Being gay is not an aesthetic choice, as far as my 30+ years of queer friendly experience tells me. Except for perhaps those most devastatingly lacking in any kind of unique identity or personal preference and the terminally indecisive, I cannot imagine any human individual adopting a sexuality that didn’t truly come from within. Many of my homosexual friends, of both genders, have endured years of internal torment, followed by family judgement and sometimes rejection, topped off by a lifetime of trying to escape clichéd representations of homosexuality in the media. They didn’t take this on because they were jumping on the latest trend-wagon. Except for a few flakey girls I’ve known who wanted to make themselves briefly more interesting, and not counting those MDMA parties we used to have in the early 90s, I do not think that same-sex love is something you just try on, like a pair of ‘ho shoes.
And then there were female pop stars.
Like however many million others, and counting, I have just donated an irretrievable 9 minutes of my life to the watching of Telephone, the latest work of dumbed-down genius by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé (any one else out there who finds her name incredibly stupid and irritating? not Lady Gaga – I mean the other one…). Already being spoken of as the wow-est ever thing since Thriller (which, for the record, marked the end rather than the beginning of my interest in that sad fuck Michael Jackson), the hyper-stylised herky-jerky efforts of one Jonas Åkerlund are nothing less than the epitome of high-concept vapidness. The whole thing is like some bastard accident that happened when the crew of an extravagant Pepsi commercial had a head-on collision with a soft porn shoot. Just to clarify, since the irony quotient of pop culture has reached acidic proportions, that is not a compliment.
Featuring a women’s prison population that looks like the entire working girl crew off Hollywood and Vine was busted at once, (and were somehow allowed to keep their street clothes on) the video attempts a 21st Century take on Natural Born Killer chic, with a tribade twist.
And you can dance to it.
Am I really the only person on the planet who finds this really fucking boring and juvenile?
There is just no excuse for sexualizing the horrible and terrifying world of incarceration. Having spent 5 days once in the county jail, I can tell you without reservation that it was by far the most dehumanizing experience of my entire life. Being raped in an alley was sexier than having to strip naked in a room full of other alleged criminals, watched by sadistic and sexually deviant officials. The highlight was having to pull apart the cheeks of my buttocks while bent over and coughing, in order to prove I hadn’t somehow stashed a gun or a crack pipe up there whilst in transit between the court house and the jail house, despite being handcuffed and surrounded by armed guards the entire time.
I wonder why “Gaga” chose not to riff on this rich and risqué corner of the prison life tapestry? Ooh la la – could a been so sexy, non?
I gather that the video, with its “plot” of mass murder by poisoning in a roadside diner and faux girlfriends B & G Thelmaandlouise-ing it in their “pussywagon”, is generally meant to be “edgy” (surely the most irritating adjective in rock journalism?) and “groundbreaking.” If so, the dangerous effect is rather undermined by the PG13 bleeping of naughty words like mutherfucker.
After a few years back in the UK the quaint American custom of bleeping out profanities for public broadcasting purposes looks especially so. I remember when everyone was going on about Sarah Silverman’s “hilarious” music-video love letter to boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel, entitled “I’m fucking Matt Damon!” Or perhaps that should be “I’m BLEEEEP Matt Damon!” Because try as I might, searching for uncensored, uncut, not for prime time, and any other strings I could think of that might lead me to what I imagined was the original track, I could never find anything other than “I’m BLEEEP Matt Damon!”
It was a clever cute idea, and Sarah S is obviously clever and cute. But humour that treats adults like children under the age of 10 is just never very funny. Not when the very joke that is being spun depends on a word like “fucking” that is then edited out and replaced by a loud BLEEEEP. It was interesting to read the comments on YouTube and notice how many other UK-based viewers were just scratching their heads and going, “Huh? LAME-O!”
The US drama Prison Break suffered from a similar reality-warping conceit: because this was a network and not a cable TV show, strict guidelines surrounding language were obviously in effect. The result was a surreally bizarre high-security penitentiary where the harshest insult ever uttered by multiple murderers on death row, with necks like Staffordshire terriers, was “sunuvabitch”.
Which brings us neatly back to the sick yet squeaky clean little she-jail universe created in the world of Telephone. Any sense of menace, of real darkness, true violence or insanity is completely eradicated every time Beyoncé’s shapely mouth utters the word “muthaBLEEEP”.
Not that genuine menace would have been any more original or interesting. Personally I’m sick and tired of what the artist formerly known as Stefani Joanne Germonata calls “Tarantino-inspired …violent melodrama glamour.” Then again, I despise the work of Tarantino. Call me square but any time big laughs are based around human brains being splattered on walls – I’m out.
The most “groundbreaking” and “edgy” thing I’ve ever seen on film remains, to this day, La Coquille et le Clergyman by Germaine Dulac and Antonin Artaud, back in 1928. It’s more shocking, exciting, disgusting, disturbing, erotically tense and morally ambiguous than anything that has ever aired on MTV.
Funnily enough, when it was originally shown, Artaud was absolutely furious at what he perceived as director DuLac’s feminist weakening of the script.
It is still light years ahead of anything that has been shot since.