photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
there is something identifiably AMERICAN about CANDY DARLING.
as a relatively new country, throughout our history there has always been this unique capacity to SELF-MAKE ourselves in some optimistically divined utopian vision of what we could and should be, unhampered by centuries of triumphs and mistakes. in essence we are collectively in the process of bringing a more perfect vision of ourselves to fruition. the SELF-MADE, projected figure of ANDY WARHOL superstar and cultural icon CANDY DARLING showcases that distinct TENSION that comes between LIVED FANTASY and LIVED REALITY.
born in LONG ISLAND amongst the post-war newly built track houses and stifling suburban CONFORMITY of MASSAPEQUA, CANDY knew from an early age that she was different. watching a relatively recent documentary such as this reminds you instantaneously that the larger cultural discussion regarding SEX and GENDER identity has only become mainstream in recent years (about a decade after this film). the whole concept of not identifying with your assigned GENDER was completely taboo in 1950s AMERICA, where POLITICAL, ECONOMIC and RELIGIOUS CONFORMITY was practically a national value in and of itself. what makes BEAUTIFUL DARLING: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CANDY DARLING, ANDY WARHOL SUPERSTAR (CORINTH FILMS, 2009) such an intriguing documentary is how it showcases a specific downtown NYC arts scene in the 1960s where SEXUAL EXPRESSION was not only tolerated but celebrated. in some ways these WARHOL superstars (JACKIE CURTIS, HOLLY WOODLAWN and CANDY DARLING) along with the likes of LOU REED were the trailblazers that opened the door that we have been walking through as a culture for the past half century. its been in the past five years that mainstream magazines like PLAYBOY and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED have used TRANSGENDER models in their publications and actors such as ELLIOT PAGE and LAVERNE COX have brought their powerful presence to film and television screens. despite modern troglodyte conservatives that wish to drag us back to the stone age with their REGRESSIVE GENDER PRESCRIPTIONS prescriptions and bullshit self-serving, binary moral constructions, we very much live in a new world that takes into account that life is complicated. people are complicated. deal with it.
that being said its interesting to hear writer FRAN LEBOWITZ' opinion on CANDY and the seemingly SUPERFICIAL, PERFORMATIVE conception of FEMININITY she arguably brought to life. as a caucasian CISGENDER man i feel more than a little out of my depth speaking on this subject, but there does seem to be some light in how much of our GENDER is PERFORMATIVE through our ADOPTION and INTERNALIZATION of SOCIETAL CUES and CULTURAL PRESCRIPTIONS surrounding BODY IMAGE, PRESENTATION, VOCAL AFFECTATION and even POSTURE. the fact that CANDY grew up a severely abused child who took SOLACE and ultimately ESCAPISM in the 1950s cinema. her ideation of FEMININITY was informed by silver-screen starlets like MARILYN MONROE, JEAN HARLOW and especially KIM NOVAK. in many ways her INTERNALIZATION and eventual formation into becoming CANDY was performance of such that seeming coalesced into an IDENTITY. again, i am not denying her ability to self-identify as TRANSGENDER, but i do think that LEBOWITZ angle regarding the performative aspects of gender to be compelling if not food for thought.
ultimately for CANDY this was her LIVED EXPERIENCE and her LIVED REALITY, and she paid dearly for it. one of the most heartbreaking aspects of this documentary are the diary entries where she confesses to the DESPAIR and ISOLATION she felt about not being accepted by SOCIETY and not being able to partake in normal life rituals like being in a relationship, having a normal job and even visiting relatives. after her death her mother basically disowned her memory after remarrying.
for me BEAUTIFUL DARLING is just another reminder of how we need to treat each other with a sense of DIGNITY and genuine COMPASSION. very moving film. well worth checking out.