carrie brownstein on obsessive superfans and her creepy new kenzo film
The French brand strikes collaboration gold again with 'The Realest Real' — a surreal and hilarious short film about internet comment culture. At last night's NYFW premiere, i-D spoke to Carrie about the importance of fandom and casting Natasha Lyonne...
In the second paragraph of Carrie Brownstein's hauntingly honest memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, the Sleater-Kinney singer-guitarist writes about the importance of being a fan. "My story starts with being a fan," she writes. "And to be a fan is to know that loving trumps being beloved. All the affection I poured into bands, into films, into actors and musicians, was about me and about my friends." Her story about being pressed against the barrier at a B-52s concert until her ribs were bruised is, thankfully, one that's still intensely familiar to kids who grew up with Spotify and live concert streaming. But the non-physical barrier that exists between fans and their idols has, in the age of social media, changed drastically. Carrie explores this with hilarious pertinence in her directorial debut: a surreal short film for Kenzo about the weird world of internet comment culture.
The Realest Real is the latest in a series of fashion films commissioned by Carol Lim and Humberto Leon since being appointed creative directors of the French brand four years ago. "We really wanted to work with Carrie because she hadn't written and directed anything before and we're fans of her and what she's done," Lim explained at the film's premiere last night. "She came to Paris and we walked her through the inspiration for the collection, this idea of fandom and fans dressing up to go and see their favorite concerts — the ritual of getting ready." Carrie's film is only six-and-a-half minutes long, but packs in endless jokes and an equally on-point cast of Kenzo friends. Natasha Lyonne — who discussed her own weirdly sexual first taste of comment culture on Late Night With Seth Meyers in 2014 — is perfect as an embarrassing adopted mother who is forced into an IRL relationship with the younger woman who commented "mom" on her Instagram. Feminist heroine Rowan Blanchard, alt-rock goddess Kim Gordon, and soon-to-be Spider-Man actress Laura Harrier also star. At the premiere, we spoke to Carrie about fandom, fashion, and weird online interactions.
What do you like about Carol and Humberto's approach to fashion?
I like that they approach fashion as an intrinsic part of our lives. It's not divorced from politics, it's not divorced from pleasure, it's not divorced from pain, joy… it's not a compartmentalized entity. That seamlessless is interesting, because I like the way that other art forms intersect with the quotidian, I guess. And at the same time, they are able to take something that's day to day and elevate it.
I liked that the comment you really ran with was "mom." Did you see all the drama that broke out after Lorde commented "mom" on Kim Kardashian's naked Paper photo?
I do remember that! That was pretty crazy.
Why did you choose that word and that relationship?
It's interesting to me that [mother and daughter] is such a primal and primary relationship. Ostensibly, our first human-to-human relationship in the world is with a mother. That that term, that word, would somehow transfer over to something so broad and so overreaching and amorphous as fandom, is really interesting to me — that that would become the way that we would want to relate to people who we don't know. To me there's something so domestic and very ordinary about moms which is why it's so reassuring — you can always come back to that. That we could apply it to something so extraordinary and so fantastical — I love playing with that. And I'm fascinated by the ways that people adopt and adapt language for their own use.
Natasha Lyonne has a very passionate online fan base. Did you see her go on late night TV to talk about about how her fans wouldn't stop commenting "sit on my face"?
No, I didn't! I certainly know that as a cast member of a show that has a very fervid fan base, she is no stranger to those kinds of terms of affection being lobbied at her that are so disproportionate to how well she knows them at all. "I love you," "Marry me mom."...
Was that a consideration when you were casting or writing the role for her?
Interestingly enough, I wrote it without ever consciously casting her. I wrote it in the voice of Natasha, because I was imagining this wisecracking New York woman who from the outside doesn't necessarily seem mom material. That someone would choose her as the person they want in the role of nurturer, to me, just seems so at odds. Then when I began talking to Carol and Humberto about it, I said, in some ways I wrote the dialogue thinking of Natasha, and she's a friend of mine and a friend of theirs, and we just thought, why wouldn't she just be in this? She was very eager to do it, and I'm really glad that worked out. It was very natural and an easy extension of our relationship.
In your memoir you approach superfandom in a much more serious manner. The first page is about you being a fan.
It's so important, you know? Honestly, to me, it's a means of survival — to create a fantasy for yourself that allows you to live beyond the day to day.
As someone who has had fans and been on the other side of superfandom, do you think fan interactions are more intense in the digital age?
I guess the proximity creates an illusion of intensity and accessibility, but I think fans have always found a way of inserting themselves into the narrative of their heroes. Now it's more nuanced, you can take a song and you can basically remove a chorus and put yourself in, you can take a GIF or a meme and put your own image in — it's sort of savvier now, and more evolved, but I think fans have always been trying to do that. Now we just have the technology to do it. I love the way that fans move through the world. It's very intrepid and creative and imaginative.
I heard you've been listening to a lot of hip-hop lately because it's both topical and humorous, which is similar to how Carol and Humberto approach fashion. If you had to set a track to this film, what would you choose?
I love Vince Staples' "Smile," and I love the whole Young Thug album. I could listen to that over and over again. "Wyclef Jean," the first track? That's a great one.
Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy of Kenzo