Monday, September 13th, 2010

Pro Paglia: Lady Gaga is a Smug Diva who Exploits her Monsters and Gays

OH THE FAME, IT BURNSJulie Klausner: You and I are, it's safe to say, closet Camille Paglia appreciators.

Natasha Vargas-Cooper: Safe.

Julie: Closeted because she occasionally says crazy craziness, like when she wanted to rub herself all over Sarah Palin.

Natasha: Her political stuff is bonko but I intensely adore her cultural criticism.

Julie: When she got "politikul," twas a folly. Yet, I think Paglia is a better writer than her fellow agitators like say your Katie Roiphe.

Natasha: Don't bait me with my love of Katie Roiphe.

Julie: She's also funny, she can spin an adjective and she's persuasive.

Natasha: I love Paglia because she's she's bawdy and impolite and brilliant. But she is not pleased with the popularity of Lady Gaga.

Natasha: Julie, tell me your current position on Lady Gaga.

Julie: I liked "Bad Romance." I liked when Gaga sat down and played the pee-yanny on "SNL." There was always something INTERESTING but not EXCITING about her. I thought it was her lack of sense of humor, something Cher always had, in addition to crazy outfits, and then I thought it was her youth, but that's not fair. And then Paggy nailed it: it's her blankness. "Gaga's flat affect doesn't bother them because they're not attuned to facial expressions. They don't notice her awkwardness because they've abandoned body language in daily interactions."

Julie: Remember what Pauline Kael said after watching "Stop Making Sense"? That David Byrne "made autism fun"? Paglia is, I think, saying, that Gaga is making it un-fun again. Stop Making Fun.

Natasha: So, as a Paglia partisan and Lady Gaga apologist, *I* would say that the strain Paglia is most critical of, or bemoaning of, is the mingling of sex and death. The prop blood, the burning torso, the grotesque. But isn't that what's good? Doesn't that visual play put the bite and the bitterness and the grand drama into sex?

Julie: I think Paglia accuses Gaga of using sex as mise en scene and that violence is the main course. It's not about making "sex dark." It's about prioritizing The Fame, as it were, over it and knowing that what propels the fame is the chatter that comes along with making dark things about decay and teeth and blood because sex is cheap, daddy-o. Even Miley can do it. The other thing Cammy nailed I thought was her condescending "Little Monsters" stuff.

Natasha: Little Monsters do not come out well in this piece. Paglia: "She constantly touts her symbiotic bond with her fans, the 'little monsters' whom she inspires to 'love themselves' as if they are damaged goods in need of her therapeutic repair."

Natasha: There's no question that Gaga's fan connection is self-interested is a "branding strategy."

Julie: Whereas Madonna back in the day would appear not to give a fuck about her fans.

Natasha: Oh, Madge.

Julie: Gaga can be a smug diva with her little monsters lifting her throne as nothing more than fame cogs. Sex-and her "gays"-are accessories for her. Like Gaga showing up at the VMAs with gay soliders who were kicked out of the military for being gay–like they were a clutch purse.

Natasha: Well that's some ridiculous Stefani-L.A.M.B. shit.

Julie: I think what's most interesting about Paglia's piece is what she says about the "sick" nature of Gaga's asexuality: "This grisly mix of sex and death is sick, symptomatic of Gaga's alienation from her own body."

Julie: It's like Gaga is like James Ensor.

Natasha: Ooh!

Julie: And Madonna is like Renoir, or Gaugin. Katy Perry meanwhile, is Jeff Koons. The ninny.

Natasha: But is the asexuality thing that absurd because isn't sex kind of terrible right now?! For me Gaga is a creature of this moment. A moment of, as Pags puts it, ‘sexual anarchy' and passionless digital reproduction.

Natasha: I mean that fucking people within this cohort is terrible. 18-24.

Natasha: While the little monsters are 16, they identify with 18-year-olds. And can you imagine what 16-year-old boys are like now?

Julie: No. I can't. They have lots of browser windows open with different kinds of anal gaping in each window and Warcraft in others, and an IM window with a bunch of buddies. That's what I picture.

Natasha: 4chaning/wanking.

Julie: It's all a nightmare.

Natasha: "Gaga's fans are marooned in a global technocracy of fancy gadgets but emotional poverty."

Julie: Well, Gaga always makes a thing of saying she's celibate (except when she doesn't) because that's what she thinks is cute. It's very 80s of her.

Natasha: I think it's accurate! The fear of a dude sucking out your creativity through your vag. I'm surprised Paglia isn't more sympathetic to it.

Julie: I thought dudes were the ones being afraid of getting their creativity and/or life seed left behind in the garbage-can womb of some lady, when they could've been busy creatin' some art.

Natasha: Paglia wrote in Sexual Personae: "All phases of procreation are ruled by appetite; sexual intercourse, from kissing to penetration, consisted of movements of barely controlled cruelty and consumption. The long pregnancy of the human female and the protracted childhood of her infant, who is not self sustaining for seven years or more, have produced the agony of psychological dependency that burdens the male for a lifetime. Man justifiably fears being devoured by woman, who is nature's proxy."

Natasha: So isn't Gaga just flipping the script?

Julie: On nature?

Natasha: On the anxiety of creative annihilation through sex.

Julie: After our creative appetite has been sated by carnal stuffs? I mean, I guess? But Gaga is not being sincere.

Natasha: Ah!

Julie: If I've learned anything from Conrad Birdie, it is: "You. gotta be. SINCERE."

Natasha: Damn, Conrad.

Julie: By the way? The VMAs are on. And ACKKKK TAYLOR SWIFT IS ON MY TV.


Julie: DISGUSTING. I hate this depression waif. I hate that she writes her songs too, for some reason that makes it worse. Is she homeschooled? I'll be she's homeschooled.

Natasha: Who doesn't feel like a Little Monster when compared to Taylor Swift?


Natasha: Where did this bitch come from?


Natasha: No. Why is she barefoot? Is she going to pull up her dress and pee on the side of the stage?

Julie: I take back everything I said about Lady Gaga.

Natasha: Did Swift finally break you?

Julie: Yes. I thought Katy Perry was her counter point: male gaze versus vagina dentata, you know?

Natasha: Uh huh.

Julie: But no, it's TAYLOR SWIFT. Little girls should all listen to Lady Gaga, and The Stooges and old Madonna. I concede. Like a prayer!

Natasha: That's your syllabus, little monsters. Now here's a maxi pad.

RELATED: Anti Paglia: Poor Camille Paglia Thinks Lady Gaga is Trying to be a Sex Symbol

Julie Klausner and Natasha Vargas-Cooper are both women.

86 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#1,720)

As someone in the 18-24 range, screw you. Fucking me is awesome.

(I actually think Gaga has more in common with the 2000s interest in pastiche and signifying. She takes other people's ideas and uses them for her own fame-munching [including the bit about being self-aware about her fame-munching].)

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

deepomega's sexual braggadocio is one of my favorite parts of the Awl.

saythatscool (#101)

He's like a young Alexander Woollcott.

Or Christopher Latore Wallace, maybe.

I don't really know many references…

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I'm 25, so apparently I'm just barely fuckable?

And while I get that it's a joke, the idea that all the teens care about today is 4chan and WoW? Not convincing me that Paglia and her fans aren't completely out of touch. Of all the millennial obsessions to skewer, those are pretty much the least likely to overlap with Lady Gaga fandom.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

In fact, if you think about it, you're a lot more likely to find Gaga lovers obsessed with reality TV and celebrity blogs. Which doesn't do wonders for that "blank affect" theory.

JulieKlausner (#1,143)

I think it's about connectivity and lack of it, and the aspie non-face of the emerging techno monsters. Also, I love reality TV. Ask me my favorite Housewife of ANY CAST. Or don't! Here they are: Nene, Vicki, Michaele, Caroline, and LuAnn/Ramona in a two-way tie.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@STC: I LOVE Alexander Woollcott *swoons*.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Lack of connection is a meaningful social critique, but text messaging is a playful love tap compared to the television/suburban flight combination we were hit with in the 50s and 60s.

In fact, one could argue that if, indeed, millenials are more reserved than their forebears, it's because they communicate so often and so easily that they don't have to resort to the desperate emotional histrionics of the more isolated boomer kids.

Of course you're right about reality TV fans – that group may have more overlap with Gaga lovers than 4chan trolls do, but it was still kind of ridiculous of me to claim that the foibles of one fandom would reflect another's.

I'll still argue that the faceless aspies of the tubes – who definitely exist! – have little to no overlap with or similarities to Lady Gaga's fans. I don't belong to either group, so that's kind of like objectivity, right?

Matt (#26)

Thing is, everyone should probably be comparing her more to Marilyn Manson than Ms. Ciccone. I am not making a value judgment there? (Kevin Barnes should be compared to Madonna.)

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

On point.

Related: Is there anybody in the last ten years who could survive being put next to Madonna? MIA, maybe?

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

@Matt: I just saw the first False Priest show! The new material is great live.

@Charmin: Survive, sure – but I'm sure the coneboobs would be pretty painful.

Matt (#26)

I am going tonight!!!! I not have seen them since they were touring Hissing Fauna and I am going to pee my pants!!!!

Matt (#26)


DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

They actually didn't play anything from Skeletal Lamping, at least at our show. Pretty much the only disappointment of the night – I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

HiredGoons (#603)

Roseland Ballroom: last year: riding a fucking live white horse.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I still think that leaping naked out of a coffin filled with shaving cream was better than the horse. But I have had all too many SERIOUS DRUNKEN DEBATES over it to really press the point again.

HiredGoons (#603)

Can we get a Lady Godiva vs. Dracula (Udo Keir) Photoshop job here, ArtYucko?

HiredGoons (#603)

"It's like Gaga is like James Ensor."


Also, I think you slightly underestimate the number of people who are all too happy to be exploited and used by celebrities for a tiny piece of validation.

MParcells (#375)

Me! Me!

HiredGoons (#603)

You know who I pity? The parents of these 'Little Monsters.'

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Lady Gaga vs Tao Lin, who would win?

vespavirgin (#1,422)

Ooh, good one. At least Lin knows he has a flat affect and can make his characters think about rearranging their faces into looks of concern. Ms. Gaga is unaware. So I'm going with Lin.

saythatscool (#101)

When are we gonna get that sexy pillowfight I was promised when this thing started?

Bittersweet (#765)

saythatscool's dirty ol' prevert thing is one of my favorite parts of the Awl.

saythatscool (#101)

Aww, thanks bitter. You obese operation story is still haunting me, btw.

Bittersweet (#765)

Hey, you're welcome. I live to serve.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

While Bitter's pulley-and-duct-tape-obesity operation was a nightmare, I have to say I've been shellshocked with the visual of ArtYucko taking photos of morbidly obese groin-ecological surgeries.

mrschem (#1,757)

oh no. please, not again.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@mrs: I didn't reference the smell he mentioned because I was being considerate.

mrschem (#1,757)

Thank you. You are very kind.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

There are now more separately named generations living at one time than at any time in the history of the very idea of generations. They are as the sands of the sea. They are coming thick and fast. They have an inalienable legal right to have their generational granularity recognized under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. They are as numerous as the different kinds of pop tarts and they are to be experienced and differentiated in exactly the same way.


That's all. Just wanted to scream it.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Her Lunch with the FT that she had with Shteyngart was really nice, I thought.

Bittersweet (#765)

"I thought dudes were the ones being afraid of getting their creativity and/or life seed left behind in the garbage-can womb of some lady, when they could've been busy creatin' some art."


Bryan Keller (#3,804)

She sings pretty well. She writes pretty good pop songs. She wears weird clothes because she's not a natural beauty. Some combination of these things has made her wildly popular. The end.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Now do Inception!

LolCait (#460)

Is it too simplistic to just say that her music isn't really any good after one or two listens and that her Wacky Outfitz don't make any sense in the context of her paper-thin songs?

HelloTitty (#830)

Yes it is.

I find her music is terrible, but then again i am a total crank.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I always thought the songs were just there to pay for the outfitz.

Bryan Keller (#3,804)

Agreed completely. She has talent and the outfits do make sense with the music/the history of pop.

HiredGoons (#603)

With regard to the canon of pop-music, I assume you're speaking in relative micrometres of paper.

HiredGoons (#603)

(post 1993 pop-music I should have said)

propertius (#361)

@HG you just made me think of some pop overture piece with cannon going off. It must be that time of day. Thank you!

HiredGoons (#603)

18-12 demographic.

I think Picasso is probably a better reference for Madonna than Renoir (Madonna is a whispery pastel maiden?), but Katy Perry / Jeff Koons? Sorry, no.

Like him or hate him (can you really love Jeff Koons?), Koons is not a throwaway brainless piece of bubblegum a la Katy Perry. Maybe she's Takashi Murakami — if she's lucky that day. Like, VERY lucky.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

I keep hearing Katy Perry as an inverse 1910 Fruitgum Company.

Well not really, but 1910 Fruitgum Company.

Katy Perry is like the Zebra stripe gum. :(

JulieKlausner (#1,143)

Seconded on Picasso…I think the impressionist/Gaugin stuff was just relative in Paggy's piece. But still! A Koons apologist! In the wild! I'm simplifying, but I'm still agog. Zebra stripe, it falls from my open mouf.

HiredGoons (#603)

You're supposed to hate Jeff Koons. If you like him you don't get it.

JulieKlausner (#1,143)

More like HiredKoons! Sooooo sorry.

Not apologizing for Koons here!

More just giving credit where it's due. Buddy has actually done some shit for art as something of worth/added to the dialogue/etc.

Katy Perry adds nothing, and it could be argued that she is an actual *drain* on the culture.

That's all i'm saying.

HiredGoons (#603)

No no! I *like* Jeff Koons, because I hate him!

HiredGoons (#603)


dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

I'm taking the balloon bunny.


@ HiredGoons: Heheh. Me too?

mrschem (#1,757)

God, that stuff was disappointing. My first major candy burn.

City_Dater (#2,500)

Camille Paglia is the Newt Gingrich of pop culture analysis: consistently breathtakingly crazy, yet simultaneously so boring she makes readers long for hysterical blindness.

semiserious (#2,430)

I think the rise of a Lady Gaga is proportional to the significance of Gwen Stefani's solo-career being reduced to jokes about her Asian back up dancers.

libmas (#231)

Easy on the homeschooled, please. I'm trying to avoid producing a bunch of boys with lots of browser windows open with different kinds of anal gaping in each window and Warcraft in others, and an IM window with a bunch of buddies.

JulieKlausner (#1,143)

Fair enough. And you'll do great, I'm sure. I'm also a fan of the Pioneer Woman, who's also a homeschool homegirl. But to be fair, she also posts a lot of pics of her basset hound.

libmas (#231)

Thank you kindly. We just got a puppy to go with the scads of children and the chickens, so maybe I'll post pix of him in these here comments?

JulieKlausner (#1,143)

I would love it if you did.

Chicken scads!

fabulousrobots (#4,880)

I saw Camille Paglia speak once and she would say something great and I would totally agree with her and think, "gosh, she's pretty rad." And then she'd say something batshit insane and lose me until the next brilliant thing. Her Gaga article is that brilliant thing.

HiredGoons (#603)

This is Donald Kuspit, for me.

I saw her speak in LA about 5 years ago when I still rolled my eyes at her. She did a slide show/lecture on Roman/Greek archetypes in early Hollywood studio publicity stills. Like, young Elizabeth Taylor with her hair all wild like Medusa. Or beautiful-boy Apollian teen stars. She won me over and I've been a convert ever since.

HiredGoons (#603)

um, that sounds amazing.

HiredGoons (#603)

Maybe she's already taken a lesson from Kenneth Anger!?

HonoriaGlossop (#1,247)

Ha! Me too!

I was obsessed with Kuspit in college and came thisclose to attending his graduate criticism program at SUNY Stony Brook… Thankfully I came to my senses in time. But I still love him/hate him/love him.

mrschem (#1,757)

I saw her at MIT in the early 90s and she was great. But I came out of there more confused than ever. I carried that freaking tome around for the next 3 years. But I think its because of what Ms Klausner said about her way with adjectives. She used 'miasma' a lot. She got me over my Mailer problem.

Leila Brillson (#7,412)

Gosh. You are right, Camille Paglia. No one who ever went to a prestigious prep-school has ever felt like an outcast, and no one growing up in New York ever felt a little strange. The majority of people I know (in the wild and urban area of Brooklyn) think Gaga is an artist, the first pop star to have balls since Eddie Vedder wrote PRO CHOICE on his arm during SNL, and Gaga herself cites Marc Bollen and Lydia Lunch as her inspirations.

As someone who has met her on several occasions, I have been so thoroughly impressed with her wisdom and sincerity, her composure and grace. You can't teach that (look at Brittany, 2010's Ke$ha), but it sure makes you a diva.

Secondly, unless you have good gay imitators, you have no staying power. FACT.

HiredGoons (#603)

Lady Gaga 1st(ish) hit single: Bad Romance.

Christina Aguilera: Genie in a Bottle.

Gaga +1

Julie, I cut the best line of this conversation.

Natasha: Look at Ke$ha right now!
Julie: She is a GARBAGE PERSON.

I think you were referring to her outfit not her ~*~*sOuL*~**

Bittersweet (#765)

Might as well be her soul…I always turn off her songs on the radio 'cause I'm afraid I'll catch her cooties through the speakers.

(I'm also a little bitter about this wench because my pre-teen nieces and nephews have gotten my 7-yr-old singing about taking it off and brushing with bottles of Jack. Mama Bear instinct red alert!)

vespavirgin (#1,422)

Ladies, I am SHOCKED at you love for La Pags. Srsly, she HATES women, HATES them, except for Madge, and I think it's because Madonna is of Italian descent. I think you must have skipped over parts of Sexual Personae, like the parts where she says women can't be architects because they don't have weens.

begemot (#7,416)

No, everyone's wrong — Paglia, The Awl — for wasting any time at all discussing Gaga. Here's why: Gaga is *boring*. Her music is *awful*. Her clothes are somewhat interesting but so what? Am I the only person who thinks way too much ink is spilled over her?

ShanghaiLil (#260)

You're not the only one, but it's a small, cliquish group, that probably enjoys discussing Franzen's use of multiple voices in FREEDOM.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I don't particularly like her music, but I think her role in pop culture is pretty interesting to talk about.

Cake: had, eaten.

I hate both Larry Gaga and Jonnie Franzen; I drink alone.

JoannaOC (#7,421)

Camille Paglia, fame-whore, casting stones again.

Rik Andino (#7,511)

I think I died a little after reading this long BS. Pop music doesnt need to make sense, it just needs to have beat you can dance to.

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