the art of combining opposites: Johnny Depp, the creative badass + the lover-warrior
Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist. Keep fighting. Keep loving.
I love this phrase. I saw it on a poster and then looked it up on the ‘Net, which says it originated as graffiti in Palestine.
Stripped of those associations, it still resonates.
It is, for example, a great rallying cry for the creative badass.
It reminds me of what Harriet Rubin in her book THE PRINCESSA refers to as the lover-warrior. This she says, is what a woman must be if she is to get all she wants (love, meaning, power, freedom, creative fulfillment, social change, wealth, success…).
She must be strategic and brilliantly disruptive, governed not by laws but by principle. She must change the nature of the game.
“The princessa,” Rubin states, “came to this earth to rearrange it.”
There is power in combining opposites, transferring skills and knowledge from one domain to the other.
There is a difference between fighting out of fear — and fighting for what you believe in.
You can be fierce and gentle. Formidable and vulnerable.
The creative badass fights for the right to be extreme, to ignite his inner freak, to defy easy categorization, to be a radical thinker, to express her true nature. To have love and power, in a culture that states you must sacrifice one for the other (so women seek love and men seek power).
Great ideas are disturbing. They overturn whatever body of knowledge they are connected to.
The creative badass seeks to be disturbed (and disturb the world in turn).
This takes moxie.
(And as a friend of mine recently put it: “You can fake orgasms, but you can’t fake moxie.”)
Psychologist Linda Austin observes that “the achieving woman must…separate and individuate from socially determined gender norms, which to this day decree that a woman is good, not great. At every step along her path she is challenged to draw upon her courage to assert her individuality.”
To be a creative badass – to pursue ambition and impact, self-expression and mastery — eventually requires a woman to redefine her sense of gender.
But I think this is true for men as well.
Recently I posted on my Facebook page a mouthwatering photo of actor Johnny Depp.
Let’s just say that a lot of women liked it. They liked it a lot.
Amid the comments, a man snorted, “Used to be the Marlboro Man. Now it’s mascara bandit.”
If you’re familiar with the Marlboro Man, you know that the powers of advertising invented him to transform Marlboros, in the collective public mind, from a woman’s cigarette to a man’s cigarette. It wasn’t about inciting female desire. It wasn’t about women at all. It was the culture’s big statement about what ‘macho’ is, what manhood means, just as limited and crippling in its own way as any passive, wide-eyed, thinking-hurts-my-brain, gosh-I-like-kittens sense of what it is to be a girl.
The Marlboro Man wasn’t off exploring his feelings, or reading pansy literature, or expressing his creativity. He wasn’t communing with nature. He was conquering it. He ate feelings for breakfast. Then he had a smoke. And if a ‘real man’ was going to write a story or paint a painting – much less pursue a career doing either – then by god, he would do manly things like hunting or brawling or binge drinking or drug taking to compensate, even if he killed himself.
(He might just kill himself, period.)
The Marlboro Man is no longer in fashion – and the actor who played him is dead of lung cancer – but we’re not so many years removed from that. There are forces in this country that would like to move us back to that, who see the rejection of the Marlboro Man ideal as some hideous ‘feminization’ of the culture. Who would seek to put the ‘feminine’ in its place.
The creative badass fights for the right to speak in his or her real voice, which is an authentic voice, and thus a visionary one.
The creative badass understands that sometimes you have to seem like a contradiction in order to be whole.
And when a creative badass manages to break free, to be as eccentric as he or she wants to be and still meet with incredible mainstream success – Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie – we love them because they had the power to do it their own way.
She wasn’t afraid to take risks, to offend people, to be wild and sexual and bold.
He wasn’t afraid of a little eyeliner.
And the fact that these are two of the most intensely desired individuals in our culture would seem to indicate that what is ‘masculine’ and what is ‘feminine’ is more complicated – and interesting – than traditional definitions would allow.
The creative badass understands this.
Even when the culture doesn’t.