A love affair with ‘chaotic’ energy: Claremont’s queer womxn and the embrace of chaos

An illustration, a girl lies on a bed and and stares at her phone. Behind her phone erupts a flash of color and light in the shape of a star. The illustration is colored bichromatically, with colors of pale pink and pale orange.
Are some 5C dating pools actually as “chaotic” as they’re described? (Yasmin Elqutami • The Student Life)

It is in the first episode of the second season of “Love is Blind Claremont” that a contestant with the alias “The Pit-Stop” declares her affinity and her homesickness for the “chaotic energy” of the queer womxn’s community on campus.

Love is Blind Claremont,” loosely derived from the Netflix reality competition hit “Love is Blind,” is a cluttered masterpiece that both evokes early 2000s nostalgia and remains undeniably current through an intentionally homespun editing style. Each episode is showered with outdated pop culture references (anyone remember the dancing shark from Super Bowl 2015?) and transitions that appear to be taken from PowerPoint 2004, yet the language used by hosts and contestants and the overstuffed, frenzied production style are marked by a distinct, 2020 handprint.

“Love is Blind Claremont” has an appropriate quality of self-satirization, walking a fuzzy tightrope between parody and earnestness, as the hosts and contestants — this season, a heterogeneous group of queer womxn — seem to quip at the ridiculousness of the situation when hyping dramatic moments to come. It is consistent in its fraying-at-the-edges tonality, teeming with offhand references to Generation Z internet lingo, weed culture and astrology that pop up predictably in the middle of heartfelt declarations. I find watching the show inspires the anticipatory glee of a child playing with a jack-in-the-box toy. It is ripe for the quarantined consumer.

Use of the word “chaotic” within the community of queer womxn at the 5Cs, on-campus before, and now online, is ubiquitous — it rolls off the tongue with a seemingly instinctive understanding of a specific, enigmatic quality, a mode of life. What is this quality, and why is it “chaotic”?

In my first round of interviews and misguided Google searches for “chaotic and queer” — which led me to some decidedly obscene, sticky corners of the internet — I was steered toward the spreading phenomenon of the alignment meme. Alignment is a system of personality categorization, a set of nine, catch-all baskets, meant to explain or instruct the attitude and behavior of any person, place or thing.

Alignment has pervaded meme culture, which has seen presidential candidates, detergent brands and pizza toppings labeled as anything from “lawful good” to “chaotic evil.” Many who post or share these memes are unaware of their point of genesis: Dungeons and Dragons, a near-fifty-year-old, cult favorite role-playing game featuring sage wizards and mischievous elves.

The crux of “chaotic energy” within the alignment system, and now, in the larger public sphere, is inconsistency, spontaneity and confusion in method, no matter how good or evil the intentions of the character. In alignment memes, the “chaotic good” square is often reserved for the most beloved article, for example, Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones.” It describes a well-intentioned character, whose tactics often contradict the rule of law, and may be difficult to justify or anticipate. 

“Chaotic” illustrates an acquired taste, a free spirit whose life and pattern of behavior are impulsive, tangled and compelling in their impenetrability — the appropriate tablespoon and a half of hot mess. 

It is from the “chaotic good” archetype that the omnipresence of “chaotic” in the college-aged vernacular, especially among queer womxn, likely stems. It’s shepherded by the need to characterize an atmosphere that is frustratingly elaborate and occasionally damaging, yet is beloved at the same time.

Zavi Feldstein SC ’19 hosted the legendary Quegger parties (a portmanteau of queer and kegger) before they graduated last fall, where flocks of queer womxn and non-binary folks converged in secluded courtyards, glittery rooftop patios of Scripps dorms and the occasional, steam-filled Claremont McKenna College senior apartment to drink and dance to King Princess and assorted bops of the early aughts.

“Being a really small community … sleeping with the same people, sleeping with your friends — lines get blurred,” they told me.

Kayley James SC ’20 described the atmosphere of the queer womxn’s community on campus as a “shark fest.” 

In other words, no matter the morals of the individuals involved, the process, the method, is inescapably complex — a maze of tripwires, a herd of bulls in a china shop. It is a mess, but a mess that, as “The Pit-Stop” exemplifies in “Love is Blind Claremont,” is enjoyed with great fondness, which makes the mess, endearingly, chaotic.

To the approving eye, “chaotic” illustrates an acquired taste, a free spirit whose life and pattern of behavior are impulsive, tangled and compelling in their impenetrability — the appropriate tablespoon and a half of hot mess. 

Brooklyn Montgomery CM ’22, who appears on both seasons of “Love is Blind Claremont” and describes herself as “a big proponent of chaos,” told me, “Chaotic implies [that] it’s not necessarily messy, it’s almost like ordered messiness. … It means things just happen to you.”

For some, to be chaotic, to attract and emit unwieldy intensity  — is a magnetic, magical quality, like being the human equivalent of a third tequila shot. Feldstein attested that within the queer womxn’s community on campus, “the idea of being chaotic is sexualized.”

Perhaps, queer womxn have come to champion chaos as a manifestation of the desire to acknowledge mental health struggles, or as a mutiny against the “chill” ideal, the social compulsion to be without strong emotion or opinion. Promotion of internal chaos could be empowering, an organic extension of the often strenuous and serpentine process of acceptance of one’s own queerness in society. 

“Maybe it’s a response to the pressure to have everything aligned. Queerness in itself is messy,” James said.

For some, to be chaotic, to attract and emit unwieldy intensity  — is a magnetic, magical quality, like being the human equivalent of a third tequila shot.

Describing oneself as chaotic could also serve as an all-too-welcome excuse for negligence or callousness. Feldstein argued that in queer spaces at the 5Cs, “mental health is treated differently than in other spaces in society. It’s so okay to be fucked up, and that makes it just as okay to not do anything about being fucked up.”

“I think that the word chaotic implies a specific mental state, as well as an interpretation of that mental state as being good,” they said. “It is okay [to be fucked up], but to not do anything about it is also fine, because oh my god, it’s chaotic.”

Montgomery echoed this interpretation — describing oneself as chaotic “lets you not take responsibility,” she said. “You never imply you’re doing anything wrong.” 

Claiming the word chaotic could be an act of internal veiling, wrapping one’s flaws in the glossy, acceptable paper of chaos, to evade the emotional labor of dealing with them, and to advertise this destructive impulse as a fierce, unconditional reclaiming of selfhood.

The crucial quality of alignment memes, the quality that makes those little arrays so seductively clickable, is the immense space they allow for ambiguity. For example, a meme categorizing breakfast foods suggests a pop tart is “chaotic evil”; I could think of equal justification for a pop tart being “lawful good.” Likewise, “chaotic” is endlessly interpretable, both a compliment and an insult, a shade for any potent, hard-to-describe experience. How was the party last night? How was your bagel this morning? Oh, it was chaotic.

The challenge rests in identifying what is too chaotic — to separate the productive, healthy embrace of natural complexities and intensities in oneself, in one’s friends, in one’s community, from a potentially damaging sanctioning of harmful behavior that leads to genuine injury. To be chaotic is rebellious, adventurous, entertaining, while being too chaotic is too much, going too far. The distinction is entirely, comfortably, subjective. “There’s a need to recognize that not everyone likes chaotic,” Montgomery told me.

I asked her if “Love is Blind Claremont” season two is chaotic. “Oh my gosh, yes,” she said. “I’m at a loss for words.”

Lillian Perlmutter SC ’21 is a politics and foreign languages dual major. She is “neutral good” on the alignment scale, so interpret that as you will.

This article was last updated July 13, 2020 at 11:23 a.m.

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