Laurie and Debbie say:
In April of this year, gay Black musician Lil Nas X released a limited line of Nike shoes in collaboration with art collective MSCHF. The shoes featured a pentagram design and a sole filled with red ink and “one drop of human blood,” provided by members of the art collective. The 665 pairs of shoes sold in less than a minute (the 666th was supposed to be given away–gotta love Lil Nas X’s flair!), but the homophobic right-wing outrage was almost as quick and Nike halted the sale of all shoes that hadn’t been shipped.
Now, straight white skateboarding star Tony Hawk has sold out a limited edition of 100 skateboards, designed with paint which includes Hawk’s blood, and outrage is noticeably absent. (Read about this in Raffy Ermac’s article at Out, Lil Nas X Points Out Lack of Outrage for Tony Hawk’s Blood Skateboards.)
Needless to say, Lil Nas X is right: racism, homophobia, and double standards are all at work here, and we support him unconditionally.
At the same time, this makes us think about the role of blood in human culture(s). The title of this post is from Spike, a vampire character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spike expands on that quotation by saying:
Blood is life, lackbrain. Why do you think we eat it? It’s what keeps you going, makes you warm, makes you hard, makes you other than dead.
So it’s no accident that blood-infused consumer goods are cropping up in the time of COVID-19, when being “other than dead” is on the mind of virtually every human being on the globe, including the affluent and comfortable, and the rich and powerful. It’s no accident that the complex and confusing aspects of COVID stem in large part from it being a vascular disease (i.e., a disease of the bloodstream), which is why it affects so many different human systems and has such a wide variety of symptoms and severity.
Spike (or his screenwriters) are correct when they say blood is life. Blood is a centerpiece of religions across the world, from the Jewish/Islamic conviction that menstruating women must be sequestered, through the Christian rituals of drinking the blood of Christ, to religions that demand blood and scarification. Blood is simultaneously unclean and purifying, terrifying and essential.
If two famous men in two very different subcultures have created consumer goods with blood in them, and both have had commercial success, you can bet your last late-capitalist dollar that more of these goods are coming. They will take many forms, and they will get many reactions: when women start getting on the bandwagon, a whole new set of horrified responses will appear on the scene … especially when it is menstrual blood.
It took 21st century technology and a global pandemic to quicken this trend; now we all get to watch it unfold. Somewhere, Spike is snickering gleefully.
Thanks to Alan Bostick for suggesting the Spike quotations. Follow Debbie on Twitter.
Follow Laurie’s new Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.