Tegan and Sara Pose With Black Eyes—Is It Wise?

Tegan and Sara Pose With Black Eyes—Is It Wise? January 4, 2012

I love Tegan and Sara immensely. I have tens of thousands of songs on my i-pod, and yet will play their songs on repeat for whole days. Sometimes I will play a single one of their songs on repeat for a half hour straight. I go so far as to consider The Conmy single favorite album of all time. And, in my whole life, I’ve only ever actually had a real, bona fide crush on three celebrities—Natalie Portman, Tegan Quin, and Sara Quin. I think they’re fascinating people and love to read their interviews and listen to their onstage banter. I could go on and on geeking out here.

But anyway, for those of you who don’t know Tegan and Sara they’re an indie-rock pop band from Canada. They’re twin sisters. They’re savvy businesswomen who have assiduously controlled every aspect of their music, their image, their merchandise, and their marketing that they can. They’re thoughtful, confessional people who give intelligent answers in interviews and spill their hearts with little abandon in their music. They are insanely catchy and viscerally affecting to me because their tunes are replete with smart and powerful melodies expressing intense yearnings and anxieties. Their attention to their fans and their openness with them strikes me as simultaneously sincere and savvy. They understand as well as anyone how to be fiercely independent and self-defined, profitable artists in the digital age. They’re also lesbians who have built their whole career while nonchalantly out of the closet and matter-of-factly, manifestly comfortable in their own skins. They’re also socially conscious and forthright about standing up to misogynists in the media and supporting women’s rights and causes.

To all of this they owe the rabid cult following which grew into mainstream indie credibility and which could become mainstream music success any album now. They are for the most part phenomenal role models for young men and women, gay or straight, and have an especially solid grip on the hearts of countless girls. And they are as iconic as anyone could be among young lesbian women.

So, in this context, I’m a little ambivalent about this picture that I keep seeing advertised whenever I wander Freethought Blogs. Google must have figured out I love this band because I see an ad for their new live DVD/CD all the time. I kept not really seeing it closely but having a vague disturbed feeling that something was bad about with Tegan’s make up, as it unattractively made her look like she had a black eye. Then this morning I looked at the picture more clearly and saw that both girls had a black eye. And then I got it. The name of the live package is Get Along. And this is the cover photo for it. They’re twin sisters who work and travel the country together and they have always been frank that frequently they are so close to each other that they madden each other and occasionally they’ve mentioned, in good humor, getting physically rough with each other.

So, in this context, I’m not sure what to make of this cover:

Does this border on an irresponsible “domestic violence chic“? Does it somehow trivialize or actually encourage domestic violence or violence against women in specific? Or does it bust gender stereotypes and exhibit their proud, tomboyish toughness since not only do the girls get black eyes but they give them? Is this a way of saying they’re tough enough to handle a black eye like a champ rather than back down from all fights? Are we on the level of metaphors for being tough and being fighters, all while making a vivid, honest, and amusing joke about sibling rivalry? Is this a sexy toughness or a reckless promotion of the idea that being physically tough on women is sexy? Will anyone in practice be led to be any softer on domestic violence or inclined to it if they accept this image lovingly? Would this be more okay if it were in an art form not targeted very strongly at teenage (and preteen) girls? Should it be admired or disdained on any other aesthetic grounds?

I really don’t know how to answer all these questions, so, Your Thoughts?

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