008 / 22 june 2015 / ARTICLES
Sam Guest x Julia Baylis presents:
Elvis Loves Me More Than Jesus
Text by Kurt McVey
Millennials are a fascinating sub-sect of the human populace, primarily due to the fact that out of all the emerging generations throughout the ages, they are the least likely to succumb to the patriarchal nature of cultural appropriation, simply due to the accessibility of information online. For decades, young people spent their more formative years listening to the music of their parents or older siblings before they went out and bought their first album. Now they’re subscribing to the YouTube channels of their favorite pop-stars and crafting their own Spotify playlists on their iPhones all before their permanent teeth grow in. For teenage girls especially, their taste in music seems to have a symbiotic relationship with, not only the hive mind, but the idea of fixation itself. Young girls aren’t simply fans of Justin Bieber or whoever the next teen idol to step into the meat grinder happens to be, they’re fanatics. They “get off” in an emotional and hormonal sense, a precursor to actual sexual infatuation. This practically militant approach to teen idol deification at its most extreme can be witnessed during the phenomenon of simultaneous high pitched female screeching, coalescing into an ear shattering audio WMD, capable of destroying the ear drums of any poor father, standing in as a reluctant chaperone at last night’s One Direction concert.
So where does Madeline, the teenage outcast in Sam Guest’s new short film, “Elvis Loves Me More Than Jesus” fit in to this equation? Well, she doesn’t exactly. Her fixation with Elvis Presley is interior, almost painful, perhaps due to her defiant and open rejection of the local and global hive mind mentality, her mother’s adoption and perpetuation of patriarchal religious doctrine, a response to her own social alienation from her fellow girls at school and the bumbling boys without the tools to properly communicate, the vacant callousness of her older sister, or perhaps even, the stark, cold reality of an absentee father.
This is not to say that she’s hiding her love for Elvis from the world. Madeline, played subtly and sweetly by the 18 year-old Kate Bowman, proudly wears a custom Elvis jacket designed by Merch Junkies’ own, Zara Mirkin. Julia Baylis, who played Madeline’s sister, handled the film’s casting and also served as costume and set designer, commissioned the slightly DIY piece after seeing one of Mirkin’s “Bowie” jackets. Ms. Baylis, who is romantically involved with Guest, also owns Me and You, a custom underwear and clothing line that got quite the boost recently when it brought couture sensibilities to “granny panties” when she and her partner Mayan Toledano plastered the word “Feminist” across the backside. It’s fair to bring a hint of feminist analysis to this film, as Elvis seems to serve as Madeline’s last and tenuous link to masculine reliability, which is sure to inevitably fade in tandem with Elvis’ well documented downward spiral into obesity, prescription drug use, culminating with an untimely and notoriously embarrassing death.
Still, the biggest question in the film remains: Why Elvis? If it were 1956, this would be a non-question, as the man was the biggest rock star on the planet. In fact, he practically invented rock stardom. Young women swooned; moms wagged their finger, but fantasized about the man while making love to their husbands in the missionary position before returning back to their separate twin beds. In 2015, a man who was once “The King” has now been relegated to cult status. Perhaps Madeline worships at the altar of Elvis because she’s the only person in her immediate life doing so. Her fixation with the man is entirely her own and in a world where everything is shared thousands of times a second, perhaps she should be commended and not chastised for holding on tightly to what she chooses to believe in.