Tuesday, November 24, 2009

MetaWomen and the Gawkers Who Love Them

Just - Radiohead (mp3)
The Fame - Lady GaGa (mp3)
(Links removed by request)

[Super-Special Double-Length Thanksgiving Edition!

As the father of two girls who seem to be approaching their pre-teens at a speed approximating Warp 4, I spend a lot of free time obsessing over girl issues. As I scour various news sites for interesting stories, my eyes are always drawn to stories about women, or about the feminist movement, or about women in the focus of the pop culture lens.
  • A July 30 article in The New York Times Magazine shares one mother's fascination and relief that her daughter has found Wonder Woman, the iconic female superhero, as opposed to Hannah Montana or Lindsay Lohan.
  • An AP story talked about the rising concern parents with "The Princess Pedestal," our cultural fascination with convincing our daughters that they're all that and a bag o' chips.
  • I get the weekly email from The Frisky.com just to sneak a peek into life on the other side, the concerns and subject matter of often horny (mostly 20something) women. Yes, I've hit the age where I'm more concerned about being in touch with my daughters when they are horny and 20something than I am about being in touch with current horny 20somethings.
Three women under the magnifying glass of our culture have particularly caught my eye lately, and I've linked to fascinating features on all three of them, as I ponder where a society increasingly operated by empowered women who can turn assumptions and stereotypes on their sides begin to rake in cash for doing so.

Nadya Suleman

The only contributions Nadya Suleman can make to pushing our civilization forward is as a cautionary tale. She's mentally unstable and, if not a bad mother, a completely irresponsible one. If Jon and Kate should never have made eight, then one of them alone sure as shit shouldn't have 14. And although I've never watched a minute of any of these shows, I'm almost certain that Jon and Kate are both more intelligent and at least a hair's breadth more responsible than Nadya.

Nadya Suleman has 14 children.

Please. Sit and stew on that for just a second. She is that NASCAR wreck that kills a famous driver. She is the online execution of a hostage. She stands for everything we know to be wrong about celebrity, about maternity, and about humanity all lumped into a single doe-eyed idiot, yet she and some hungry producers know full well that enough people will watch her to make a profit out of exploiting the children.

Nadya's not being exploited. Exploitation, in my mind, requires an unwillingness to participate. Her kids, for example, have no say. The world gets to witness their own odd little version of hell and giggle at the pseudo-real life that the camera creates for them. They are being exploited. And the only question left worth asking -- and strangely, it IS worth asking: is their exploitation and its financial reward better than the alternative? Even Nadya says it quite well: "People are like, 'Oh why don't you go to work?'... OK, think about the reality of the situation: I leave, I go to work, I'm away from them all day, I make -- how much? $15,000 a year? OK, I need that at least every two months So, how on earth is that going to work? That's absurd. You live in my life one day and you'll see, you'll realize: it's ludicrous."

Yes, it is, Nadya. It's ludicrous to suggest most of us could ever, ever, be living in your life.

Megan Fox

To be sure, if Megan Fox looked like Susan Boyle, she wouldn't be the focus of my interest. And while she is certainly stunning, I have to stress that Ms. Fox isn't The Hottest Woman Ever. Not by a good stretch. She's very attractive, and she oozes a kind of dangerous sultry vibe that kicks her looks up a notch.

What fascinates me is how focused she is on playing the game of being a celebrity and doing it in a very "this is just a game" way. While it's a little much to suggest Ms. Fox is "highly intelligent," she must be given tremendous credit for understanding her game. With only minimal TV and movie credits to her name, she quickly rose to become one of the most desirable magazine pin-up girls of the 21st Century, and she did it by creating a fictional version of herself that makes out with women and loves wild wanton sexual encounters. (In reality, she's been dating one guy for five years, which is practically four lifetimes for a Hollywood relationship.)

What the NYT Magazine article suggests, however, is that Ms. Fox has been too successful in her effort to sell her body and an image rather than hone her craft. She might have shot to the top so quickly that people discover, to her detriment, that "there's no 'THERE' there." So she and her handlers are working to make her more human, less sex doll. Sadly, I fear they'll discover that once our society has embraced you for your body, we don't really care to embrace your soul.

We've already got Meryl Streep for that.

Lady GaGa
If Megan Fox is attempting to manipulate the Hollywood world in order to find success by milking and manipulating stereotypes, then Lady GaGa is doing a similar job on our preconceived notions of music bimbos. Before the Slate article linked above, I'd never even heard a song of hers all the way through. But the article intrigued me, and I watched her video of "Paparazzi" as well as her performance on MTV. The claim that she is taking the career track of Britney or Christina and turning the lens back on the artificial and superficial marketing machine is impossible to deny.

She's glam, yet so over-the-top glam that it requires she be NOT glamorous. You cannot be completely wrapped up in yourself if you are so careful to never expose what you really look like, if you so clearly cartoonize yourself to make a point. (NOTE: One of the most popular Lady GaGa searches on Google: "Lady GaGa without makeup.")

While the profit motive comes first, that she's attempting to make a statement, a serious and heavy statement, even if I'm not certain I know what it is quite yet, the effort alone is worth at least a little admiration. Will I buy her albums or go to her concerts? Hell naw. But I'll admire her nonetheless.

Nadya is a moron with screwed-up values who caught lightning in a bottle in having eight babies at a time when our popular culture makes heroes out of morons. Megan is a hot crafty dame in a business that rewards hot crafty dames. She played her cards carefully and well and has been rewarded for it. Lady GaGa has done them both one better. She has taken a formula for pop fame -- flash, glitz, shock -- and turned into some kind of threeway between Madonna, Andy Warhol and Andy Kaufman.

All three, ultimately, are women who find tremendous profit in playing the game of fame. I hope the rise of the MetaWoman is a good thing. One day my daughters are going to look at these women -- or the next generation of them -- while Wonder Woman remains imprisoned in cheesy cartoons and undervalued comic book forms. Diana might have a magic lasso, but these women have the magic box. No Amazonian princess with all her skills and cunning can easily defeat such a power as that.

Billy will be taking Thursday off for turkey and giblets, but he wishes you and yours a gleeful holiday and looks forward to begging for more of your attention next week! He also figures the odds that this post survives the entire weekend are slim, because one of these people will have some lawyer who contacts my host or Blogger and yanks this thing down faster than the Hunchback of Notre Dame tugs those damn bells.


BeckEye said...

I had been trying to fight it for a while, but I can no longer deny my love for Lady Gaga. She's fantastic. She writes great, catchy music ("Bad Romance" is one of my favorites of the year) and is really bringing back theatricality in music that sort of died with Glam Rock and Freddie Mercury. Adam Lambert is trying to do it to, but failing miserably.

BeckEye said...

That should read, "do it too." Two Os. As in "also." Sheesh.

Billy said...

My interest in her is clearly increasing. I almost embedded her "Bad Romance" video, because there's some heavy stuff going on amidst all the glitz and exploitation. She's disturbing in an entertaining way.

Interesting that you're so down on Glambert when the reviews have been modestly mixed. It's not like the album is being declared as universally awful as the cover of the album.

Anonymous said...
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BeckEye said...

I'm declaring it awful. And my opinion is even more important than Joe Average Reviewer, because I was a huge Glambert fan. He's been such a disappointment to me though.