Sunday, September 12, 2010

Camille Paglia vs. Lady Gaga vs. Pakistani Flooding

I’m happy to see Camille Paglia — the expert on “sexual personae” — trash (if that’s not redundant) Lady Gaga in a piece atop Drudge.  She hits many of the same points I was trying to capture, in an admittedly abbreviated way, when I told co-workers the other day that “Lady Gaga is just a person with a big bag of random shit, and no one should care.”

Paglia is insightful enough to recognize Gaga’s special appeal to psychologically-wounded millennials with no secure sense of identity (or grasp of the truth) — and a resulting approach to sex more akin to “mutilation and death” than to an affirmation of life, like trapped foxes gnawing their own legs off and deeming themselves tough rather than frantic.  That certainly sounds like the most ardent Gaga fan I know.  I think Paglia should take more credit, really, for warning (in Sexual Personae Volume 1, of which we still await the second volume twenty years later), back when Gen X came of age, that the Marquis de Sade had been a prophet — that if you dispose of all social conventions, first you get a Rousseuian/hippie holiday, and then the descent into depravity begins as people’s fuller, not always sunny animal natures are revealed (and remembered).

The incentives keeping people moral are fragile, and things start unraveling fast once bad is imagined to be cool (as if bad being cool hadn’t been done to death centuries ago, when, say, violence was so common as to make Europe’s medieval murder rate about thirty times what it is now, despite all that pervasive Catholicism).


Gen X, in retrospect, looks a bit like the mellow, apathetic pause between hippie optimism and millennial savagery/dysfunction.  Indeed, when Paglia mentioned “borderlines” being blurred in that piece, perhaps an unconscious Madonna reference, for a moment I thought she meant cases of borderline personality disorder, which I wouldn’t be surprised to find rising among millennials, along with cases of sociopathy, which are becoming more frequent fast enough to cause a stir — and various studies — among psychologists, reportedly.  Is it something in the Adderall?  (Various natural conditions seem to show a trade-off between intense information-gathering and lack of empathy, after all.)  Who knows.  The videogames?  The Pokemon?  The anal sex?

But back to trashing Gaga: it’s been a fairly good predictor of crappiness for a couple decades now if a song has a moronic, very redundant, throbbing “techno dancefloor” kind of bass, with some operatic vocal hooks just sort of hung on that tree, as tends to be the case in her big hits (and, as I’ve noted before, in every terrible Euro/Middle Eastern disco song played in bodegas at 3am).  Bass often means you’ve hit bottom.  And it’s telling that Gaga got her start writing songs for Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, and Pussycat Dolls.  Do the brainier Gaga fans suggest we go back and listen to those acts with fresh ears and hail their hidden genius?  I hope not.

(An aside: I notice my friend Joann’s brother, who was supposed to direct the film version of Neuromancer before production plans changed, instead directed, among other things, the videos for the Gaga songs “Eh, Eh” and “LoveGame.”  Even if she wears a spacesuit at some point, though, Gaga’s still less interesting than actual sci-fi, which requires some creativity, not just a quick run on the wardrobe closet.  And speaking of sci-fi: tomorrow is, once more, a special anniversary, which I will mark in the day’s blog entry.  As for Neuromancer, it is now slated to be directed by the man who did the disturbing bioengineering thriller Splice, which wasn’t half bad.)

The fact that Gaga has three albums out so far — the second an expanded version of the first, and the third remixes — may be an indicator how hollow and fragile this thing is.  She will not last long, and no one will quite remember what the point was when she is gone.  Speaking of milking it, has she lactated (milk, I mean, not fire) in a video yet?  If she does, and the moms of lots of teenage girls claim to be grossed out, she can claim it’s a result of the conservative establishment hating women’s bodies, etc., etc.  This Gaga stuff writes itself.  She’s like ordering one of everything from a sushi menu.  Never has there been less there there.

And instead of valorizing weirdness, kinkiness, and a cynicism as contemptuous and cheap as cigar ash flung at an elderly stripper, how about pausing to remember how much suffering and weirdness the world possesses already, without even trying?  This article from a couple weeks back about Pakistani flooding may help put your problems in perspective and make the costume-partying likes of Gaga seem just a bit less “dangerous” (and thus less interesting).


jenny said...

whether or not bpd is on the rise (and to a certain extent I think the diagnosis pathologizes a certain normalcy in female adolescence/young adulthood), one thing remains certain: there will always be some men who want to fuck them – namely, those with the Y chromosome.

and as long as that’s the case, Gaga will sell.

Todd Seavey said...

The condition can exist even while _resembling_ some more-common normal traits from female young adulthood.

And since I don’t think that humans are the measure of all things, I don’t have qualms (as you may have noticed over the years) about declaring certain common human behaviors irrational or immoral — even insane, if the word is to have any meaning beyond “uncommon,” as I think it plainly does.

Contrapositively, a survey revealing that 54% of women ages 25-29 shoplift because they believe the (invisible, inaudible, undetectable) ghosts of their grandmothers are telling them to would not transform that into sane behavior.

And though I certainly wonder sometimes what really goes through the brains of my fellow humans, and more narrowly at times my fellow males, I can attest that there are at least some of us who would not knowingly have sex with evil women, do not find evil attractive, and seem to recall already having morals at that age ourselves, since young adulthood is not exactly infancy.

When do we now think sane and moral behavior ought to start, I wonder? And if the date is for some reason being set later and later (when one might argue humans should be getting better at teaching such things _even earlier_), how long before society simply says, we give up on the morality thing, coasts for a few short, hard-partying years, and collapses into cannibalism and mass-rape? I no longer think this last scenario is as far-fetched a conservative cliche as I did in my optimistic youth.

Xine said...

“Speaking of milking it, has she lactated (milk, I mean, not fire) in a video yet? If she does, and the moms of lots of teenage girls claim to be grossed out, she can claim it’s a result of the conservative establishment hating women’s bodies, etc., etc. This Gaga stuff writes itself.”

Wait a minute–you presciently wrote this before LG wore the meat dress and claimed it was a response to DADT, right? I congratulate you, sir.

Todd Seavey said...

Thank you for noticing.