War Paint

An alternative & anthropological look at make-up.

As I was watching Sucker Punch (for the 2nd time) I was examining everything with a more critical eye. The costumes the girls wear have come under a bit of fire from various places but I’ve already addressed that so I studied their make-up.

In the War Zone alternate universe the girls make-up is even more exaggerated than it is in the brothel world. The eyes are rimmed with even more dark black shadow, Amber’s eyelids covered entirely by what looks like black liquid eyeliner.
During the 1st battle scene, looking at Sweet Pea, I thought ‘Who the heck has time to put on eye shadow before a battle?’ And then something clicked in my little brain and I realized that a lot of people have time to put on make-up before a battle.
It’s war paint. The harsh make up makes them look more solid and thus more formidable, which one needs in battle, especially if you are a tiny woman carting around guns that likely way more than you do. Amour is meant to protect but it is also meant to intimidate. We’ve all seen Braveheart and I we are all familiar with images of Native Americans in their headdresses and painted faces. Warpaint is also used by tribal peoples around the world, not only for battle but also as a symbol of connection to a divine outer or inner power.
I’m a huge fan of dark shadow. You’ll rarely see me without it. It makes me feel powerful and somehow more connected with myself. It’s not a mask, rather it brings something out in me – something true.
I think most women feel this way when they reach for that red lipstick (though this season it’s bright coral which thrills me to no end, incidentally). The modern woman probably doesn’t carry the idea of warpaint in the forefront of her consciousness when she’s applying her Diorshow mascara but odds are that thought is somewhere in her unconscious.
Make-up is often thought of as something women do to sexualize themselves. The only counter point to this that I’ve read is that cosmetics are a for of artistry, self-expression. I agree with this – I often feel bad for men that they aren’t allowed to experiment in this way.
But men once could. Judges, congressmen, America’s Founding Fathers etc.. all painted their faces. It wasn’t in the style of today where women have a choice in how we dress our faces – it was a uniform. It was a ‘gentleman’s amour.’ Because, really, what other excuse is there for those hideous white powdered wigs?
Gloss goes deeper than skin. The world is as harsh as it is beautiful. Vulnerability is a risk. We might not be in danger of physical battle but we all wage mental ones with those around us and with ourselves. We all want to hide from others the things we wish we weren’t. We all assume positions in the world and often in order to keep those positions we need to preen like peacocks, don a power suit and apply a little modern warpaint.
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