Noel Fielding is doing a thing again. Looks pretty flash, and I am unambiguously in favor of basically anything involving David Bowie. He's also doing press for the thing, and once again I am probably finding this way more interesting than I have any right to.

The first thing that kinda cracked me up is that the interviewer has decided to ask him if he's a transvestite now. Despite actually trying to give an answer to that, Fielding has no idea. 'Well, I like dresses, so I guess?' is the kind of logicking-out-loud you get from someone you've just taken by surprise with a question to which they have not devoted two seconds of thought, although now that you've asked it seems obvious that they should have. People who know this stuff will just give you the answer and then explain if they think it's required. I also find it amusing that they're only bugging him about this now, since he's started turning up to things in garments that are obviously dresses. He's been wearing women's clothing -- or, probably more accurately, he's been wearing clothes he likes that have to be bought from the misses department, because they're otherwise not available -- for years now. Men's dress shirts do not come with leg o' mutton sleeves. Other things are more ambiguous, but it would be pretty unusual to find leopard-print leggings in menswear, and he's got a green PVC trench with a giant fur collar in a cut that's used overwhelmingly more often for ladies' coats. Why nobody's noticed before this, I have no idea.

Even more interesting is that nobody asks him why, although he volunteers that anyway. It boils down to 'I like being weird'. He also volunteers, indirectly, that he's not just weird for weirdness' sake -- the comment about Lady Gaga is one of many I've heard that involve him tripping over someone else's strange art project and asking why. This tells me that he doesn't consider surrealism to be inherently devoid of reason, and therefore that his surrealism is not devoid of reason. (A great deal of Fielding's stuff is intentionally unexpected, and I gather that a lot of people perceive it as random. Not an impression I ever got, though I do try to remember that I have a whacking great case of pareidolia and the pattern detector is prone to false positives, particularly on the first pass.) If even Luxury Comedy has logic from his perspective, it's unlikely that something like his wardrobe, that he deals with on daily basis, is going to be different.

I expect Fielding's found that the weirdness serves an important function. (Aside from his career as an entertainer.) It's fairly obvious to me that a lot of the things he wants out of life, especially from social interaction, are things that are traditionally denied heterosexual males in our culture, or at least viewed with suspicion. Women tend to be viewed as empathetic and harmless, which can be anything from merely irksome to actively hazardous, if it makes someone with malice aforethought consider females to be easier targets. But for us to be less threatening, someone else has to be more threatening -- as a man, it's unfortunately and unfairly much more dangerous for Fielding to initiate some sort of friendly interaction, especially if he wants to get physical, and fail. A woman in that situation might be seen as annoying, whereas a man might be seen as scary.

The androgyny is a visible signal that he's not interested in adhering to classic gender behavior. He's intentionally 'other'-ing himself into a kind of person for whom most people have no stereotypical template. It forces them to assess him according to what he actually says and does, and as he's generally quite nice and good at reading when people are and aren't comfortable with something, the assessment is usually favorable, and he's granted permission for a lot of things that other people aren't. You can stumble onto this sort of thing by accident, but he's such a good mimic and pops up as surprisingly thinky at times, that I really doubt he's unaware of the connection. I get the distinct feeling that he likes to sit down and take his relationships apart from time to time, so he can marvel at how all the little gears come so elegantly together. It's one of the things that usually fails in its quest to escape through his mouth, unfortunately, although sometimes someone gets bits of it out of him by accident.

(Sadly, most of the time, 'other'-ing of those who do not follow classical gender conventions is done by outside parties, without first bothering to ask the person in question how they actually intend to present. For more on this, especially as it pertains to the trans* community, see Natalie Reed. Highly relevant, although extremely dense with both information and emotion -- I find her writing to be exhausting in large doses, to be honest, but it is blindingly well-executed and worth going through, even if you have to do it in small pieces.)

Also, girl-clothes are fancy. He likes fancy. He ornaments things reflexively. Seriously, you lot seen his handwriting? It's very much the penmanship of a graphic artist who believes that fonts should be pretty. He serifs things to keep them from being boring. Also signs things 'Noely' and scatters around x's like cake sprinkles, but that's beside the point.


  1. Ah, pareidolia! That reminds me, someone was using the term "apophenia" to describe a similar sensation, and I was wondering what the in-depth contrasts and comparisons were. (I think they were also mixing "projection" in there, somehow, which just seems like the most general umbrella term covering both). None of the Google results are satisfying me at the moment.

    1. Pareidolia is when you see things that look like patterns in randomness. The canonical example is seeing faces in the clouds. The pattern is not necessarily there, and pareidolia implies no deficit in the reality testing that will tell you which ones are genuine and which ones are your brain doodling all over. All humans are pareidolic to some extent; it's a side-effect of the processing that lets us recognize genuine patterns in weather, plant growth, behavior, language, etc.

      Apophenia is when you perceive patterns everywhere and are unable to differentiate between real patterns and coincidence. It's generally used to describe schizophrenics, and implies a sort of paranoid edge -- when an apophenic hears a song that he was just thinking of start up on the radio, he believes his thought + the DJ's choice of song constitutes a real pattern, and feels that there is some intention or meaning behind it. They're not necessarily sinister; apophenia is a part of some otherwise alarmingly cheerful manic delusions.

      Paranoia is the belief that there are intentional patterns everywhere, and they're all out to get you. Paranoids have pretty much all upgraded from pareidolia to apophenia, and some of them go to great lengths to incorporate information that everyone else sees as incidental or unconnected into their delusions.

      Projection is a separate thing in psychology, and encompasses the general practice of taking your own thoughts and emotions and attributing them to someone else, like a cheating spouse who lobs accusations of infidelity at their partner. It occurs in a variety of contexts; the one you personally might be most familiar with is probably when someone picks a fight about something by accusing you of being angry or hostile over it, when in fact they're the ones seething and whatever it is hadn't even crossed your mind prior to the attack.

      That clear it up?

    2. Yes, quite nicely, thanks!


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