Calling in Bowie

There are people who are part of culture, and there are people who make culture.
Kris Wells

Three UAlberta professors reflect on the influence of an iconoclast who transcended genre and gender.


What happens when you bring together a pop music professor, an LGBTQ advocate and an expert on gender studies to talk about David Bowie? We sat down with Brian Fauteux from the Department of Music, the Faculty of Education’s Kris Wells and Cristina Stasia of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College for a wide-ranging discussion on the legacy of one of popular culture’s biggest yet most elusive figures.

Q: What do you see as Bowie’s most significant or transformative influence on culture?

Wells: For me, I think it’s just Bowie, the person or the persons he represented, I think the responses are so telling, of how many people saw themselves in one of his personas. His characters, his creations spoke to them. Always for me, he was a queer icon, somebody who always challenged and disrupted the normal and what was the convention of the time. And it’s been interesting on social media where people are saying, “It was David Bowie who gave me the will to live,” in that sense because he created a space for someone like me.

Fauteux: And for all of this to really kick off at a time when rock as a genre was something where the codes around masculinity or femininity were much more rigid. This is pre-punk, and here’s somebody playing with identity in such a creative and inspiring way. But also sonically, always changing his sound and borrowing from genres like soul music, or playing with European electronic music in the late ‘70s, where he went with Brian Eno. And crossing generations, even working with Arcade Fire recently on their Reflektor album. Somebody who’s been able to stay connected to fans and connected to popular music of the time because at that point he’s able to change his persona, change his sound so frequently.


Wells: And a constant part of the conversation, a constant evolution, that constant building upon genres, on societal influences, topics. And when you think of someone, as he’s sort of being framed now, as an icon who’s leading the edge, leading the transformation and sort of always being one step ahead of the culture curve. There are people who are part of culture, and there are people who make culture. I think that’s what we’re seeing in the reflection of this outpouring. People who—I saw comments—couldn’t go to work that day because they were so moved by this loss, and people trying to process why that is. It’s sort of the absence that fills the presence within us that we try to make sense of. And I think that’s what’s been so remarkable. It’s from the average everyday citizen all the way up to the leaders in music and international politicians speaking out. I saw something come out from the director of communications from the Vatican, which I thought was something really interesting because Bowie was somebody who even challenged the hypocrisy of religion.

Stasia: One thing I think is really exciting about Bowie is that he changed masculinity from the active to the passive. Women are always posed and to be looked at, while men are always in action, but Bowie was consistently posed, in his films, in his music videos, in his performances. He was always standing still. And so he was always putting himself in a position of the feminine, where he was to be looked at, in a way that men hadn’t posed to be looked at since, really, Valentino.

Wells: And this is more sort of his background—how much of that comes from his general interest in so many different aspects of art and music, where he went to the French mime school early on in his life, and took so much of that into breaking convention.

Fauteux: I’ve been watching a few different videos recently thinking about what to bring into my classes right now, the intro to pop music and an upper-year class on pop music, and going back to the Blue Jean video. He’s performing as two different individuals: David Bowie, sitting at a table with a female partner, and then there’s David Bowie with a painted face on a runway performing in a way that you wouldn’t typically experience masculinity at that time. And some other artists did that—you have comparisons to Marc Bolan and T. Rex—but Bowie is still able to solidify himself in the rock canon at the same time that he challenged these conventions and codes, which is very interesting.

Stasia: He invited the gaze. And the gays.


Wells: And very much, I think you start to see how with that foregrounding that gender and identity are always a performance. And not just something that musicians do, but in our lives. And that’s the sort of trickle-down effect, and why he had such mass appeal for people. We say it’s, you know, the freaks, the geeks and the queers that Bowie spoke to. Creating a space and a place for our existence. And to say normal is boring. Live and be yourself without apology.

Stasia: I’m thinking of the way he validated other queer performers, people who toyed with and tried to explode the binary gender system. His performance on SNL, I think it was 1979, he was performing with a drag queen who later died of AIDS, so it became this way that he facilitated the visibility of other queer people and queer bodies and queered spaces. He was generous with that, which I think created a space that we hadn’t seen before.

Wells: And some of the comments, the modern-day comparison to Lady Gaga and the “little monsters”—it’s interesting to think about her: would she be able to exist without Bowie and what Bowie created along the way, that new space and opportunity that was opened up? Bowie had the original little monsters, in that sense, and this is just another generation’s take on something new that had been created.

Stasia: He really highlighted that masculinity is a performance. We saw a little bit previously with women highlighting the performance of femininity. I’m thinking less here about music but more about film. So with Marlene Dietrich, or Greta Garbo or even Joan Crawford. So we saw the highlighting of Marilyn Monroe, the performance of femininity, but he really showed us that masculinity is performance, which Mick Jagger adopted as well. I mean, not in the same sort of queered way as Bowie, but the excessive strutting and crotch grabbing and the makeup, showing that masculinity is performative too.

Fauteux: And it can be within genres that were a little bit more typically masculine, like rock at that time, to use visuals in that way. His Top of the Pops performance, in and around Ziggy Stardust when he first came out as a character performing masculinity, performing as something that was not of this earth—shocking for a lot of people in a lot of ways.

Q: You mentioned how he played with these themes before punk. Was there an opening up in what Bowie did in the late ’60s that created some space for some of the possibilities that people played with in punk?

Fauteux: I certainly think so. There’s a lot of accounts of the influence of David Bowie on bands like the Sex Pistols, on bands like Joy Division that came even after punk. Bands that were curious and interested in playing with boundaries and convention and challenging listeners to think a little bit more about the world that they live in. And helping to establish the sub-genre of glam rock, influential on bands like the New York Dolls, which is a group that is typically talked about as a kind of proto-punk band, a band that was very influential on punk. He definitely had an immense influence on the way that identity came across in the realm of what we know of as punk in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Wells: That period of the ’60s and ’70s, with that experimental sort of phase where we really start to see the blending of genders and sexualities, and then we get into the ’80s with HIV and AIDS, where now we sort of see this moral cleansing start to take place, not just in society but, I think, in film and music as well. I don’t know if the music begins to change with David Bowie or his image begins to change, but there seems to be a moment where that “anything goes” all of a sudden starts to disappear. And maybe it’s even that performance of when he started to put on the suit, and then the posing to show the artificiality of what’s happening.

Fauteux: But in that period too, I think it’s interesting that a lot of people have been sharing that interview Bowie did with the MTV VJ about their lack of black performers on MTV. And he gets into it quite directly with that individual about questioning why MTV is predominantly white, why it’s predominantly rock bands. It’s a very interesting, tense moment. And it wouldn’t really be until Michael Jackson and his use of music video changed MTV’s relationship to black artists. But in the ’80s he was someone who worked with a lot of performers from different backgrounds, different genres, and so even though the identity aspect is subdued at that time, he starts turning his attention to other areas of the music industry that need to be pushed.

Wells: And I think exactly what you don’t see a lot of artists getting at is the structures and the systems that are perpetuating a particular kind of product, and who’s controlling that and why. So I think that’s also part of the legacy is working at all of these different levels throughout the system. It didn’t just ever just seem to be music in that sense.

Stasia: It’s interesting, because so much of the media coverage is about what he did with genre, and of course what he did with masculinity and femininity. But he really played with class just as much. Going back to that recognition of what you were saying about his calling out of MTV for the lack of black artists in music videos, you know, he did “class drag” very well. At the end of the day, this was a working-class boy who then portrayed himself as an aristocrat many times, and took that guise and took that posturing and the clothing, and so he really showed that class was also performative. I think that was really, really radical because class is one of the places where we see so little mobility, and we talk about it so little because it’s so much easier to dismiss.

Wells: It’s interesting as well that the analysis coming out of when he did that famous duet with Bing Crosby, he didn’t want to sing The Little Drummer Boy. So you see the tension and the juxtaposition of class, of era, of interpretation that comes out—we see it now as a classic Christmas song. It’s not Christmas without Bowie and Crosby on your turntable somewhere.

Q: You’ve talked about how Bowie played with gender and queerness. You hear people talk about how meaningful he was, and particularly when we hear about his career coming alongside a lot of rights movements, what was the role he might have played in making that happen?

Wells: I think the biggest thing is always possibility, and such a stage, and the challenging of all those conventions we’ve been talking about. At one point, identifying, not identifying, changing his gender and identity and sexuality, leaving it open for interpretation—very few celebrities actually occupy a queer space. They maybe talk about it, but few actually demonstrate that fluidity and those tenets of challenging the normal. Anti-normativity. Didn’t matter what it was. It was constantly shifting and changing throughout the decades, and I think to have somebody that visible, prominent and successful literally gave people space and the ability to carry on, to know that they weren’t alone. I think it’s only looking back that we actually see whether it was intentional. We may never know. But just the depth of this experience for so many people. I think that’s what strikes me the most out of that, it’s this process of mourning and loss that people are trying to reconcile with. What does that mean to their identity, what does that mean to music, culture and art now? And even the fact that so many people are talking about him having staged his own requiem, knowing that this was his goodbye, his last chance to communicate.

Fauteux: At a time, you know, thinking about challenging normative culture, to be so silent about the fact that he was sick for so long, in an age where we know everything about everybody, even thinking about Kanye West and his Kardashian connections, we have a window into that world, into that life. And for so many people—I was just about to go to bed, I checked my phone one more time, and then I just saw all these tweets about David Bowie, and I just couldn’t believe it. You had no idea that he was battling cancer. I’d just been reading all the reviews of this release—it was like, all these posts have to be about a new video or a particularly good review. But no, he’s passed away, and he released the album as a vehicle for him to say goodbye to his fans, or at least that’s the narrative we’re hearing now. We often have a lot of albums that are released after an artist has passed away that become part of defining their legacy, their career, whether that’s Janis Joplin or Kurt Cobain, but to have somebody creating until the very end in that way is a very interesting narrative, I think particularly today.

Stasia: That performative aspect stays. The performative aspect of memorializing himself, that control of his image right until the end so that we can’t just take it and put our own meanings on it. There’s just so much intention there, which fits so well with his entire…

Fauteux: And to be the first record without his image on it, I think it’s the first record without his image. It’s just the black star. So it’s very symbolic.

Stasia: What I find really interesting is the articles—and I’m not even talking about the comments after—but in the articles, there’s still this sort of desire to define his sexuality, his gender identity, which I think is kind of an index of yes, we’ve come far, but not nearly as far as we think. There’s still this obsession about whether he was gay or bi or gender-fluid, which isn’t even a term that had any currency back then. We still want to nail that down. There’s still this discomfort with him being gender-fluid, being queer, and I think he was so important because when he defined himself as a bisexual man, as far I know, that was one of the first times where we had someone define as bisexual. Not gay, but actually bisexual. And his repeated insistence that he was bisexual at that time when there was such biphobia trying to label him as gay or straight. He married two women, and he said he was a closeted heterosexual. He just simply refused to reassure people by taking the labels they put on him. He insisted on defining himself. And he gave a visibility and currency to bisexual masculinity that I don’t think had existed before.

Wells: Yeah, absolutely. You couldn’t place him on a binary. He refused the continuum altogether, and I think that’s what’s so interesting. Here you have other celebrities, even musicians of his genre at that time, who were closeted and who you’d only find out about towards the end of their life or after they had passed away. How brave that was.

Q: Do you think people were more receptive to his fluidity around gender and sexuality because he presented it through characters? Did they separate him from his performance?

Wells: I think, in a sense, that Bowie was Bowie. There was nothing to compare. I think he was just incomparable, at the time and even now. Someone who just refuses that space, to put them on that sort of continuum just doesn’t fit. And so because of that, when you don’t accept the terms of the game, you’re not held accountable to it. So no matter what anyone says, it just doesn’t stick. It’s just not relevant. Maybe the success is how hard everyone had to grapple with trying to make sense and meaning. At every level, people forever talk about the lyrics and what they mean—somebody who just resisted interpretation and didn’t give you the closure that our Western world desperately wants. There was no concise narrative.

Stasia: And I think the characters facilitated that, especially at first, but then as there were more and more characters, then Bowie himself became a character. And then you couldn’t define him. I think it facilitated it, but ultimately, kind of paved the way for people like Madonna, who always exists in character, from Like a Virgin to her dominatrix to … I don’t know, when she was a cowgirl.

Fauteux: House revivalist…

Stasia: But at the end of the day, Madonna is Madonna. And Lady Gaga is someone you can’t categorize. But I think Bowie really paved the way.

Fauteux: I think there’s probably something there in terms of his wide acceptance into the industry, perhaps, where a lot of this was taking place initially on stage and not so much in his offstage persona. There’s not as much that we know about him in and around that time. But I think that once it starts to connect with fans, connect to other aspiring artists, that’s where a lot of that gets thrown out, and it’s not so much about the fact that he’s in character. It’s more about what he’s doing, how he’s connecting issues of identity to music and what that inspires.

Q: Have any male artists since then done the same kind of chameleon persona? Most of the artists that we think of who’ve done these repeated self-transformations have been female.

Fauteux: Kanye West, even though he is still within hip hop and has a fairly normative discourse around masculinity, has changed his style, his outfit quite significantly album to album. One of the first to really play with autotune as a way of simplifying the sound of his albums, as a way to communicate emotion. In the realm of hip hop, his 808s and Heartbreak album was kind of known for doing that. For dressing unconventionally, for bringing the fashion world into hip hop. So he’s been a major star who has changed his identity slightly, or his style at least slightly. Not on the same scale as Bowie.

Wells: I think of Marilyn Manson, just as somebody who held character.

Stasia: Nick Cave.

Fauteux: Marilyn Manson also having a film career, playing with gender.

Wells: And sort of, what is the creation of a monster, right? What it is that’s unrecognizable to us?

Fauteux: But still not on the same level in terms of longevity and moving through the decades like Bowie did.

Wells: Or the changing. I think that’s the biggest thing, right? Some people can create a persona, and that’s what defines them for the rest of their life.

Fauteux: Bruce Springsteen.

Stasia: One persona.

Fauteux: One persona. It just works and he sticks to it. But there’s not as many artists now who are able to carry a career through the decades as major popular artists once were able to. We don’t see it as often. I think taste is a little bit more fleeting, attention spans are perhaps a little shorter. And the industry isn’t as supportive of longer careers. You have to continuously be successful. There’s a lot of risks that Bowie took that didn’t stick immediately, some albums that aren’t as well known, and it’s tougher to rebound from that sort of thing nowadays.

Wells: And to get to the point in your career and have the financial stability to refuse. And now artists get to be products, created products, so many of them.

Stasia: Yes. We’ve shifted from narrative to product. And the shelf life of product is so short compared to the sort of narrative that he wove through his music and identity and videos and film.

Fauteux: Back to that question, you do see performers who play with identity in interesting ways, but it’s often still very much on the margins. They don’t always make it into the centre like Bowie did.

Q: You talked about short attention spans. Is it because of our ability to go out and seek the novel in ways we didn’t used to have, and there’s a lot more ability now to go out and discover new things constantly?

Fauteux: You can find anything that matches your taste, your identity, it’s out there somewhere.

Stasia: When you don’t buy albums, really, anymore—there’s a tendency to buy singles and make your own playlists—so getting invested in that narrative, that story, for someone as character-based as Bowie, can’t happen unless you invest in the album itself, in the entire text.

Wells: I just wonder if it’s harder because things are just so controlled now. We see a distillation of media and corporate control. For people who break through now on YouTube, they become the overnight sensations, but how quickly they’re all commodified, and they’re seen as objects of a particular kind of agenda. Or even shows like America’s Got Talent and The X Factor—it just all reminds me back to this gladiator competition, and it’s to entertain the masses. Who dies? You know, you go back to The Running Man, back to these predictions. It just seems that now this is so dominant in so many different spheres.

Stasia: It’s so disposable.

Fauteux: And I think artists that have stuck around a little bit longer, there tends to be a bit more of a gap between albums, between outputs. I think that, for risk of getting lost in the noise, if you put too much out too quickly—where someone like Bowie had a pretty regular output, particularly through the ’70s and ’80s.

Wells: Is someone like Bowie going to be one of the last icons?

“What needs to be challenged in the same way that he was able to challenge certain conventions of the time? It could be more a question about industry now, someone who’s really able to revolutionize how we access music.” —Brian Fauteux

Fauteux: What needs to be challenged in the same way that he was able to challenge certain conventions of the time? It could be more a question about industry now, someone who’s really able to revolutionize how we access music. Someone who’s able to challenge—even though we have a lot of streaming services and stuff, they are organized more or less the same way as record labels. But I don’t know what that would look like or sound like today.

Stasia: It’s interesting how some of his aesthetic filtered down into—I don’t want to say the mainstream, because I don’t think it’s the mainstream yet—but a little bit more mainstream in that someone like David Beckham, who wears nail polish and eyeliner, or ‘guyliner,’ but let’s just call it eyeliner, and again who’s someone who is static in his posing, who invites the gaze as well, in that he’s like, “Look at me, look at me, look at me.” Though maybe that’s where we’re seeing it is in the inviting of the gaze and the masculine body or masculinity as performative, to be looked at. We see it in Beckham, we see it in the rising male cosmetics market, which is especially big in Asia, it’s much bigger than here, but still, here there are men’s makeup lines and men’s skin-care lines. So we’re starting to see a little bit more, but not as much as you would think after 40 years of pushing that envelope. It’s still rare to see.

Wells: And I think that’s maybe the strength and the curse of someone like David Bowie, because it’s such an original, just treat it as the exception. There’s parts that end up bleeding in and slowly changing things, but I think for industry and things like that, it’s just, “Well, that’s so far outside that it’s just not relevant to us.”

Stasia: I think in the ’80s of the reception of the fandom, and the boys who were wearing those mullets and painting the stars over their eyes, and wearing mascara. That moment where he legitimated male performativity and experimenting with aesthetic in these really exciting ways. Like when just, boom, boys grew out their hair and got in trouble after the Beatles. The same sort of thing, but it was more loaded because it was about gender and it was about sexuality, and it was also about class. So it’s pushing back on those three fronts, and you saw the youth starting to take that up. The youth? How old am I?


Wells: And I think there’s so few artists like that. People like the Beatles or Elvis, where they were just seen as such a threat to order and the establishment, to your parents’ culture, your parents’ world. It just makes me think the establishment is winning. What that tells me is that these voices are being silenced or that there’s not even a space where it’s necessarily possible for that to emerge. Or it becomes a lot more difficult for that sort of person. Because it gives a focal point for sort of this establishment to target. To say, that’s not us. You give something to define what’s actually going on that causes people to either wake up to that reality or decide they have to eradicate it.

Fauteux: In many ways, too, each revolutionary moment in popular music eventually becomes part of the status quo, it becomes commodified and accepted, and then it’s what’s next, what’s the next challenge? Then we have the same process taking place. It makes space for these images and icons and symbols. Whether or not it changes the game or shifts the rules of the game, that’s a different question. Or does it just become part of the machine, of the industry?

Stasia: When you think about the artists that are threatening somehow now, they’re all female artists. I’m thinking of Miley Cyrus, or Lady Gaga a little bit at the beginning but not so much now.

Wells: Or Pussy Riot.

Stasia: Or Katy Perry has had a lot of criticism. But it’s all about control of sexuality, again.

Fauteux: Hip hop is one area still that I think is one of the more popular genres that has huge economics behind it, that’s still an area where I think a lot can be done in terms of shifting narratives around gender. Take Frank Ocean; there was a lot of discussion about his role in hip-hop culture. But it kind of went silent after his album was out and that initial buzz and discussion kind of fizzled out. But that is one area where you might have someone who can be challenging on a very interesting level.

Stasia: So that would probably go a little bit back to Kanye, that connection that some people have drawn.

Fauteux: Perhaps, yeah. And sometimes you have an artist like Drake talked about as having a different masculinity within hip hop because he’s not…

Stasia: He’s Canadian.

Fauteux: He’s Canadian, not as aggressive perhaps, not as violent, but there’s still a certain level of misogyny in his lyrics, or the conquest of women is still a narrative that comes through in his work.

Stasia: That’s kind of an interesting point. In terms of Bowie’s entire catalogue—was there a lot of misogyny against women in his lyrics, or sexism?

Fauteux: There were a few threads that caught my eye over the last little while.

Stasia: The statutory rape, a rape of a female fan.

Fauteux: But in terms of lyrics, I’d have to take a little bit more of a look.

Wells: What about China Girl? There was some of that. Was it racist, was it not racist? I think people are still trying to answer that question.

Stasia: Yes, because race plays into it. Bowie didn’t talk about it as much, or we don’t really acknowledge it as part of his performance, but he was the whitest man alive. Which goes back to that playing with class, and the aristocracy, and the white skin, and so there’s a way that it was this performance of the aristocracy, that class mobility was mobilized by the increased whitening and pantomiming. I mean, to the point of the kabuki, where he was so white.

Wells: Well, I don’t know if you saw the video that was floating around from when he was 17 against … creating a society for the protection of people with long hair. ‘We’re people too, we have the right to wear our hair long.’ So you actually see the whole root and genesis of some of these ideas at an early age.

Stasia: I wonder what he’d think about the man bun.

Fauteux: He probably wore it at one time. Ten years later, it got picked up. You know, think of all his hairstyles that have existed.

Wells: It’s funny, you know, I think a lot of people were talking about him as an iconoclast. I went back and would use the word icon, but to actually look it up, and it was really interesting to look it up. What I took away was “the breaker of images and the destroyer of convention.” And I thought, what a great description. In performance, in song, in life. The breaker of images. It’s very Game of Thrones.

Stasia: Bowie is coming.

Fauteux: Just when you got comfortable with something, off with its head and on to the next one.

Stasia: Who was his longest character?

Fauteux: Longest character? I’d have to look at the years. I think Ziggy Stardust was around for about two albums. Then the Thin White Duke was…

Stasia: The aristocrat.

Fauteux: A similar amount of time, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know the exact years. I would guess it was one of those two. It’s tough when you start thinking about length of time versus significance of certain elements or the way in which it entered the popular memory. Because the years in between albums, often, for artists like Bowie, artists in the ’70s, even were just a year apart, a year or two apart. So you could have a release in ’72, ’73, have the same character, generate more videos and singles, and it seems now when we reflect back that it was a very long time, when in fact it was just a couple of years.

Wells: I even think about Elton John and that Rocket Man period of time, and all those sort of similar conversations that were happening around sexuality, what is he, what isn’t he. It seems to be maybe the period where there was a lot more—it’s hard to say. Are they challenging, are they part of a product of the time?

Fauteux: And then, I think, was he in character when he went to Berlin? There were just three quick albums, I think, in the late ’70s. Then he was a little bit more everyday after that, for a little while.

Wells: It’s interesting, right, because then Culture Club comes on the scene. As soon as it seems like something else arrives, he’s moved on. The rest are iterations.

Stasia: Even the Cure, like Robert Smith, right?

Fauteux: Right.

Stasia: That reminds me. You think of Bowie, and we think about the queer audience and how he exploded the gender binary. After his performance in the [1986] movie Labyrinth, he became a sex symbol to a generation of girls. All these girls are like, “What am I feeling?” It’s about acknowledging female desire in a way that girls never have their desire acknowledged. I’m thinking specifically of girls, not adult women we call girls. That movie had such currency with girls, and it really sparked so much female sexuality and curiosity. Girls didn’t really know why they were feeling what they were feeling when they looked at Bowie, right? But he was in that skintight spandex suit, and he had the makeup, and he was this very sort of queer figure in that he wasn’t what was usually offered to girls. What was offered to girls in the ’80s? The safe, vanilla boy next door. And he offered this queered masculinity, and it wasn’t definable. And throughout that film, every girl wanted to be Jennifer Connelly, who plays Sarah. Throughout that film, he’s consistently acknowledging her sexual desire. He taunts her. He comes up behind her and whispers in her ear and says these things that I didn’t really realize were sexual when I was little, but then when I was teaching it and watched it again as an adult, I was like, whoa. I taught it, and it’s this sort of acknowledgement of female desire that you don’t see. So as much as, certainly he was a symbol of male–male desire, I don’t know what you can even call it because he was such a queered figure, but it really opened the door for girls to see men differently, that Gen X group of women. So guys don’t have to be like New Kids on the Block. It’s like, what is this guy? What does he play, some kind of aristocratic…

Fauteux: Jareth the Goblin King.

Stasia: Again with the aristocracy stuff. Girls are like, why do I like this king? The fact that girls were attracted to that, the blurring of the line, that sort of disavowal of a traditional masculinity. I don’t want the guy who’s going to come in and be like, “Baby, it’s all right.”

Wells: The captain of the football team.

Stasia: Yeah, I want the guy who’s going to acknowledge my sexual desire and spark my curiosity and who isn’t the traditional masculine guy who saves the day or brings home the bacon. I think that had a really profound impact on a whole generation of girls and the way that their desire became formed in those early years. And there’s so many great memes about it too. There’s all these amazing memes that show Bowie in all these different positions, like draped over a chaise longue or whatever, that Gen X girls make. I think that’s something we don’t really talk about, but I think his relationship to female desire and shaping how girls saw boys and what they expected from boys at that age was really impactful.

Wells: And then you think about who he married, and his partners. How that all becomes a continuation.

Stasia: And there was The Princess Bride. Which was another masked character, if you think about it. I should write an article about this. There was something really queer and kinky going on with girl desire. Because as much as it was the New Kids, it was also Robert Smith and the Cure, who’s not quite as…. Now I want to watch Labyrinth again.

Fauteux: That’s probably what I’m going to do tonight.

Wells: Go home and take your Bowie day.

Stasia: Your “calling in Bowie day!”

Fauteux: I should just show up in class this afternoon: ‘We’re just going to watch Labyrinth. Everyone’s going to call in Bowie today.’

Stasia: That’s it. You’ve got your title for your article.

Fauteux: Hopefully all the facts are straight.

Stasia: Or not straight. Maybe they’re a little Bowie!

Wells: Disclaimer at the top of the article: This should not make sense. We invite the comments underneath to add your interpretation.