Saturday, 18 September 2010

What not to wear, or read

With a haul of awards that threatens to wrench even the sturdiest mantelpiece away from the wall, Lady Gaga can rightly consider last week's appearance at the VMAs a triumph. As she hung her meat dress up in the walk-in fridge, I wonder if she took a moment to reflect back on the last 18 months.

Seemingly overnight she's gone from electronic pop novelty to the world's biggest music star, Queen of Twitter and the most popular living person on Facebook. Not bad for a woman who spends half her time looking for giant inanimate objects to balance on her head.

But you don't inspire that kind of following without ruffling a few feathers. Which is why post-feminist social commentator Camille Paglia found the popster worthy of her own specialist brand of verbosely over-analysed critique.

In a lengthy article (no-one seems to know exactly how lengthy, since most of it is tucked away behind Rupert Murdoch's infuriating paywall) Paglia attempts to deconstruct the myth of Gaga - ultimately blaming her for 'the death of sex'.

Labelling her the 'Diva of Deja Vu', Paglia tears strips off the chart-dominating 'icon of her generation' (which, given last Sunday's outfit, might have made for a very nice carpaccio). But I have to admit feeling a little disappointed with the depth of Paglia's understanding - you hardly need to sit on the board of a humanities journal to figure out that "Lady Gaga is a manufactured personality". What next? Gaga's not a real blonde? Actually, yes, that gets mentioned too.

Ultimately, Paglia's real error is in condemning Gaga for being unsexy, comparing her to "a gangly marionette or plasticised android". The content of Gaga's videos and music may be heavily sexualised, but it's rarely intended to be sexy. In the same way that it's possible to eroticise something without being erotic.

If you thought that Paglia's eviscerating attack was tough, that's nothing compared with what Liz Jones has in store for The Artist Formerly Known As Stefani Germanotta. At least that's how it probably sounded inside Liz's raven-haired head.

A couple of weeks ago she tried to follow in the footsteps of Julia Roberts' portrayal of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. Sadly, the only thing anyone will have taken from the article is a profound sense of pity for a woman reduced to recreating a shot from the movie - sitting on a Rome bench eating sorbet with a plastic spoon.

Liz Jones is no Julia Roberts. Then again, she's no Camille Paglia either, as her latest article makes woefully clear. Feeding off the scraps that Camille Paglia obviously felt were beneath her, Liz attempts to offer new insight into "the strange exhibitionist...who steals other performers' creativity and claims it as her own". There's a definite irony here that she's clearly missed.

Ignoring the fact that art, fashion and music constantly recycle and re-appropriate ideas, Liz lists a litany of far more creative and innovative artists - Courtney Love, David Bowie, Victoria Beckham. I wish I was making that last one up, but no, apparently Victoria invented the concept of wearing a hat.

In Liz's mind (a dark, feverish maelstrom I can't even begin to imagine) Lady Gaga is more con than artist. But surely the point of any artist is to provoke discussion, debate and multiple interpretations. If so, Gaga deserves to be installed in the Louvre. And Liz Jones deserves to be slowly devoured by her beloved cats.

1 comment:

  1. Just wish Gaga had worn a pork pie hat.

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