The Intense Phoniness of Today’s “Pan-Sexual” Pop Culture and Why I Hate It


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.

Ever.

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.

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8 Responses to “The Intense Phoniness of Today’s “Pan-Sexual” Pop Culture and Why I Hate It”

  1. Madalin Says:

    Hmm… How does the song go with the video story? Is she/ they/whoever wrote it trying to say that being in this relationship is like being in Jail ? And he “killed” the relationship by not making plans with her, “when he knew that she was free”. Or that being free of the relationship is adequately and creatively represented by a murderous poisoning of all the diners ( even the dog) in a Roadside Diner. Are they saying that the relationship is/was in fact some sort of Roadside Diner???? WHO CARES???

    It was exceptionally stupid. AWFUL! The production values however ….they didn’t seem to spare much expense there. Even the performances were bad. Like’em or not, Beyonce and GaGA usually perform at a professional level. I liked GaGa’s duet with E John at the Grammys. All the staccato gesticulating here though, was quite tiresome. I’m kinda pissed at you for making me watch it! JK

    Couldn’t she have just turned the phone off? Or if sexualizing the situation is what they were after, why not put the phone on vibrate and well…..

    And you are quite right, how tiresome is the Jail/SexY thing? It never really was interesting the first go round.

    You don’t like Tarantino? I didn’t know that. I thought I was the only one. I have always exquisitely disliked his movies. Yes, even Reservoir Dogs. I HATED Pulp Fiction. It seemed really self-conscious to me and I found all the pop culture kitsch too much to bear. And of course the gratuitous violence is just really not my thing. There were so many things in it that, to me, were all but looking into the camera and winking.

    I’ve never seen La Coquille et le Clergyman.

    Rant and Rave and Blog away Diana!

    -M

  2. Madalin Says:

    Oh YOU can Rant and Rave and MY comment has to await moderation!!!! LOL!

    What if they were to approach a “sexy” video in a whole different way. More a Story of the EYE-ish way. Dipping one’s Lady parts in a saucer of milk. Hmmm… Something along those lines at least gets out of that very used up cliche.

  3. Sarah Says:

    Great commentary; thanks. I watched 2 or so minutes and my computer couldn’t keep up with those tough mamas. “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)…” Ah…you make me nostalgic for my hometown. I’m going to add you to my blog list.

  4. 66witches Says:

    AH – thanks for reading my explosions! Yeah, I agree with Madalin – was going to analyze it but then realized IT’S JUST SHIT! Sarah – I too miss those “sweet painted ladies”!

  5. Gwen Says:

    That was great. Made me remember how I miss you and your perfect sentences. But now I have your blog. Yay!

    Oh yeah, I’m exactly like Madalin. I thought I was the only one who couldn’t bear Tarantino. Thanks for outing me.

  6. Janet Says:

    I’m glad you are blogging. I hate both of them. They are talentless narcissistic “products”.

  7. Ed A Says:

    OK. First of all if you are a grown up and watching this video you are slumming! This product is made for 14 year olds, it lets them know there is something outside of suburbia and to hang on.

    Whether Elton John, David Bowie, Sid Vicious or Madonna, if you are creative or smart you grew up with one of them but really none of them said anything deeper than Gaga. I love Bowie but in his best work Eno made him go mostly instrumental, at his peak he was vaguely fascist and cocaine incoherent.

    This is the holiest of media.

    My favorite of this media is the liner notes to the first Frankie Goes to Hollywood record that has a reading list that includes DeSade, Bbaudelaire, and Flaubert!

    As for the incarceration imagery… jail sucks (don’t get me started) but ask yourself, do you want to live in a world without women’s prison movies? I don’t.

    • 66witches Says:

      But of course I was slumming darling! How else would I end up with a bunch of fake dykes behind bars?

      I have to disagree that David Bowie never said anything deeper than LG, though you can have Elton, Sid and McDonna. I don’t know what the fuck Davie’s on about anymore but his lyrics and imagery once went way beyond surface and into personal psychology and REAL gender politics. Sure, he knew he looked pretty in a dress and that it freaked people out if he snogged Mick Ronson onstage, but he was also living it for real at a time when tabloid journalists were an intrusion into rockstars sex ‘n drugs parties, not invited guests to a show that was put on for their benefit. Much is made of Bowie’s flirtation with fascism, but that’s ridiculous because it was never about politics. That was just about fashion in my opinion (probably why he identified with Yukio Mishima so much). Fashion/fascism – it was a clever conceit. However it is a mistake to think that it was an ideological fascination. It was a deliberate perversion of aesthetics and nothing more. But even that lapse was deeper than anything LG has ever stepped in.
      Women’s Prison Movies are a fine genre and I was hoping someone wouldn’t misunderstand me by thinking that I was being prim about the erotic potential of jail, in a fantasy context. But the thing that generally makes such genre films entertaining is the lack of polish, the self-conscious absurdity, the predictable narrative dynamic and the titillating will-they-won’t they soft-core lesbo tease factor. There’s something Carry On-ish about these films. Roger Corman was no Oliver Stone. If Oliver Stone were to try to make a women’s prison movie it wouldn’t work. It would either be “too real” and “on message” or have such ridiculous production values and beautiful inmates as to be laughable. It’s the kitsch that makes it work when it works.
      LG is not kitsch. She may think she’s taking the piss but she strikes me as taking herself verrrrry seriously. All this overwrought nonsense about her devotion to her fans and stuff and how she’d rather die on stage than leave halfway through a show. Fuck’s sake, what is this, a new religion?

      That video isn’t funny, it’s not silly, it’s not clever. They are trying to be genuinely sexually provocative, in the most boring and cliched way (plus, sorry but LG is not hot) and the “humour” is entirely TV-damaged: a series of visual gags and internally-referential in-jokes, forever looking deeper and deeper into pop culture, Hollywood film, recognizable products and hommages to famous advertising images and/or moments in cinema.

      Do I make meself clear luv? xxx

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