Giuliani’s Liquid Hair and other Monster Masks
Brooklyn exploded when Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election. I was sitting on my stoop chatting with a good friend as a joyful yell leapt out a window near us. We jumped and yelled and headed to a corner where others we knew were also jumping and yelling.
A reveler walked into the crowd with a bag of Cheetos, then threw it to the ground and stomped until it was flat and a plume of orange dust erupted from under their boot. The already roaring crowd roared more.
After a year of not-so-quiet rage and relentless panic, that warm day in Brooklyn felt like the shores of Babylon or Shangri la or whatever mythical place you choose to imagine. A brief burst of Utopia in the middle of certain Dystopia. Everything, including relief and joy, is relative now. Celebratory bright-orange dust on a nice day was my unexpected heaven in 2020.
“Cheeto dust” (a phrase I hate but it’s the phrase we are stuck with) has new meaning after the past four years. It’s no longer just a stoner’s delight at midnight or a kid’s lunch treat. It’s a shade of foundation and a symbol of a dangerous presidency for those who felt its danger. Yes I know there are another 70 Million people who either don’t mind it or don’t see the symbolism or aren’t hurt by the actions of him, which I can’t explain so I won’t. My professional expertise will let me choose your lip color, not explain the character of a confused nation.
My hell remains Trump and his bronzer until January 20th. My nightmares are told by the the dark orange contour used to deepen the shadows of his evil facial empire. Giuliani’s liquified hair-line now bellows alongside his best friend’s bronzer. Do you need more proof of their menacing clown-act? Their made-up faces say as much as their policies. I’ve heard pundits, politicians, and screenwriters say ‘if you hired me to write this scene I’d say NO WAY… TOO FAR’. *I’ve heard that said so much it may no longer be a clever thing to say.
I’d still like my 2 cents in on this ‘screenplay’ trope.
If you hired me as a makeup artist to design the over-all look and arc for a script (it’s my profession) for a bunch of cartoonishly evil characters, and I showed you images ripped from this administrations ‘makeup blueprint’ — every director or show-runner would say that my designs are lazy, messy, and not-realistic. They’d fire me for being too much and obvious.
If a director said to me in a looks meeting — ‘With a few subtle symbols or delicate clues we’d like to show this character is spewing lies while slowly dying on the inside — but we don’t want to be too obvious about it” I’d reply “Oh that is easy I’ll forgo concealer or foundation and mattefier, so the camera picks up naturally on his exhaustion and sheen as though he hasn’t had time to prepare for the cameras. Once we get on set, if that’s not enough I’ll quickly add some purple or red under his eyes, and add a little discoloration to his face. For a bit more drama.
Basic character development for a realistic narrative not based on our current reality.
Unless — the film I’m working on is a horror film or a B-movie with a surrealist plot. That’s the only scenario in which I’d not be fired. No one would sign off on my designs in a realistic, linear narrative unless the characters were written as insane and blind to their own condition and lacking any self-awareness. Which these current real people are, in real life. Blind to their own faces or deeds. An ‘off’ face and an off person can go hand in hand. A wild or ‘unstable’ looking face very often… unstable. I’m not talking the structure of a person’s face — I’m talking about what they do with it. Hairsyle. Moisturizer routine. Skin care. Shade of foundation.
Knowing when a face reads as ‘trustworthy’ is sometimes what keeps us from danger. Yes, a face can have a trustworthy coherence. If you smell something rotten in your fridge, you don’t eat it. If you see a face where some form of ‘makeup’ has been done that makes it appear more terrifying — you’re probably in danger gurl. Don’t go down to that basement there’s too much bronzer down there!
“What IF we decided this was a horror film?” an imaginary director asks me at our imaginary looks meeting. How would you do this Giuliani’s makeup if we wanted to amp up the fear?
Well, I’d take a bunch of water-based makeup that will not stay in place, and I’ll line his hairline thickly with it — maybe just some cakey old mascara from my kit so it’s gloopy— then add a bunch of glycerine as the cameras start to roll so not only do you see his sweat but the sweat is highlighted dramatically by the black soot running down his damp face, circles already under eyes and discoloration apparent from lack of sleep. He’ll blow his nose on then wipe the damp pocket square all over his face, much like a child unaware others are watching him, and reveling in the mess. Is that too much?
It is too much, but it’s what happened. Yes, Biden won and there was cheering on the street. Yet we remain in this true-horror narrative, stuck in a country run by B-movie monsters. People are dying from Covid at worsening numbers while Trump, painted orangier and orangier, thinks of nothing but his loss. He won’t let Biden transition. He accuses less-white cities of fraud which is, again, racism. Still his face gets stranger and his hair more corn-white.
These made-up faces tell zero lies. They choose to look like this, and see in their own mirrors what we see on our screens. They like their faces, and said ‘yep that’s me’ and walk before the cameras every day. The appear powerful to themselves as they’ve preened about, running America into the ground without ever once using the advice professional in any capacity. They’ve refused the professionals in all realms. Our declining democracy forever tied to their frightful choice of bronzer and a non-waterproof mascara-ing of the hair-line. If you do not take care of yourself, and conceal that with shoddy, useless foundation or talc, then you’re going to look like cheap boogie men.
Makeup can do miracles, but if there’s something wrong on the inside, time catches up and eventually anyone could stand before millions like our great, melting Giuliani — sweating like he knows of his guilt but gets off on it. As though he’s the type who’d get caught with his hands in his pants in a hotel room next to a young reporter, or who’d tarnish American democracy because his friend can’t handle losing an election without dragging the country down with him.
We’re so deep into the horror-phase of democracy that it makes sense from a makeup design arc that this leader and his cohorts have upgraded their faces to ‘more menacing’. I never thought watching a newscast would spark memory of The Leprechaun. Nothing used to make me more nervous then seeing BOB on Twin Peaks and lately I’m nervous a lot in the exact same way.
Look at your face in the mirror. If you were going on TV, what would you put on your face to be ready for your masses? Would you know when you looked right, based on your state of mind? Do you know what healthy looks like? Do you know when you look hot? Or when you look professional? Can you tell when you’re off or sad inside? Would you wipe cheeto-dust on your face or would you take that bag, throw it to the ground while stomping it flat to save democracy? Let’s all get our foundation matched right and drink some water. I won’t call what these characters use as ‘makeup’. They are wearing cheap, lazy monster masks, and their chapter in history can’t end soon enough.