Lady Gaga is the death of sex? I bow to the Gaga machine, but the headline from this week's Sunday Times (excerpted here) gives her too much credit. The piece itself reads more like Camille Paglia -- despite her preference for women -- doesn't find pop's hottest diva attractive. "Gaga isn't sexy at all," she writes. I'm straight and don't happen to agree with that assessment, so I took a quick survey of my male friends, young and old, straight and gay. Turns out, they don't find her sexy either, although 85 percent of them would bang her. Whew, sexual attraction-as-unusual lives on. What this scathing article does do well (besides the brilliant writing) is illustrate a generational divide.
Just as Paglia's hero Madonna was the natural extension of a generation that grew up with the super heroines of DC comics, all short-shorts and pillowy cleavage, Lady Gaga embodies the anime characters who provided the wallpaper for her contemporaries, all big eyes and mechanized enhancements. Paglia complains that Gaga is "like a gangly marionette or plasticised android," when I'd say that's exactly the look she's after.
In her 1990 classic New York Times piece about "Justify My Love," Paglia was my hero for " target="_hplink">calling Madonna a feminist for busting through sexual stereotypes. But now I have to wonder if she's seen the "Paparazzi" video. This isn't a musician playing around with sexual taboos, this is a woman who takes polyamory for granted. The reason Gaga is worthy of the "avant-garde artist" title Paglia so easily bestowed upon the Material Girl back then is this: Stefani Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, has turned her entire life into a performance art spectacle. Criticize her all you want for carefully scripting her every public appearance, you gotta give the Lady credit. I can barely be bothered to brush my hair before leaving the house.
The interesting thing here is how in that same piece, Paglia suggests that artists don't owe it to the world to stand up for liberal causes. The same is no less true now, and can be applied to ideas of what is and isn't sexy. Paglia may be consumed with sex and/or signs of its waning, but Gaga's kinda over the whole thing. In fact, she's admitted as much.
Gaga was recently quoted as saying she was giving up sex because during the act she could feel her creativity being sapped out through her vagina. Maybe that was a joke, maybe that was dead serious. What difference does it make? It's not Gaga's job to teach us morals and sexuality. She's taken it upon herself only to make us look. If she's gotten your attention, job done. Her songs always have elements of hooking up at clubs and navigating relationships. On that level you could say, nothing to see here.
The worst is when Paglia laments the fans. She writes:
Generation Gaga doesn't identify with powerful vocal styles because their own voices have atrophied: they communicate mutely via a constant stream of atomised, telegraphic text messages. Gaga's flat affect doesn't bother them because they're not attuned to facial expressions.
Please. Just because text messaging has eclipsed her, I hardly think that this technology is going to do more to re-wire the human brain than any other gadgetry. This jab has undertones of walking to school uphill in the snow both ways, of course they only knew how to communicate back in the writer's day. Not.
We will continue to be neurotic creatures obsessed with food, shelter and sex. Until we all die and another generation comes along, bemoaning the quaint times of Generation Gaga, and proving we're still having sex.