Dorian Electra
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by Erick Fowler

The pop artist Dorian Electra employs a maximalist approach toward sound, set, and costume design to challenge the masculinities of our online-offline world. In a performance that is drag and more, the endless complexities of identity are unfurled.

How might props be used in a practice of more-than-drag to present the self, or multiple selves, complicating, expanding, or abolishing ‘boxes’ of identity construction?1 In their music videos, the pop artist Dorian Electra dawns the appearance of a wide range of cultural characters spawning from the merger of online and offline worlds, imitating their gestures and often poking fun at their absurdity to reveal their underlying normativity and insecurities.2 Through maximalist performativity, design, and dress, Electra plays with masculinities while questioning their own participation gender-norms.

They may be a sword-slashing, Mountain Dew loving, fedora-wearing “Gentleman” in one video and a joker-inspired “Edgelord” in the next. Both are ripped from some of the most toxic zones of the internet, adopted by large swaths of extremely online men. Electra becomes an amalgamation of multitudes, displaying and deconstructing the construction. The foundational misogyny and normativity of either come to the screen’s surface oozing sentiments of the humorous, uncanny and horrific. Both characters coming from Electra’s second album, My Agenda, they represent two recent outcomes of a practice that builds on the portrayal of masculinity in the first LP, Flamboyant. With My Agenda the act previewed in songs such as Flamboyant’s “Guyliner” is taken a step farther to manifest the full extent of online, masculine toxicity.

Design, both costume and set, plays a crucial role in Electra’s sublime ability to manifest the most ontologically revealing elements of their characters.3 The already mentioned fedora combines with a trenchcoat that drapes over a loose, short-sleeved button-up imprinted with a silver sword and cargo shorts that extend beyond the knee, presenting Electra at the end of a complete transformation into the idealised form of a “Gentleman”. A slick fit is enhanced by a katana that will end the life of any plastic bottle in sight, and Electra’s rendition reaches a level of purity unobtained by even the most ardent subscribers to this contemporary fetishization of chivalry.




ANNOTATIONS
Gentleman / M'Lady
By Dorian Electra
Sorry Bro (I Love You)
By Dorian Electra
F The World
By Dorian Electra
Guyliner
By Dorian Electra
Daddy Like
By Dorian Electra
Career Boy
By Dorian Electra
Man To Man
By Dorian Electra
  1. Electra specifically refers to ‘boxes’ of identity & their conceptualisation of their performance being more than drag in the following interview: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/jul/12/pop-sensation-dorian-electra-im-not-a-woman-dressing-as-a-man-its-more-complex

  2. Dorian Electra identifies as gender fluid. I will use they/them/theirs pronouns when referring to them. Some of the characters they portray are presented as he/him/his and she/her/hers. So, I will use those pronouns when referring to those such characters.

  3.  For a glimpse into Electra’s love for fashion: https://youtu.be/rF1TEHBUJ84

Erick Fowler
Erick Fowler is a student within the Art and Performance Research Studies Master’s program at Universiteit van Amsterdam, and has worked as a research intern and freelance researcher at Het Nieuwe Instituut. At HNI, worked on publications for two research projects, For the Record and Lithium, and assisted in the production of a three-day conference entitled The Coming South: Struggles, Epistemologies, and Solidarities. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Culture (Film) from Arizona State University, with a background in digital media. His research interests lay at the intersection of art, institutional studies, and abolitionism.
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