How do you sleep
I love me some Sam Smith and I'm always ready when one of his songs debuts. Ever since I heard him singing Stay with Me I've been a fan. And now he's come out with 'How Do You Sleep', a smooth tune with (according to me) all the trappings of another hit. The chorus is already stuck in my head.
But what I find interesting is how Sam transitions from a 'regular' guy to a 'very gay' guy in the video and how seamlessly is done. No apparent editing, no fireworks trickery. It's just how he presents himself to us what changes, or rather, how we perceive him. We all know masculinity is prescribed and learned and also a performance. And it's never been more apparent than in this video. Sam has spoken about his fluidity when it comes to gender before and in this video, he basically shows us that.
The idea of considering a man 'masculine' is ingrained in society and it is also something that is used as a weapon against those who are not considered 'masculine' enough, or who do not conform to the binary. But as you can see in the video, being masculine (or feminine) is basically a performance, a dance, a kinetic sleight of hand that allows us to identify who or what is masculine (and who or what is not). In the span of five seconds Sam goes from a handsome , conventionally 'masculine' bloke to a sexy guy moving his body to the music in a way that many would consider 'feminine'. But is it?
Notice that I don't use 'effeminate' because effeminacy is something that is considered bad, weak, to melt into weakness, unmanly, weakened. Also worth noting is the constant contrast in this case to what's considered 'manly'. Only the binary is taken into account. As if it were written in stone. Sam switches between the very 'butch' moves to the very 'femme' moves effortlessly because it IS a performance. Gender presentation is fluid, not fixed.
We perform masculinity and femininity. Some men can switch smoothly from one to the other, like Sam, because his default is a 'more masculine' mode (beard, wide shoulders, clipped mannerisms) . Some men are set to a 'more feminine' mode (a more mellow approach, more ample mannerisms, a shortened stance). But that does not mean that those men are not masculine, it's that their demeanor and mannerisms are more easily identifiable as 'feminine'. What causes the glitch in people's perception is their innate masculinity. You see, I think that we are predisposed to 'read' masculine or feminine and we associate that with males and females, men and women. Nothing more.
Think of it like when we play a record: when we hear 'Coltrane' or 'Astrud Gilberto' or 'Guns and Roses' or 'Mariah Carey' or 'Bob Marley,' we expect to hear Jazz, or Bossa Nova, or Rock or R&B or Reggae, according to the idea we have of the artist. If we don't get what we expect, there's a moment of dissonance. That's what we get when Sam starts to move in a non-conventionally-masculine way. It's the same man. It's the same song. The movements are the ones that change him and how we perceive him.
And here Sam is subverting the paradigm. Bravo. It takes balls to do that. And you know what's the best part? He did in his video what he wanted to do. And that, my dear, is freedom.
Of course, there was trepidation. Because this world is a shitty place, and embracing the feminine is usually penalized. Kudos to Sam for doing that.Catch your tears, feel your tears, then throw your tears away 😂 pic.twitter.com/JwbssPENzv— Sam Smith (@samsmith) July 21, 2019