Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Demons And Models For Wives

MGMT, the American rock band, produced a video for their song "Time to Pretend" which could have been dredged from the depths of an LSD trip. The reason I was reminded of this computer-generated extravaganza with the song's references to Class-A drugs and more than just a nod in the direction of The Beatles during their heady phase was on account of the collision of themes that have, in the real world, managed to collide. The video starts with hippy sorts cavorting around a bonfire. Here we have a symbol of Mallorca's current obsession with fire, demons and all amount of pagan heritage. The drugs-laced overtones of the song and video and the hippy sorts are in keeping with the alternative fiestas of Palma's Sant Kanut. And then there's the line from the song about finding models for wives. The frog prince, Rupert, has found a model for a wife (or engagement at any rate).

And into this kaleidoscope we also have the strange story of the demon who seemed to have found a model as a wife, the model in question being one Aline, a Russian blonde. Aline's dalliance with a demon, a Grand Demon no less, has caused one almighty great rumpus as well as an almighty great racket. When there's a protest to be had, out come the pots and pans. The beating of them creates one heck of a cacophony.

It needs to be said, in the interests of accuracy, that Aline and the Grand Demon got no further than being photographed. But it is the photos that brewed up the storm, and it has been hovering over Manacor ever since the latest edition of the town's magazine, "Perlas y Cuevas", celebrated Sant Antoni by showing topless Aline with the Grand Demon in what has been described as a series of "erotic" poses. In one, Aline is taking two hands to one of the demon's horns, while he, tongue hanging out, is in the process of trying to remove one of her stockings.

So the legend goes in the magazine, Aline has come from Russia in order to tempt the Grand Demon and has engaged in hours of seduction prior to the demons going in pursuit of the holy hermit of Sant Antoni. No sooner had the magazine come out and the photos and the arguments were all over social media, at which point the mainstream media picked up on them as well. The outcry led to the caceroladas, "feminist" ones, according to one report, outside the office of the magazine and the home of its editor, Antoni Ferrer, who was said to have been watching Tarantino's latest while all the banging of saucepans was going on.

Ferrer defended the photos by saying it was professional and that there had been no intention to offend or to stir up controversy. The photos used were apparently the most "neutral" of some 500 that were taken, and he was somewhat bemused by the fact that people might be shocked by the photos, bearing in mind the years of censorship in the past. While the magazine has received plenty of messages of support, this hasn't come from institutions. The Council of Mallorca has taken the side of the protesters and condemned the use of imagery which depicts "cheesy sexist stereotypes". The Sant Antoni patronage association in Manacor has also criticised the magazine and has disassociated itself from it by stating that it had nothing to do with the images.

Rather more sinister, as far as protest is concerned, is the fact that Ferrer says that he took a phone call during which a threat was made to his 84-year-old mother. Above all, though, and in addition to stressing the professionalism of the publication, he is at pains to point out that the magazine endured years of censorship under Franco (it is one of the oldest local publications, having started in 1960), and describes the fuss as "surreal" and an attack on freedom of expression.

The points to be made should, however, be obvious. On the one hand there is the tradition of Sant Antoni itself which might be said to have been held up to some ridicule and on the other there is the fact that, for all that freedom of expression should be upheld and demanded, there are also contemporary sensibilities to take into account.

It is perhaps a leap from the photos in the magazine to concerns about gender violence, but these concerns are all too real and legitimate enough, while the current political climate in Mallorca has taken a firm move in favour of women's rights.

One's own reaction to the photos will all depend on individual perspectives. The affair may prove to have been a storm in a teacup (or in a saucepan), but one wonders if advertisers might also object.

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