In a scene from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s 1993 movie Kika, Verónica Forqué encourages her home-help, Rossy de Palma, to shave her top lip, on the basis it will make her more feminine and attractive. Rossy replies: “Mustaches are not the exclusive patrimony of men. In fact, men with mustaches are either gay or fugitives, or both at the same time.” Even in the context of gross comedy, the observation is not entirely without basis. The history of the mustache, at least in Spain, was embedded in that myth for years. On a global scale, mustaches have been associated with war: Greeks and Romans considered a luxurious beard a symbol of manhood, but found that a mustache was better for the battlefield to prevent their enemies from grabbing them in battle. They have also been associated with love: in the 19th century, British men sported a mustache to announce that they were single and of good social standing.
Some marketing theories posit that men with carefully groomed beards and mustaches inspire confidence and help advertisers to sell more products. Others still link a mustache with the darkest side of 20th century militarism and names like Hitler, Franco and Mussolini, who have quite the opposite effect.
In the US, mustaches remain important enough the American Mustache Institute was founded in 1965 and takes its work very seriously. The institute carries out surveys, which do not always work in its best interest: in 2013, one poll revealed that 73% of respondents associated mustaches with alcoholism and only 30% believed a man in a managerial position should wear one. The institute’s president, Aaron Perlut, told The Atlantic in an interview that they had saved the job of a waiter in Georgia who was threatened with being fired if he did not shave and had a student called Sebastian Pham reinstated at his high school in 2006 after he had been expelled for refusing to remove his mustache. Facial hair is politics. In fact, a mustache represents a man’s entry into politics. If a five o’clock shadow is the first outward sign of adolescence being left behind, it also represents a rite of passage toward becoming a voter and taxpayer.
Today, the American Mustache Institute only exists on Twitter and Instagram, and it does not have a vast following: the mustache is no longer conflictive. Justin Bieber has one, and Zak Efron sports one for his latest movie, The Greatest Beer Run Ever. The pandemic lockdowns did a lot to normalize mustache relations: an opportunity to experiment led many people to realize the look suited them and they retained it when the streets reopened. In any case, the mustache renaissance has been underway for years.
The mustache of the future
Sergio Lopez, a Goya-nominated make-up artist, believes the current trend for top lip adornment is “an inheritance of the hipsters, a natural evolution of that bushy beard [which ruled supreme in the 2000s until it became almost a parody in the 2010s].” Spike Jonze, a totem of hipsterism, gave Joaquin Phoenix a mustache in his 2013 hit movie Her. It was such a groundbreaking move that review website Gizmondo noted: “Her looks so good that you won’t care about Joaquin Phoenix’s mustache.” The review also wondered: “I’m not sure which is the scifi part, though: that a man could fall in love with his computer, or that an intelligent being of any sort would date a dude with that mustache.” James Franco in Milk (2008) and Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds (2009) had sported mustaches before that but both were period pieces and the facial hair part of the actors’ characterization. Her was set in the future, and the mustache was simply there.
“That was the turning point for the return of the mustache: a cool dude, well-dressed… and with a ‘tache,” says Blanca Lacasa, a journalist, writer and firm defender of masculine facial hair. “Furthermore, being set in the future, the movie left a prophecy: the modern and interesting man of tomorrow will wear a mustache. It wasn’t random or coincidental. Joaquin Phoenix couldn’t have had a beard in Her: it had to be a mustache.”
Lacasa is a keen classifier of the mustache. “I didn’t like those of the 1930s and 1940s very much, like Errol Flynn and Clark Gable [pencil thin and very profiled efforts]. The best mustache is the 1970s mustache. Full, bushy, not scruffy, but also not perfect. My love for them began with Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). I also liked Elliot Gould, Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds, who had fantastic mustaches. But my favorite is Sam Elliot’s, a mustache so sexy you want to bite it off.”
Alberto Mira, a student of cinema and a professor at Oxford Brookes University, is not a huge fan of the mustache himself, but he makes a compelling point about the sociopolitical connotations where they are involved. “It’s interesting that it was only in Spanish cinema that a mustache implied fascism. Elsewhere, such as in Hollywood, it implied respectability.” Lacasa agrees: “In Spain we associate it with Franco, with [former Prime Minister José María] Aznar, of right-wing men, with a certain military order. But overseas this wasn’t the case. Think about France, of Jean Rochefort, who had a very cool ‘tache, or Dennis Hopper in the US, a symbol of libertarianism. That scruffy mustache was not only sexy, it was left-wing.”
Mira also highlights the sociosexual connotations of mustaches: “We cannot ignore the mustache’s association with gay men, which is an evolution of the dapper mustache of the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century and which in turn leads to the brimming mustache of the 1970s,” an exaggeration of the hyper-masculine esthetic that reigned during that decade and that gay men ended up appropriating. “I think from that moment, when the mustache became associated with gay men, heterosexual men started to avoid it,” Mira concludes.
There is of course a gay icon of the 1970s and 1980s who wore a mustache and converted it into a symbol: Queen front man Freddie Mercury, who wore his as a symbol of sexual freedom. During that era, it could be said that the mustache was both an image of American masculinity (actors like the aforementioned Reynolds and Selleck, whose heterosexuality was so overt and overwhelming that a simple mustache could not call it into question) and of European ambiguity.
Clean-shaven for MTV
“At a cultural level, the mustache has always been used to masculinize men,” says López, “and in some cases it has been used as an association with a profile of power. In fiction, it also marks an era: depending on the period and the type of mustache in question, it can pinpoint a character from the 1920s to the 1970s.” This all changed in the 1990s. “Then, a cleaner, more natural esthetic was being sought.” For evidence we need look no further than Calvin Klein advertisements, MTV and the popularity of teem shows that invaded prime time and turned facial hair into a throwback. Beards became the symbol of men who didn’t pay attention to their appearance (Homer Simpson and his ever-present five o’clock shadow) or to differentiate between a clean-cut matinee idol and a darker characterization, as when Brad Pitt sported one in Seven and Legends of the Fall to portray a tough guy type overwhelmed by tragedy.
In the 1990s, a mustache was the exclusive preserve of the extravagant homosexual (John Waters), the comedian (Eddie Murphy) or the androgynous superstar (Prince). The fact that a mustache was not for everybody was framed in a famous episode of Friends, when Chandler decided to grow one to look more like Monica’s boyfriend, who was played by Tom Selleck. The results inspired the mirth of the rest of the group: during that time, only Selleck could keep his mustache and his dignity.
But a review of the history of the mustache would not be complete if it did not end at the face where it is most combative and militant: that of women. Where previously we spoke of the emergence of a mustache as a point of pride for young men on the path to maturity, in women it is seen as the first sign of a body rebelling against the supposed norm. “Few women in the public eye have had the courage to retain their upper lip hair. So few that the two who did, Frida Kahlo and Pattie Smith, are constantly remembered because of it,” wrote Raquel Peláez in an article for S Moda.
In the 2000s, with the mustache still banished from the ideal of masculine beauty, it is striking to remember that the most famous mustache in pop was sported by a woman: JD Samson, of US electroclash band Le Tigre. “”Something I recommend to everyone is to try to turn that thing that makes them feel most uncomfortable about themselves into a celebration,” Samson said in a video in which she explained her decision not to wax her upper lip. “Ever since I did it, it has changed my life.” Let’s follow her advice. Let’s free the mustache.
Jennifer Lopez thought she was ‘going to die’ after her breakup with Ben Affleck | Culture
The story of Jennifer Lopez, 53, and Ben Affleck, 50, is still providing new twists and turns after more than 20 years. When it seemed that one of the most famous couples in Hollywood had made as many headlines as possible with their reconciliation and subsequent marriage, the singer has made the news again by sharing more details about how they got together in 2002 and why they broke up two years later.
Reflecting on their relationship, Lopez said that it wasn’t a case of love at first sight. “I think what happened is, as we worked together, we became such good friends,” she said in an interview with Apple Music. The two met while filming the movie Gigli (2002), but at the time, Lopez was married to choreographer Chris Judd. The chemistry between the two, however, was undeniable. “We realized that we were crazy about each other […] It’s like you just knew it. It’s just like, ‘This is the person I want to be with.’ And that happened over a period of months.”
And then, from one day to the next, it was over. “It was so painful after we broke up. Once we called off that wedding 20 years ago, it was the biggest heartbreak of my life. I honestly felt like I was going to die,” she said. In the interview, Lopez said she even stopped performing songs inspired by their relationship because it was too painful. “It was a part of me then that I had to put away to move on and survive. It was a survival tactic, for sure.”
“It sent me on a spiral for the next 18 years where I just couldn’t get it right,” she continued. “But now, 20 years later, it does have a happy ending.”
During their separation, Lopez starred in dozens of movies, performed at hundreds of concerts (including the Super Bowl halftime show) and found love with singer Marc Anthony (with whom she has two children) and former baseball player Alex Rodriguez, with whom she was briefly engaged.
In April 2021, Lopez and Affleck confirmed they were back together after the singer broke up with Alex Rodríguez, and Affleck ended his relationship with actress Ana de Armas. A year later, the two were engaged and just a month later they were married in Las Vegas. Another month after that, they held a three-day wedding with friends and family.
Last Friday, Lopez announced she will be releasing a new album, This is Me… Now, on the 20th anniversary of her 2002 record This is Me… Then. The focus of the new album is love, she said. “We captured me at this moment in time when I was reunited with the love of my life and we decided we were going to be together forever. The whole message of the album then is this love exists. This is a real love,” she said. “If you have, like me at times, lost hope, almost given up, don’t. Because true love does exist and some things do last forever and that’s real.”
“I want to put that message out into the world and that does take a lot of vulnerability,” she continued. “But I couldn’t stop myself and some parts of it scare me. And I think parts of it scare Ben too. He’s like, ‘Oh, do you really want to say all this stuff?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know how else to do it, baby.’”
Unko Museum: Tokyo opens first poop museum to explore a taboo topic among Japanese youth | Culture
Among the many synonyms for excrement that exist in the Japanese language, the founders of the Tokyo Unko Museum chose the most candid one, unko, to name an irreverent space designed for female Instagram users. “My goal was for poop to stop being a taboo subject for young girls,” explains its creator, Masaru Kobayashi.
With Japanese influencers in mind, Kobayashi filled the museum’s rooms with toilets and poop-shaped pieces in shades of turquoise, fuchsia and lemon yellow. The colors follow the palette of the Japanese kawaii aesthetic, which combines the cutesy and the grotesque. Kobayashi explains that, far from being a cultural fad, kawaii is a natural extension of traditional Japanese culture. “At the pinnacle of world-famous kawaii culture is poop, a fragile material that disappears down the drain shortly after being brought into this world,” reads a sign at the museum entrance.
To revive the scatological enthusiasm of childhood, visitors are welcomed into a room equipped with nine colorful toilets, whose arrangement evokes the communal toilets of ancient Rome. A museum guide invites them to sit down, clench their fists and, after counting one-two-three, imagine that they are releasing a symbolic dump. When they get up, they find in their respective receptacles pieces of plastic poop, which resemble the poop emoji in striking pastel colors.
There are neon signs with the word poop written in 16 languages. A tearoom serves huge cakes topped with golden feces. Another room features colorful droppings that move when stroked like furry animals. Video games include flying poops. On small toilet-shaped blackboards hung on the wall, visitors are invited to make their own poop drawings.
Although there is a Japanese term for museum, Kobayashi chose the English “museum” to describe a thematic venue whose sole function is to create entertaining environments. Instagram is full of photographs of absurd and witty scenes from the exhibits: couples play-acting, sitting on separate toilets, young parents with blue poop on their heads, or the typical tourist photo featuring a huge illuminated poop. Kobayashi confesses that at first he feared that the unusual concept would be rejected. He felt better when older people started to visit, many of whom saw a generational change in the fact that young girls were openly talking about poop.
In the past three years, Kobayashi has created six such museums across Japan. He has received invitations to open another in Singapore and is in talks with several Asian countries where the subject of human poop lacks the taboo it has historically had in the West.
Classics authors in Japanese literature, such as Natsume Soseki, coined memorable phrases about poop’s “physiological pleasures,” and Junichiro Tanizaki devoted a long passage from his well-known essay Praise of the Shadow to the traditional toilet set in the middle of a garden, which is where “poets of all times have found abundant material for their haikus.”
Many Japanese children learn to write the complicated characters of their language with a series of popular books called Poop Exercises, which contain more than 3,000 humorous phrases related to the subject. For 17 years, Toto, which manufactures high-tech toilets, has held a poetry contest inspired by the subject in the senryu style, which consiss of a short humorous poem and is a relative of the haiku.
For Kobayashi, the evolution of the museum’s audience is apparent in their gradual migration from Instagram to TikTok. His intention, he says, is to continue creating playful spaces that provide moments of relaxation to contrast with typically Japanese solemnity. His next project is a railway museum where, unlike the rigorous Japanese rail schedules, no trains arrive on time.
The medieval monks who forged a nobleman’s will to appropriate a valuable church | Culture
The monks of the San Pedro de Cardeña monastery, in Spain’s Burgos province, had long had their eye on the Santa María de Cuevas de Provanco church in Segovia. But the substantial inheritance that the Count of Castile, Asur Fernández, and his wife Guntroda, bequeathed them made no mention of this Romanesque church surrounded by beautiful vineyards.
Such was the ambition of the monastery to own the church that two hundred years after the death of the Count, they forged the parchment on which his will was written. Their only mistake was an omission to remove all the copies of the authentic will. Now, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the University of Burgos have been able to demonstrate that the fraudulent document, considered until now to be the oldest of those kept in the Historical Nobility Archive in Toledo, is in fact a forgery from the 12th century, and not from the year 943, as it claims.
The document faked by the monks – officially known as OSUNA, CP.37, D.9 – is a parchment on which round Visigothic script records a donation from the Count of Castile to the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña. Until now, the document was thought to be somewhat unique as hardly any original documents from the 10th century survive in Castilian Spanish. However, research has shown that it was actually drawn up two centuries later.
The research, to be made public shortly in the Medieval Studies Annual Report, has revealed which procedures were employed to doctor the will, as well as the motives that led the monks to do so. The forgers based their work on an authentic document stipulating a donation from the Count, inserting elements that were not in the original, in order to use it as evidence in potential lawsuits, two of which were subsequently filed and won by the monks.
The analysis of the document, carried out by Sonia Serna from the University of Burgos, has exposed anomalies both in its preparation and its writing. Serna explains that the scribe was accustomed to working with the 12th century Carolinian script, and made an effort to imitate the round Visigothic script typical of 10th century Castile. But anachronistic features crept into his work, such as the use of the Carolinian system of abbreviations and the adoption of anomalous solutions to abbreviate some words, elements that would not have existed in the 10th century. All the same, the forgery proved effective enough to win two court cases.
The forged document included a clause that ceded the church to the Burgos monastery
The original document used by the monk as a model for his forgery was lost. However, a copy survived in the collection of charters, known as Becerro Gótico de Cardeña and kept in the Zabálburu Library in Madrid. By comparing both texts, Julio Escalona from the CSIC History Institute verified that the monk copied the wording and appearance of the authentic will, but inserted a clause assigning the church of Santa María de Cuevas de Provanco to the monastery of San Pedro.
In 1175, the church of Santa María de las Cuevas was the subject of litigation between the monastery of San Pedro and the councils of Peñafiel and Castrillo de Duero. The Burgos monastery finally won by presenting the false parchment document and getting two monks to testify its authenticity. According to the experts, that document was the will filed in the Toledo archive, whose anomalous paleographic features are consistent with an elaboration in the second half of the 12th century, taking the original as a model.
“Its value does not lie in the anecdotal fact of its being or not being the oldest document in the archive [as was believed until now], but in showing how technical skills and moral and religious authority combined in this case to build a credible truth, capable of triumphing in a judicial scenario,” states the CSIC and University of Burgos study. “Ultimately, it reminds us that to fully understand any historical period, it is essential to understand how each period rewrites and manipulates its past.”
The monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña, where the forgery was made, was completely plundered by the Napoleonic troops during the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 1808. The monks fled in terror and had to abandon all the treasures they had been guarding for centuries. One of the desecrated tombs was that of El Cid – or Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, with Napoleon’s soldiers selling off his weapons and remains throughout Europe. They even made engravings reflecting the plundering of the tomb of the legendary warrior. Today, a plaque states that although the remains of the Castilian hero are no longer here, his horse is buried in the monastery’s garden, though this may be no more than a myth.
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