Rick Genest, Zombie Boy

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Rick Genest, also known as “Zombie Boy”, was recently launched into success in the fashion sphere as a male model due to his entirely tattooed body. As muse of Nicola Formichetti, actor in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” music video, former circus freak and model for Tierry Mugler, Rocawear and L’Oreal, Zombie Boy has transformed the aesthetic of an industry that typically seeks to represent the idealized and perfected human body. As the fashion industry also influences how society defines the ideal body, Genest’s manifestation as one definition of the ideal enables us to question the role of the body and the role of the freak in fashion. While his art establishes himself superficially as a walking symbol of death, his tattoos are also a tribute to his youth. By defying the laws of nature through his body art and embodying this liminality between life and death (both through the tattoos’ significance and through his very existence), Rick has allowed his tattooed body to be used as the icon of modern freakery. His tattoos are a symbol of bodily excess, and his permanent portrayal of the grotesque through body modification allows him to exist as the dead just as much as he exists as the living. Through art, Rick Genest has transformed himself into the ultimate freak.

While the essence of fashion is ephemeral and always exists just out of the consumer’s reach (as to propagate fashion’s success), Genest’s tattoos here again pose a threat to fashion’s nature. Their existence as a permanent state and their inclusion in the fashion sphere renders the human body to be both eternal and transient. Genest disrupts our notion of a linear timeline in regards to the human body through his suggestion of simultaneous stages of life and death, and he exists as the corporealization of yet another liminality.

Works Cited

Brand, Peg Zegli. “Beauty Matters.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 57.1 (1999): 1-10. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Braunberger, Christine. “Revolting Bodies: The Monster Beauty of Tattooed Women.” NWSA Journal. 12.2 (2000): 1-23. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Corona, Victor. “Memory, Monsters, and Lady Gaga.” Journal of Popular Culture. 46.4 (2013): 725-744. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Ferguson, Christine. “”Gooble-Gabble, One of Us”: Grotesque Rhetoric and the Victorian Freak Show.” Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada. 23.2 (1997): 244-250. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Schildkrout, Enid. “Inscribing the Body.” Annual Review of Anthropology. 33. (2004): 319-344. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

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6 responses to “Rick Genest, Zombie Boy

  1. I thought that this post was extremely interesting. I would not usually think about Rick Genest when I think of freakery. I usually relate freakery to being born a freak. However, it was Rick’s choice to tattoo himself so that his body embodies both life and death. This in itself is a very interesting topic. I think that Rick represents modern day freakery having to do with plastic surgery and other similar ideas. Your choice to use Rick was definitely eye-opening.

  2. I was also drawn to this post. Rick Genest is a lovely model of modern freakery and body modification. I enjoy your point that he models both life and death/ youth and age simultaneously. “While his art establishes himself superficially as a walking symbol of death, his tattoos are also a tribute to his youth.” It is interesting to think about think about this self modification in terms of age: what will happen to the life and death dichotomy that exists within Genest as he ages? Will his age, compounded with the death imagery that exists on his skin, render him more or less of a freak? On one hand, he will become the image of death as an old man, but on the other, he will no longer embody two opposites. It would be interesting to question which facet of Genest is more freakish: the attention he calls to human mortality, or the fact that his body currently opposes itself.

  3. Wow, this post is popular, but I too like the way you incorporated the idea of the temporal freakery, in his digression from the typical life cycle of life to death and instead encompassing both at the same time. I also like how you represented the ideas of fashion and how fashion is generally just out of reach from us as humans, but in this case Rick Genest in a sense wears permanently and almost embodies this fashion. I think the analysis is great and well thought out.

  4. I love this linking of “freakery” and “fashion!” Your analysis of Genest’s play with temporality is also fascinating. It’s as if the tattoos themselves work to imbue “Zombie Boy” with a sort of immortality while his flesh itself remains a site of expiration. In thinking about all of the recent scholarship on time (crip time and queer time, for example), I’m wondering if we could work on theorizing a “freak time,” and what shape that temporality might take in light of your post. Great work!

  5. Your post on zombie boy seems to relate to abjection a little, as you used the phrase “bodily excess” and “portrayal of the grotesque” to describe his tattoos. Those are things that also fall under abjection, which is something that I talked about when discussing the superfluous amount of blood, urine, and dismembered body parts that littered the cabin in “Evil Dead.”

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