funhouse distortion

i am holding hands with a girl at the pet store. i love how her voice changes when she speaks to different animals. round and bubbly for the angelfish, high and breathy for the calico kittens, sonorous and slithery for the python. she loves them all, even the great hairy tarantula that makes me cringe. 

i am holding hands with this girl whose halo of hair glows banana yellow under the heat lamps in the reptile section, who offers her index finger to teething kittens. she asks “can’t we have one?” in the voice she uses for only me. a voice i can’t describe without using her name, but i imagine joan of arc heard something similar the day she picked up a sword. she is still holding my hand, and i feel like i’d sink into cartoon quicksand if i let go. so i don’t.

“are you two… together?”

this is not unfamiliar, but the woman’s voice, the voice she has chosen, is angrily acidic. this woman has laced her tone with arsenic, without even a passive aggressive teaspoon of sugar to hide her poison. she inhales, puffing herself up like a frightened lizard before her final words. 

“there are children here, you know.” 

in the future, i think of a thousand things to say. we were children too. two girls holding hands after school. two girls holding hands at the movie theatre, two girls in a booth at tony’s pizza, two girls sharing awkward first kisses after two solo cups of wine in someone else’s backyard. two girls holding kittens at a pet store on a saturday afternoon. 

i know now that they see us through funhouse mirrors: distorted, disturbed, our monstrous bodies taking too much space, spoiling innocent spaces with our imposing sexualities. our innocence never ours to begin with.

even with this, there is nowhere i would rather be than holding hands with her in a pet store, with her voice like rain on a hot day, her peach lips blowing kisses for fish, her grip tightening as if to say “i dare you to take this away from me.”

the signs as abandoned places

ARIES Abandoned gas stations, beholders of tumbleweeds and roadside tales, filled with dead fuel yet frozen in time, eyes on the passengers with their hands and hair out the window, haunted by old desert songs and engines revving behind it.

TAURUS: Abandoned bars, stools turned over, a ripped flyer shouting BABES BABES BABES hanging off the bulletin board, a lost motorcycle tire, glass shattered, and the spirit of hell still living somewhere inside.

GEMINI Ghost towns, at the base of old mountains, houses with shutters like eyes and doors like mouths, swallowing stories whole, convenience stores still stocked with stale bread, cabins and headstones still peeking out from behind fairy wood brambles, nature stretching into steel, ready to come alive with a shift of the wind.

CANCER: Abandoned motels, empty pools filled with deflated flamingos, the sign out front screaming VACANCY forever, each room a different anthology of guest book tales, smashed television monitors and a love note ( or goodbye note ) caught up in the rust of the honeymoon suite.

LEO: Abandoned theaters, stages dented with the ghosts of performances past, torn scripts scattered across floorboards in a mess of Playbills and shattered eyeglasses, broken lights and tattered dress hems, mannequins poised at an eternal act one.

VIRGO Abandoned train stations, cars sprayed in a kaleidoscope of graffiti, drifters still starting fires in some of the shells, grass growing over old gears, ghost conductors with no destination, rails intersecting at odd angles like flowers and bones.

LIBRA Abandoned campgrounds, rattlesnakes and desert blues, dead hot and forgotten, a shelled-out RV and the dry lake where the kids used to play, swallowing up broken toys and flat tents, showers crawling with critters, vintage t-shirts printed with campground bears promising that it’s still “the happiest place on earth.”

SCORPIO Abandoned amusement parks, soggy coaster cars paused mid-ascension, cheap thrills and screams still stagnant in the air, ferris wheels trembling in the wind, clown faces distorted and torn down the middle, a mascot head smiling out from the overgrowth.

SAGITTARIUS Abandoned renaissance fairs, an acre out of time, fake pirate ships swinging, fairy wings trying to fly, dead flower crowns tangled with bright ribbons and peasant blouses shed by the lake, empty squares and old stage buildings, Arthur’s sword caught at the entry, still waiting to be pulled.

CAPRICORN Abandoned toy stores, broken pinball machines, ghost clowns, and popped balloons, playing cards stuck to the floor, a crooked house of childhood horrors, teddy bears bleeding stuffing, and a funhouse mirror distorting the distorted. 

AQUARIUS: Abandoned piers, driftwood split down the middle, coastline the last alive thing, neon lights still calling Gatsby home from the horizon, but promising only the ghosts of mermaids washed ashore, tires and bottles filled with sand, dead trees spouting from old rocks, branches a wind chime of ripped dresses, forks, and seashells on strings.

PISCES: Abandoned waterparks, slides overlooking entire old cities, perfect for climbing, hoses and pools now scrawled over and used as skateboard ramps, kids climbing over the old towers and ladders in their bathing suits when it rains, pure want as their tickets in, yelling, “We’re still here, we’re still here, we’re still here!”

3 Chains O’ Gold

Released August 16, 1994

If you haven’t seen 3 Chains O Gold, I’m going to need you to seek it out immediately because it is one of Prince’s most glorious accomplishments. Released in 1994, it expands on the Love Symbol album and attempts to give us Mayte’s back story, I guess? Either way it’s a real treat, so lets get right to my attempt to break down what’s going in this beautiful mess.

Opening Credits
First of all, I wanted to make this not too terribly long and include only events relevant to the plot, but it’s worth noting that the “Warner Reprise Video” is arguably the MOST DATED LOGO IN HISTORY. If this doesn’t scream 1994 at you, I guess you weren’t alive then. If anyone from the future is like “what were the 90s like?” just show them this 10 second clip.

We open with the credits over several clips of what I’m confident is a show on the Paisley Park soundstage, with Prince in a glorious halter top backless jumpsuit, but that’s not important right now - we cut to Princess Mayte in Egypt doing her thing, which I guess is skinny dipping with four nameless women who call her Mai Tai? Either way, full nudity right out of the gate, interspersed with clips of who we find out is her father being stabbed. She holds him as he dies of one stab wound, which I guess you would if no doctor was called. Oh well, dead forever, so she grabs her title 3 Chains O Gold from a vault and we go from Cairo, Egypt, to Minneapolis, Minnesota! Unclear where Mayte is now staying, but it appears to be a small barren room with only candles and a small tv, which is playing Kirstie Alley reporting on a riot in the same alley where conveniently half of Graffiti Bridge takes place.

My Name is Prince
The chain hat is here! As is an extended rap from Tony M, while Prince dances atop several cars in an inexplicably damp alley. He’s so stompy! Mayte has apparently seen this on the news and made her way through the crowd to hand him a bedazzled VHS case containing what is revealed to be the actual tape of her performance on That’s Incredible AS AN 8 YEAR OLD. This is problematic at best, but he’s interrupted by Tony M’s insistence that they have a car party to attend to.

Originally posted by ripopgodazippa

Sexy MF
The car party turns out to be the members of the NPG playing cards in the smoke filled garage of Paisley Park, and their involvement is that Prince shows up, demands 3 women leave with himself, Tony M and Kirky J, and then ridicules the rest of his band for a little bit. Kind of an asshole, but also… have you seen him in this?? Looking like a real snack. Forgiven. Moving on. My favorite thing about all Prince stories is that it’s like, Prince wants the girl, Prince gets the girl, and this is no different. Prince and his gold gun microphone want Troy Beyer in her pearl cage dress (can you call that a dress?) as they make out in various hotel hallways.  They go to the movies and make out for a bit and engage in some heavy petting, but Troy knows something is up and that there’s someone else (spoiler alert, it’s Mayte), and he responds with a very intent Purple Rain-esque moody stare.

Originally posted by snazzyskeletor

Originally posted by snazzyskeletor

Love 2 the 9s
Mayte gets a card slipped under her hotel room door with audition times for the NPG, so I guess Love 2 the 9s is her audition?? But wait, some of the NPG guys are in jail slash Prince’s office at Paisley. This is like… the Hard Times, if the Hard Times had a budget? Anyway it would appear that the audition is a photoshoot, with Prince in the highest of high waisted red pants and an open lace bolero top. Again, he looks DECADENT. I digress. Tony M proceeds to interview Mayte with some inane questions, until she is is finally permitted to make the booty boom. Thank god. Sidebar: her makeup!!!!! So perfectly 90s, complete with a brown lip and thin eyebrows. Perfection.

Morning Papers
Cut to the zoo! Why?? I DON’T KNOW. Here’s P and Mayte walking through the zoo hand in hand, being real sweet paired with a song that makes the whole thing problematic, but again, choosing to overlook the whole “why is age more than a number” with a shot of Mayte riding on a carousel. YIKES. Cut to Paisley Park where P is dressed in white pants, white heels, a floor length white trench coat, and a SLEEVELESS PLAID FLANNEL SHIRT unbuttoned all the way down to his waist. This is a GOOD. LOOK. Someone has been working out, and he is eager to show it off. Ugh back to the carousel for some kind of trippy sequence involving Mayte whispering into a mirror in a Blossom hat.

The Max
Dramatic cut to footage of what I’m pretty sure is one of the 1993 Radio City Music Hall shows from the Love Symbol tour mixed with some backstage footage and whatever was shot at Paisley. Prince’s ability to create euphamisms and use them like literally anyone else in the world would ever even bother never fails to amuse me. He’d like to “shuffle the cards in that stack!” …. okay. Before or after you drive me/us/Mayte to Tennessee? Anyway I guess this is to show she did indeed get the job? Here’s a picture from one of the Radio City shows because one I can’t get a good screen cap, and two it’s important for…. reasons.

Blue Light
I’m not sure whose bedroom we are in, but Prince is sitting there I guess waiting for Kirstie Alley to call so he can hang up on her. You can tell this video was shot later than most of the other footage as his typhoon is really out of control here and reached peak mushroom, but it’s fine since it’s mostly face close ups of him and Mayte as they roll around on a bed while she rejects his advances. Girl. Get your shit together. Also he’s wearing light pink silk pajamas. Or it could just be a regular suit he wears on stage, jury still out, either way it looks comfy af and I’d like one.

I Wanna Melt With U
Aw man. Mayte falls asleep, while Prince packs a suitcase with all his essentials for a tour (chains, a chain hat, and one shirt) and sneaks out. This is my favorite thing, omg. So Mayte has fallen into a fitful sleep and is currently having a sexual nightmare about her flirtatious encounter with P that involves a lot of naked ladies distorted in funhouse mirrors and Prince wearing maybe boxer shorts?? Umbros??, a black and white vertical striped robe, and ROLLER SKATES. Not only roller skates, but knee pads as well because even when you are haunting someones dreams in a sexual way, safety first. Oh also flashbacks to dad. There is SO MUCH GOING ON HERE, my god. I would pay good money to be haunted by Prince on roller skates and safety pads in my dreams, I tell you what.

Sweet Baby
Mayte wakes up from her nightmare to realize P has left her with a note that says only “Sweet baby don’t cry.” Wait I thought she was in the band, but he went on tour without her? From Minneapolis, to Japan, by train? Unclear. Anyway she packs her bags and stands despondent, weeping on some train tracks for the duration of the song until she hops on a plane back to Egypt to be a princess again.

The Continental
Prince arrives by train in Tokyo, where he is visibly distraught and his band starts talking shit about him as they have a pre-show gambling sesh? The Ghost of Mayte shows up to haunt him during soundcheck where he is again very Purple Rain levels of pensive and moody, but NOT IN THE SHOW! The Continental is 3 Chain’s O Gold’s Darling Nikki - overtly sexual, many thrusts incorporated into the dancing, lots of face touching with finger flutters, proving he doesn’t require his main love interests attention, he can get it from anyone anywhere, and they’ll thank him for it. Ok so here we have two seemingly concurrent events happening I think? One is Mayte dancing in Egypt, while Prince gets some in his chain hat. This is legit a porn at this point, wait why does he have a sword??? Anyway so again with the making out and the heavy petting, but right as it gets started, Mayte has been overcome with… I don’t know, but she collapses, and Prince is simultaneously unable to perform sexually. I think to show they are spiritually connected??? Do I GET Prince’s visions now?????? I am so proud.

Damn U
Back in Egypt, an old man tells Mayte she looks like a girl he used to bang. Okay. Prince has returned to Paisley Park where he is performing a one man show for a dinner party in the sound stage, I think. Again, a real treat. Black jumpsuit with a white collared shirt & white tie, yes this is a good look. Oh Tommy Barbarella must have gone on a cruise to the Bahamas on the way back, he has some hair wraps and braids now. Ugh that baritone. Damn U, damn me, this song is so good. Here’s a screen shot that could double as his Bar Mitvah photo.

Mayte has received a letter!! It’s the lyrics to Damn U. Her reaction is to go to her dress maker to get a fancy coin dress, and then hop on the next flight to LA, where they will be shooting the 7 music video, but not before there is a 5 minute segment with members of the NPG talking shit about Mayte. No, really. First up is Tony M and his date, who is Mayte? Where did she come from, what did she do? The rest of the NPG is in the gym, also talking shit about her??!! WHY IS THIS INCLUDED. I guess to show he loves her in spite of his entire band hating her? Michael Bland wants to know “What is her purpose, what does she do?” Honestly. What is this doing here. And it goes on for SO LONG!!!

Maybe my favorite Prince music video??? So we see past versions of Prince trapped in a time traveling cryogenic tube… The Continental yellow suit is here, the chain hat, the Morning Papers Sleeveless Grunge Shirt, some insane bolero top with a cowboy hat that unfortunately is not seen in its full glory.. each of them is electrocuted to show that he has no past, he has sown all his oats and he is ready to be faithful to Mayte and maybe now she will reciprocate his sexual advances. Also there are seven pairs of TINY CHILDREN PRINCE AND MAYTES WIELDING SWORDS AND COIN DRESSES IT IS VERY ADORABLE!!!! God he’s so intense. Oh and the “one day all 7 will die” is in reference to the 7 men that killed her father, whom he has casually assassinated by his bodyguards as he and Mayte waltz off into the sunset/another smoke filled room at Paisley Park.

Originally posted by princessmayte

Originally posted by ripopgodazippa

End Credits
Mayte calls Kirstie Alley to finally grant her long sought after interview with him, which was clearly written by him. Most of her responses are “oh.” I think this is the letter he wrote as her as his press release for why he changed his name? Again, UNCLEAR. Anyway, we’re left with shots of Prince making some kind of business deal in a smoky conference room, and then he ends up signing a contract written in Japanese with the Love Symbol. Dramatic cut to a cemetery, where we see a shallow grave containing the chain hat and the 3 chains o gold.

THAT’S IT! That’s all! Really! Any questions? I HAVE SEVERAL.


“I don’t think of Mad Love as a victim’s tale, but a cautionary one about what happens when someone loves recklessly, obsessively, and for too long. Through Harley’s tragicomic experiences, we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a funhouse mirror, distorted and all too willing to play the fool for someone we’d be much better off without. But through that awareness can come change, and that’s a good thing indeed.
Paul Dini


It was the razor that got her, so innocent sitting at the top of the bag: a man’s razor.  To match the suit in the other room, to go with the man’s watch on the table. “Whose room am I in?”

 “Yours, sir,” Friday answered.

 Tony stared into the mirror, both hands going white-knuckled as she gripped the sink.  Her eyes were pink all around the edges, her face blotched up red from effort.  Her hair was sticking up at all angles, in need of a comb and a bit of gel.  “Who am I?”  Maybe she could have thought it out faster than the AI but one way or another they ended up at exactly the same conclusion at exactly the same time.

 “You are Tony Stark, sir.”

 Just not, she was realizing, the one that belonged in this bedroom.  “Right,” was mostly to the mirror, the razor, the suit, the watch—all things that were imperfect mirrors of things she recognized.  Like a funhouse mirror that distorted shape and gender, she knew without asking the things were hers (or this other version of hers, the one that was a him and kept his things in disarray).  “Right,” she repeated to her reflection, “we’ve woken up in bad places before.  This is going to be okay.”

 “Sir?” Friday prompted.

 “Right,” Tony repeated.  She wet the comb on the sink and slicked her hair back away from her face. It wouldn’t stay that way without gel and effort, but it was good enough for now.  Once she’d managed that, she went to help herself to some clothes she dug out of the suitcase sitting open on a little stand.  The jeans were as soft as god-damn butter when she pulled them on, the T-shirts were soft as baby skin.  “Thank God for small favors,” she whispered.  She went back to the bed to dig the phone out of the covers, and checked the time again.  “Where’s Bruce?” she asked.

 “At this time, I have not been able to locate Mr. Banner, sir. His last known coordinates are—”

 “Last known coordinates?” Tony repeated, “what does that mean?  Why isn’t he in the tower?  Or the lab? Wha—where is Jarvis?”

 Friday went quiet again, the only sort of defiance an AI had against it’s bossy creator.  She didn’t sound terse (because she could) when she came back to say (in a way that still managed to convey she’d already said as much): “Jarvis was destroyed by Ultron, sir.”

Jumps into the villain discourse (because I couldn’t NOT. Heaven help me)

//Getting real serious here for a second, I think the one of the biggest reasons people are uncomfortable with seeing villains in any way humanised is that they still want to believe monsters exist.

They don’t.

“Monsters” don’t exist. Flawed, twisted human beings exist—but they are still human. The nature of personality is too complex to delve into in a shitty tumblr opinion piece, but human beings as individuals are products of our biology and our environment. “Evil” (to put it in super reductionist terms) doesn’t spring out of nowhere. It evolves out from our trauma, from the information we process on a daily basis, and yes, to an extent, our own genetic disposition toward certain emotional responses. (We are, after all, squishy lumps of grey tissue piloting walking meat sacks. Our emotions are heavily influenced by the chemical reactions in our own bodies).

Whether or not we like to admit it, any and all notions of “good” and “bad” we have are fallacies. Morality is heavily dependent on our values of the society we were raised in, the kind of upbringing we experience, what we go through and what leaps in logic our reasoning must perform in order to protect our psyche.

I’m not saying people don’t do morally reprehensible things, or that they shouldn’t face justice, or that they should be pardoned. (Don’t be fucking dense). What I’m saying is that life isn’t a kid’s cartoon, with faultless “heroes” who always do the right, selfless thing, and “villains” who do bad deeds and inflict suffering (or inconvenient mischief) for no other reason than that they exist as a foil to the protagonist.

My favourite quote (at least where RP is concerned) has to be “every villain is the hero of their own story”. Not every mass-murdering, drug-dealing, puppy-punting asshole character does what they do out of a misled understanding of what’s better for other people. But no matter how nihilistic, every villain acts the way they do because, through their eyes, the way the world is justifies their beliefs, means, and actions.

…And it’s really fucking interesting to get behind said eyes. To look under the hood of someone you would never so much dream of being, and see all the moving parts that make them work. Being able to see from the POV of someone terrible doesn’t make you terrible by extension—it’s called empathy, and it’s the ability to see from somebody else’s point of view. Though the two are often confused, empathising with somebody is not the same as showing sympathy towards them. You can understand why somebody acts one way without thinking condoning or agreeing with it.

But some people don’t like it when others are able to empathise with villains. It makes them uncomfortable to recognise that all of humanity exists on a sliding scale of moral grey. And writing/with villains, there’s definitely an element of “stare into the abyss long enough and the abyss stares back”. …Which sounds a TAD pretentious for RP, so to put it another way: writing villains is a bit like looking into a funhouse mirror. This distorted image is the kind of person you might be if this usually little bit of your personality were twisted this way, and this one enlarged, and this one stretched sideways. Bits and pieces hit uncomfortably close sometimes, but that only means you’re correctly recognising the way our personalities are built and the ways in which they can become warped.

Don’t assume that just because someone writes unapologetically from a villain’s perspective, that they think their muse is in the right. They’re just doing as RPers do—putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, because it’s interesting, first and foremost…but also because, actually, understanding the ways terrible people think is a lot more mature and a lot more beneficial when it comes to making sense of real world atrocities than sealing them off in our minds as fictitious avatars of evil.

If you want to play Do-gooder McGooderson frolicking in the sun with his Do-good friends all day then I have zero objections to that. But maybe then don’t follow villainous characters and become shocked, offended, and abrasive when the players don’t turn them into a walking kids TV moral about how being mean is bad and you should be nice to people.

I don’t think of MAD LOVE as a victim’s tale, but a cautionary one about what happens when someone loves recklessly, obsessively, and for too long. Through Harley’s tragicomic experiences, we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a funhouse mirror, distorted and all too willing to play the fool for someone we’d be much better off without. But through awareness can come change, and that’s a good thing indeed.
—  Paul Dini on Mad Love.
I realized I felt connected to no one. Old friends saw me as my former self, as if through a distorted funhouse mirror that made everything warped and untrue. They judged me unfairly, for I had left that person behind long ago. The new acquaintances in my life were just that, new, and too foreign to understand the whole of my heart, or I theirs. Alone as I felt, I also felt happy that it had taken me so long to realize the empty audience in my life, for I had never felt closer to myself, or more complete, or more hopelessly in love with every moment alone inside my mind, thinking every sort of thought, and ruminating on the human condition.
ENFJ Musings

It’s so funny to me how my attitude towards others is so diametrically opposed to that towards myself. I see only the best in others. I am your personal cheerleader, #1 fan, most loyal friend and companion. I will go to the ends of the earth for you. I will encourage, motivate, explain to, and guide you for as long as it takes to help you achieve the most that you can. I see your potential; to me, every person is a sparkling diamond waiting for the right chisel. But when I turn inwards, it’s like looking in a funhouse mirror. Everything is distorted and ugly and horrifying. There is nothing good, only bad. I guess my problem is that I unwaveringly believe in everyone but myself.