You know how there are those scenes in Star Trek TNG where the Borg get untethered from their hive mind and they all start walking around like tipsy robots, their heads short circuiting from feeling their brain juice on the loose for the very first time? This is what Seattle people look like when the sun finally comes out after a long soggy winter. Certifiably AMOK.
Last weekend we ran around and did so many things we were swimming in amokness. Among the things we did was go to opening night of a gem of a show called Now I’m Fine, where musician, comedian, and writer Ahamefule J. Oluo told autobiographical stories, punctuated by music played by a 17-piece orchestra. It was heart-swelly and should you get the chance to see it, take it.
I also went to a screening of the movie The Last Dragon, starring Vanity. There was a time, around 6th grade, when my friend Sarah and I were obsessed with all things that had to do with Vanity, the frontwoman of Vanity 6. We had come to know about Vanity a little bit past when she became popular, via an old Rolling Stone magazine that my sister had with Prince on the cover and Vanity standing with him burning up the pages with her eyeballs. This was right at the point in my life when my curiosity about sexy business was all questions and no answers and when I saw her there was something that made me think: THIS LADY HAS ANSWERS, Y’ALL. I started listening to her music (she was a solo artist by then) and just rolled around in what I then thought was the dirtiest, nastiest, slinkiest music I could have imagined. DON’T LAUGH I WAS TWELVE I DIDN’T KNOW. When I listen to it now, yes, it is Velveeta levels of fromage. It is clear that this music was tailor made for sexually curious youngsters. It’s like My Little Pony rainbow unicorns but with horrible double entendres that are more impressionism than anything. “Sugar on your candy cane” = me: I think I know what she is talking about. Something boners something? IDK, so dirty, Ima pretend to my friends I know what that shit means.
So when I saw that a local cinema was screening The Last Dragon, starring my girl Vanity, I had to go. I had seen this movie as a kid and loved it for many reasons. It had: kung fu battles, breakdancing, music videos embedded (including one by DeBarge), a healthy sprinkle of cuts from original Bruce Lee movies, and Vanity. To my middle school self, this was the perfect cocktail mix of fabulousness. I was a little bit afraid of seeing it again because how can something like that retain any childhood magic? But you know what, you guys? IT DID. My expectations were set pretty low, but I am going to stand here and say THAT MOVIE AIN’T A BAD MOVIE AND I WILL STAND BY THIS IN A FAKE KUNG FU STANCE.
There are many things that you can point to about Vanity that are problematic, objectified female sexuality probably being a fair one overall. I can honestly say that this was not what I picked up from her work as a 6th grader who was curious about what was going on with Adult Touching And The Like. The thing that I picked up from her was a playfulness, a performative mischievous quality that appealed to me in a society that was telling me that, as a girl, it was not ok to think about sex as being fun. One thing I noticed about The Last Dragon was, as cheesy as it is, that movie is clearly in on its own joke. I can’t say whether that was true for Vanity in her work in summary, but I think it fair to say that it’s work that doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is a concept I like, even as an Old who is, to be honest, a bit appalled that I was singing along to “and then he found my hallway that went all the way” when I was twelve.