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).