by Julie Klausner
Julie 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.
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, â€˜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.
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.
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.
Natasha: WHY IS SHE SINGING BAREFOOT? LIKE A WALKER EVANS TRAIN HOBO?
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: THERE’S CURSIVE ON THE WALLS.
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.