so right about the haziness of the impression PS leaves behind. Maybe it’s because it’s so conversational—things aren’t punctuated even as much as they are in the BBC Office, which gives Brent the Talking Head moments to really showcase his one-liners. Here, though, it’s sort of a delicious stream-of-consciousness sequence in which one delightful discomfort quickly displaces the one that came before. You’re enjoying Mark’s fantasy of crushing the small scary boys outside (why, incidentally, do they call him Clean Shirt?) when BOOM! you’re on the floor looking up into Toni’s face, disfigured with rage over her failure to get Alpen. Next thing you know, you’re watching her eat, her forehead shiny and enlarged, and somewhere, a poo retreats.

I share most of your favorite moments, and thought a few were worth reproducing here.

Mark Moments:

  • “I am the lord of the bus, said he!”
  • “Where is she? Knickers, she’s not on here.”
  • “Of course, she’s giving you the book-off. People don’t want your hands on their bottoms, Mark.”
  • “I don’t want to go to Weight Pros. I want a fuckbuddy.”
  • “The longbow beats the crossbow, my idiotic friend.”
  • “I wonder what kind of socks Sophie wears. Do women wear socks? Well, yes, sometimes, that’s the answer to that. Socks before or after trousers, but never socks before pants. That’s the rule. Makes a man look scary, like a chicken.”
  • “People like him should wear stickers! They’ve got them for their cars. Oh yeah, great idea, Adolf.”
  • (Aloud): “Later, potat-er.” Potat-er. What have I become?
  • “Okay, pen, let’s flirt with Sophie. … Come on. Go crazy. You’re hungry, like the wolf!”

Super Hans Moment:

  • “Oh, so Mr. Fucking Ocean-Color Pants doesn’t get it. Quel fucking surprise.”

Jeremy Moments:

  • “I’m a dirty hobbit and she’s a sexy elf. So she might be “Oh, you dirty hobbit, take off my bodkin and my jerkin. Oh yeah, sexy ears. … Yeah, yield to me, hobbit-slayer. You will touch my magic cock.”
  • “Oh Toni, I feel incredibly tired. Let’s just both lie down on your bed. I hope she gets out the bong, not the fucking cafettiere.” (Next scene: her with the cafettiere.)
  • “Well, yeah, I mean it’s first pressing. Or do you want to wait until everyone else has had their fun with the olives? Fourth pressing. Yeah, like that’s gonna be a party in your mouth, I don’t think.”

Great Exchange #1:

  • Jez: “How thick is wall?”
    Mark: “Depends.”
    Mark: “So. What Starbucks does she go to?”

The grocery list, which I must reproduce in full:

  • “I’m making chicken tikka. Plus, I bought us loads of great stuff. Dune on DVD, Bakewell slices, gin, and Sara Lee.”
  • Mark’s optimism is so touching here, and his disappointment when he says the following is an instance, I think, of your point that their delivery is sometimes nothing short of brilliant:

  • “Oh, right. I see. I get it. You were lampooning me. It was a simple lampoon.”

Great Exchange #2

  • Jez: “You’re a posh spaz.”
    Mark (overenunciating): “Oh, really? Well, I’d love to know in what way am I a posh spaz?
    Jez: “In the way you’re always doing posh spazzy things like tidying up and ironing your socks.”
    Mark (outraged): “I do not iron my socks!”
    Jez (cocking his head): “Socks, shirts. Whatever!”


  • The bathtub conversation—yes. Why did we never do this?
  • Mark’s delight in his toast routine, and how he’s actually pulling a fast one because he happens to love wheat toast.
  • Jez idly stabbing at the toaster with a knife while Mark’s telling him about a job opportunity.

Pyramid-Selling Great Exchanges:

  • Toni: “I mean does that look like a pyramid to you? Clearly it’s not a pyramid, it’s a pie.”
    Jez: “It’s like a big lovely club with free money for everyone. I mean it sounds great, but—”
    Toni (schoolmarmishly): “Free money for everyone, ha. Look out the window, Jeremy. That’s never gonna happen, not in this old world. No. See, the early birds are going to find their bird table covered with money pie.”
    Jez, after a pause: “Right.”
    Toni: “But the Johnny and Sally-come-latelies, they’ll get a slice of the pie, but then they look closer, and oh dear, it’s only pastry. Boohoo, Johnny and Sally! Are you with me?”
  • Later, Jez in the bathtub, Mark sitting on toilet:

  • Jez: “Are you trying to piss on my bonfire?”
    Mark: “I’m trying to protect you from pissing all over yourself.
    Jez: “I’m not about to piss all over myself. I’m pissing into the—big time.”
    Mark: “You’re still coming to the interview.”
    Jez: “Yeah, well, I thought–”
    Mark: “Listen, Jeremy. You don’t seem to understand. Nothing you want is ever going to happen. That’s the real world. Your hair isn’t red, people don’t walk around on stilts. Maybe somewhere you can earn money drinking margaritas through a curly plastic straw, but in this world you’ve got to turn up, log on and grind down.”
    (Helps Jez fill his glass from the shower head.)

I think Episode 2 might be my favorite.

Mark’s incredible range between know-it-all high-horsiness and humiliated paralysis is so real–they strike an amazing balance between the impulses that make somebody a righteous prig and a sad little ball of insecurity who regularly imagines that “nothing this bad has happened to anyone, ever,” and switches in the next second to “this is the best thing that has happened to anyone ever!” Which might in the end be about wheat toast. Mark’s non sequiturs and small delights are so much more satisfying than Jez’s because he wants to resist them so badly. His lapses of self-consciousness are so pleasant; how nice, we think, that he forgot himself and actually enjoyed something for a second.

I like, too, that nothing that works for Jez works for Mark. Jez’s whole system—“maybe if I don’t think about it, it didn’t happen,” and vice versa—is based on a sort of anarchic splattering of everything with Jezness in the hope that some of it sticks, and some of it does.

Why is it that Mark is actually comfortable, relaxed, even kind of witty with the goth girl? Is it her youth? Her gothness? Her evident willingness to accept him just as he is and evaluate him according to his own miserable standard and still hang out with him?


The Glories and The Bad Thing

Dear Millicent,

So, I am not yet through all of Peep Show season 1, but in my half review, I remembered how the first time I watched the show, it made for a particular syndrome for me.  I would watch and laugh aloud, sure that they were some of the funniest things I had seen in awhile, and then not be able to remember any of the punchlines.   It is almost as if Peep Show is simply too much.  We get the effect of the drug, the afterglow, but the actual stimuli is more of a blur than anything apropriate to later recall in conversation (perhaps like orgasms or dreams).  This was, of course, until I started watching this time with pencil and paper in hand.  These, so far, are things that have, as they say, cracked me up:

  • The first scene of Jez (Jess?) telling himself how awesome he is in the mirror.
  • The list of makeup groceries Mark has planned for Jez. So very normal, so tender.
  • Drinking in the bathroom! Why did we never take to our bathroom like a long lost bar? That moment of scotch in the bathroom made me homesick for life with roommates.
  • Mark’s glee at finding shelter in the supply closet–“I’m in the Ardennes!”
  • Speaking of drinking in the bathroom, the brilliant timing of Jez laughing at his own interior monologue. And then, asking for more water from their pathetic sink shower nozzle thing.
  • Mark’s note of “Ha! You’re not going to help with small talk, fine then. Let’s all die together.”
  • Jez, at a party in episode 3, about how it’s the 21rst century, and olive oil is a definite small talk subject.
  • THE BAD THING.  A: well, it’s funnier than anything expected, and  B: the genius of thinking of smoking a bunch of cigarettes through a sub sandwich. So innocent in relation to the real bad thing, but so delightfully absurd.

Why is this glee so sharp? Is it because they handle the POV so well, and the timing as deftly as Gervais and Merchant delivered in The Office? Is it because they nail anxiety and delusion is a way that Seinfeld only hinted at? Is it because the props and references are painfully, wonderfully exact? Is it because they say “pedo” all the time, and there is a character named Big Suze?

Like crack, as Super Hans (why not Super Hands? it wouldn’t not make sense for his character)  would say, it has a more-ish taste.

I kinda love all of them, and will do my duty and watch more pronto,


Peep Show

Dear CF,

I have binged on Peep Show during this past week, and have watched nearly all of the five series. I find it addictive and pleasant, despite the really quite incredible unattractiveness of the people and lifestyles concerned. I feel like it’s sort of an inverse of the The Office. This is what the show might have been like if the documentarians ignored the office life and followed Ricky Gervais around at home.

That flat is among the dreariest, most depressing and utterly beige things I have ever seen on television. It’s appalling and depressing and yet so nondescript that I can’t call to mind a SINGLE feature of their living room. The kitchen is more definite.

Mark’s obsession with history stuff is so unappealing and so real; his entire persona is brilliantly crafted, I think, right down to the worry about his misshapen scrotum (though not, he explicitly states, his penis). The homosocial stuff is dealt with so directly; I love that Mark spends a lot of time considering whether he might be gay because of his man-crush on Allen Johnson.

The way the show handles story arc between episodes is bizarre, and more “real” in its effect than reality TV could ever possibly be.

Can we talk about this as we would a movie? I nominate it for Nitpicking.