Superheros: Fashion and Fantasy
MET Museum, New York
May 7, 2008 – September 1, 2008
Special Exhibition Galleries, 1st floor
Find the time to see this inspiring exhibition at the fabulous MET. I overheard a conversation by a young man who would love to own the Catwoman outfit worn by Michelle Pfeiffer . And there are many other outrageous creations by the likes of Beirendonck, Mugler, Willhelm, and Chalayan.
Since the first appearance of Superman in 1938, the superhero has exercised a powerful influence over our collective imagination, serving as avatars or conduits for our hopes, dreams, and desires. Until relatively recently, when they were co-opted by high art, superheroes have often been dismissed as frivolous and superficial, but their apparent triviality is the very thing that gives them the ability to address serious issues. Like Clark Kent’s nerdiness or Bruce Wayne’s playboy disaffection, the subterfuge frees superheroes to respond to and comment upon shifting attitudes toward self and society, toward identity and ideology.
Through the years, the superhero has been used to embody—through metaphor—our social and political realities. At the same time, it has been used to represent concepts reflective of sexuality and corporeality through idealized, objectified, and hyperbolic visualizations of the human body. Constantly redefined and reworked according to popular canons of beauty, superheroes embody the superlative.
Fashion not only shares the superhero’s metaphoric malleability, but actually embraces and responds to the particular metaphors that the superhero represents, notably that of the power of transformation. Fashion celebrates metamorphosis, providing unlimited opportunities to remake and reshape the flesh and the self. Through fashion and the superhero, we gain the freedom to fantasize, to escape the banal, the ordinary, and the quotidian. The fashionable body and the superhero body are sites upon which we can project our fantasies, offering a virtuosic transcendence beyond the moribund and utilitarian.