Kenneth Anger Kustom Kar Kommandos, 1965
Kenneth Anger’s deep influence in visual culture is indisputably widespread, but I was still surprised when I saw this Kylie Minogue video for a song called Sexercise that references Anger’s Kustom Kar Kommandos. Anger’s short from 1965 was originally intended to be about the loving relationship between young adult men and their automobiles, but the project was abandoned due to the commissioning studio going bankrupt, leaving only this short clip behind in 1970.
Anger’s clip represents a lot of things, but most palpable and certainly most immediate is the dissection of masculinity. Kustom Kar Kommandos is a lighthearted, pleasant, and sweet-natured depiction of the sensitive side of a tough guy, with some deeper implications. Intentionally titled with the acronym KKK; Anger constructs the parallel to close male-bonding, militarism, and a certain showiness and narrow mindness of one’s perceived assets. It’s the exact opposite of one of a work like Scorpio Rising, that it almost feels like a gay male perspective of a straight male’s life from the outside. But what is totally perplexing to me is why on earth would this video be used as a jumping off point for the veteran Euro -popstar Kylie Minogue?
The douche-ification of something one loves stings everytime, but the appropriation of good art is inevitable. KKK is by no means an unknown, or undervalued work, in fact– it’s probably one of those clips that is referenced every semester at NYU film school when discussing appropriation and pastiche. Indeed, it might be the most convenient example. But the question remains, given its ubiquity in visual culture, why has Roman Coppola, son of Francis Ford Coppola, frequent collaborator of Wes Anderson, and director of iconic music videos by the likes of Presidents of the United States of America, Supergrass, Strokes, Ween, Air etc., etc., etc… use — well, exploit, rather– Kenneth Anger for Kylie Minogue? Was it for a paycheck? Afterall, he does also direct Geico commercials.
In Sexercise, we see several of the same notions Anger questioned in 1965 laid bare again for the sake of questioning. First is the notion of masculinity versus femininity. Instead of a buff heteronormative male, we have a heteronormative pop-star Kylie Minogue. If these directors really wanted to pay tribute to KKK and also address changes in gender codification since 1965, it would have been much better to present Kylie as a gender-challenging female, rather than a faceless Snap-On style car model/ pinup, a ubiquitous accessory in any repair garage post 1970.
Like Kustom Kar Kommandos, Sexercise also presents the showiness and display of Minogue’s physical assets, which also functions as a means to show the greater population what ‘they’ can’t have, or what ‘they’ are supposed to think they are incapable of achieving. Additionally the video drifts between slow, tacky shots of Minogue’s body only; her face rarely shown. While I believe that it is actually Minogue’s body we are looking at; the face is shown so infrequently that it forces the question whether it is even her body at all. The fact that she is like 50 makes you wonder if the Sexerciser in question here isn’t actually a body double. If the vid anticipated that very question on behalf of the viewer and took it to the next level by actually doing so; that would be pretty cool actually.
Plus, a video called Sexercise– which in its very title equates the relationship between sexuality and excercise (duh), breeds quite the despicable beast. There are so many terrible elements here that remind one of an annoying older family member, or that person you know who is totally full of themself but also insecure about their appearance enough to mask it with ego and excercise to the point that they become delusional about everything. ‘Hey, check out my ass! ‘ Yeah, because the typical Anger fan wants to think about those people.
So, given all of these elements in Coppola’s music vid, I have personally come to the conclusion that the video is not challenging anything, and that there really was no deeper purpose besides that it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s just a woman posing as a girl bending over and continually objectifying herself. Hey, she’s stroking that car like it’s a dick! OMG she has a feather duster, HOW HOT. Is it a car commercial? A commercial for some new type of sexy energy drink for automatons that makes you work out to achieve this level of ‘greatness?’ Is the target audience the Maxim-reading-nut-shavers? It feels very much like something here is being sold, you just can’t decide exactly what it is. The one thing I am sold on is that straight up pastiche and literal referencing is not a good idea in pop music videos!