American author, teacher and social critic Camille Paglia writes an arresting article for The Hollywood Reporter this month, on the current image of women in entertainment. Her prime cases-in-point: pop music pin-ups Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. (I’d love to hear what she’d say about Beyonce and her recent GQ cover!!) Taylor and Katy’s popularity, Paglia argues, reflects a very peculiar schizophrenia in girls and women of the 21st century.
“Despite the passage of time since second-wave feminism erupted in the late 1960s, we’ve somehow been thrown back to the demure girly-girl days of the white-bread 1950s. It feels positively nightmarish to survivors like me of that rigidly conformist and man-pleasing era, when girls had to be simple, peppy, cheerful and modest,” writes Paglia, chalking out the area of her argument.
“Swift affects a “golly, gee whiz” persona of cultivated blandness and self-deprecation, which is completely at odds with her shrewd glam dress sense…[and] now 28, Katy Perry is still stuck in wide-eyed teen-queen mode…She’s like a manic cyborg cheerleader, obliviously whooping it up while her team gets pounded into the mud.”
“Most striking about Perry, however, is the yawning chasm between her fresh, flawless 1950s girliness, bedecked in cartoonish floral colors, and the overt raunch of her lyrics, with their dissipated party scenes. Perry’s enormous commercial success actually reflects the tensions and anxieties that are afflicting her base audience: nice white girls from comfortable bourgeois homes. The sexual revolution launched by my baby-boom generation has been a mixed blessing for those who came after us. Katy Perry’s schizophrenia — good-girl mask over trash and flash — is a symptom of what has gone wrong.”
While Paglia, a self-described dissident feminist, is often relegated to being outright pugnacious by her fellow drum beaters, nonetheless her latest article is quite a read. And if you want to know what else the professor thinks read her 1990 bestseller Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson.
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