I've probably spun this yarn here before, but I once broke up with a girl I'd been briefly dating in the early `90s because of an arguably blasphemous album cover. Sally was a transplanted midwestern girl who'd become a fashion and style editor for a major men's magazine (with this in mind, clearly we were already doomed) and we'd met at a party thrown by a weekly freebie newspaper I'd been writing a music column for. She was fun, but we has so little in common. At one point, presumably in an effort to understand my hobbies and interests better, she was over at my apartment and was thumbing through my records (this was back when vinyl was still a viable medium). I forget what I was doing, but I heard her gasp and saw her clamp her hands over her mouth as if she'd seen something unspeakable. "What's the problem?" I asked.
Sally proceeded to pull out my copy of Celtic Frost's 1985 opus, To Mega Therion, holding it nervously by its edges .... as if it was radioactive, or something. She held it up at me with a look on her face that silently screamed incredulousness and accusation. In case you're not familiar with it, To Mega Therion boasts some pretty distinctive cover art. In a nutshell, it's an H.R. Giger painting (he's the dude that did all the initial design for the "Alien" movies) of Satan using a crucifix as a slingshot. She may have been a sophisto fashionista, but still being a dutifully god-fearing midwestern girl, Sally didn't take kindly to my fondness for giddily blasphemous heavy metal. The fact that I started laughing didn't help matters much either. There'd been doubts in the air already, but this -- for me -- was officially the deal breaker. "If the very thing that causes me so much amusement, causes you such horror," I laughed, "clearly we should probably call it a day." And so we did.
I'd have imagined that she'd have been comfortable in her faith enough not to be bothered by Celtic Frost's cartoony shenanigans, but I guess that wasn't the case. She left in a huff, and I probably cued up a track off Venom's At War with Satan and promptly got on with my life.
In more recent years, though, the trappings of the extreme metal underground have started to infiltrate more mainstream culture. I wrote about it a number of years back, but I was surprised to see the studded belts and spiky bracelets -- formerly sported only by leather-clad punks, metalheads and bondage aficionados --- creeping into the fashion scene in much the same way ironic rock t-shirts (and, for that matter, mohawks) had some years earlier. Tonsorial and sartorial signifiers that once firmly connoted allegiance to one youth subculture or another were becoming appropriated and subsumed by mainstream fashion.
That all said, when I was strolling up Broadway earlier this week, I was genuinely surprised by the garment depicted below in the window of a shop called Opening Ceremony on lower Broadway.
While maybe not as overt as, say, Cradle of Filth's notorious "JESUS IS A CUNT" shirt of a few years back, I was generally surprised to see this particular design on a t-shirt being sold outside of a head shop on West 8th Street or a dumb rock gear joint on St. Marks. Apologists could possibly cite the fact that the inverted cross isn't necessarily Satanic (the cross of St. Peter is actually an upside-down crucifix), but I have grave doubts that this is that. It's not that I'm offended (I'm more offended by stuff like this), it's just that it's pretty surprising that this image has become so de-fanged.
Or has it? What do you think?