Underneath the 1980s nostalgia of Netflix’s drama Stranger Things, the sleepy Midwestern town of Hawkins, Indiana becomes a porous portal into an alternate dimension that the kids on the show call “The Upside Down.”
What would happen if we looked back–past the contemporary Western civilization that we know? Past governments that try to regulate use of bathrooms depending on the biological sex written on birth certificates? Past governmental restrictions on who can be served at what establishment? Past rigidly constructed sexual and gender identities based on science, law and religion? Past, as Foucault described, biopower and biopolitics? What would happen if we looked back to cultures where there were no identities only acts?
In his song “Lady Stardust” from his seminal album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, David Bowie vividly describes an androgynous gender-bending singer, half-entertaining and half-terrifying a crowd with his decadent aesthetic and songs. Potentially written in honor of T. Rex’s frontman Marc Bolan, “Lady Stardust” also references Bowie’s own playful, visionary and even, utopian transgressions of traditional gender binaries, particularly when dressed as the glam rock savior Ziggy Stardust.