Monday, December 19, 2011
What is Victoria's Secret?
My most popular post of all time has been, for some time, Z is for Zoomorphic Angels. I suspect that there is more than one reason for this, but around the time of the Victoria's Secret TV special a few weeks back and forward, some of the most popular searches that find my blog are various searches for Victoria's Secret angels. So, here I go being all opportunistic, by posting late on this Mythopoeic Monday on the Secret.* Now, the appeal of heavenly bodies, such as Lily Donaldson's pictured above is no secret at all, is it? Isn't everything rather on display? Where's the secret?
I do not think that the intuition or instinct reflected in the name of what surely must be the most successful lingerie company in the world is off, at all. The opposite sex has always represented some irreducible mystery, whichever gender one is. Mona Lisa's smile has become a symbol of the mystery that women represent to men. Jung theorized that men and women both have a transgendered aspect in their psyches (the anima in men and the animus in women) that correspond to the opposite sex -- an aspect buried in their individual unconscious.
Few things garner interest like a secret. Children who were lucky enough to read E.L. Konigburg's From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler were treated to an extended exploration of the value of a secret. It is something that we are driven to uncover, and yet, may also be driven to hide from others. The feeling that we share a secret binds us to another and heightens our own sense of interiority. In the second chapter of the Apocalypse (Revelation), Christ promises to give those who are faithful from Pergamum a white stone with their secret name written on it. Value is based on rarity, and what is rarer than a secret? If knowledge is power, then knowledge of a secret is power of a greater degree.
Mystery novels and shows do not seem to have lost their popularity over the years. In recent times, conspiracy theories have exploded in popularity. The element of secrecy is sure to increase interest and dramatic tension in any story or game. But I think that there is an element of depth, of mystery, that must be present in the best secrets. The idea I am trying to get across here goes back to my use of the Victoria's Secret angel. We looked at her and I dared to say, isn't it all on display? No. The mode of revelation covers even as it uncovers. Disclosures are always partial. We are shown enough to know something, to feel the pull of something, to identify a presence, but the presence is also an absence. There is a hint of something more. If a secret is so shallow that it may be revealed in a single proposition or a single glance, then the secret is consumed in its entirety. Not so the deeper things, which is what our plots should strive for. Knowing how to include human mystery -- or even mystery that is somehow deeper than humanity -- in a plot's secret is the way to hold interest with a richness that draws but is never fully exhausted or realized. Perhaps that is part of Victoria's Secret. By giving the models the wings of celestial beings, their transcendence is symbolized, so that suggesting that they are not women emphasizes their womenhood: that there is an attracting secret of the feminine that can never be fully known or possessed, even in the knowing and possessing. The display tantalizes with its revelation, and by revealing, reminds us of what is covered, and of the fact that howsoever much one may discover, there will always be something more.
* I'm behind because the last week of the semester was as one would expect.