Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pop Culture Tangents of Love & Hate

A former sissy of mine (former in that he no longer serves me - he still is a sissy!) turned me onto Lady Gaga. I just watched her Grammy performance with Elton John. I even got a little weepy, it was so beautiful to see a hitmaker who is also a true artist: provocative, multi-layered, fearless and extremely talented. The Fuse interview I watched of her only confirmed her astonishingly real presence, which makes so many of the others out there seem like mere hustlers in comparison.

It is so refreshing to see a freak-loving pop star really have fun with the elements of the genre. I think we've all grown a bit tired of the vapid popular girls of high school as a template for divadom.

Speaking of which, in an attempt to gauge the status of popular culture (and torture myself with shite), I occasionally channel flip. I found myself on the Disney channel watching the dead-eyed little sister of Britney Spears play just such a character on her own show. Let's forget about the fact that in real life, as a teenage mother, she's not the best role model. The dialogue on this show was mind-numbingly inane, reeking of suffocatingly conformist attitudes. But what really got to me is the way they portray this one character. She is obviously supposed to be the "smart girl," with her glasses and interjections of arcane information, which result in the obligatory "you're so weird" face cringes and eye rolls of everyone else. In one scene, she is french kissing a fat boy. He then asks her if she had tuna for lunch. She shreiks in embarrassment and madly applies breath spray to her mouth. What utter bullshit. Now that Disney has bought Marvel, I am scared of what they will do to my favorite femme comic book heroes and villains. Will they turn them into insecure idiots? I sometimes think these Hollywood players are so lost in their own game, where virtually every woman has to whore it or at least act like one, they forget that the real world (or at least the Bay Area - my refuge!) isn't nearly as fucked up.

I also recently caught up with the latest videos from Shakira. I first fell in love with Shakira when she was still a brunette ingenue and only singing in spanish. I memorized the lyrics to her "Donde Estan Los Ladrones?" album and it helped infuse the passion of the language within me. So it was with mixed feelings that I watched her transform into a blonde vixen, sexing it up and shaking her hips. I was afraid that she had turned into just another generic sexpot. All these years, I've kept my distance. Yet I was intrigued to read an article by her in a year-end report by The Economist about the schools she has started in Columbia. I decided to catch up with her. Watching her current videos, I see a rising maturity, a coming onto her own - I love seeing women emerge into their prime. Before she was a girl, not yet ready to flaunt her sexual power. But now it seems that she has learned to hone that energy, to celebrate it and use it for good. She knows how to play the game, while maintaining her strength and individuality.

These divas of our age - Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Shakira - play the same conceptual role as the famous courtesans of 19th Century France. They are unobtainable objects of desire, universally lusted after, emulated and adored, symbols of brazen feminine sexual power. And they are all doing interesting work at the moment, seemingly feeding off each other's creative impulses. It gives me hope, in some way, that this is happening. It's hard to see when we are in the midst of it, but this and other signs - such as the upsurge in well-written, intelligent shows for television - may be pointing to a cultural renaissance of sorts. We will see. . .