I’m honestly thankful for those moments wherein someone hails me and goes “Natalia! Camille Paglia’s written some bullshit again somewhere!” – because it keeps me blogging. Due to various professional and personal commitments, I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to. Sadpants, etc.
Then, Camille Paglia writes a piece on which some editor cleverly slaps the phrase “the death of sex” (forgetting the standard “ZOMG!!!1!!!ELEVENTY!!!” we of Generation Gaga have been fond of), and it’s game on again.
It goes without saying that Camille Paglia is offensive. She was offensive when she glibly dismissed date-rape. She was offensive when she suggested that Matthew Shepard – murdered by gay-bashers – had somehow asked for his fate. So when The Sunday Times tells me that Paglia is actually “America’s foremost cultural critic”, I’m not going to say that I am offended, because the capacity for offense was maxed out years ago, and replaced by something more akin to the grotesque amusement one feels when one’s senile great-uncle drunkenly pisses into a pot of borscht someone forgot to get out of his way (I will neither confirm nor deny as to whether or not I have witnessed such events live).
I mean, really, Sunday Times. I suppose we had to go there. I work as an editor myself – I don’t hate the playa, I firmly hate the game. If anything, I am grateful for the fact that this platform was given to Paglia instead of Salon, where her writing was allowed to wander all over the place like an untethered, possibly mad cow, and the comments always wound up being more interesting than the columns themselves. There is something resembling a form and style to Paglia’s “explosive profile” of Lady Gaga, and there is surely at least one editor out there who now deserves karma points and a shiny new coffee mug for such a feat, and then some.
Still, we were once again treated to this whole combination of “Camille Paglia” and “sex”, and what the “foremost cultural critic” considers to be “sexy”, and, well, it was just as subtly terrifying as the previous 2,765,137 times the reading public was abused in this fashion. So I don’t know. This entire “explosive profile” debacle is a toss-up both from a journalistic and moralistic point of view.
But I digress.
So Paglia’s overarching take on Lady Gaga was thus: she decided to frame the Gaga phenomenon as a sign that, and I quote, “the symbolic status that sex had for a century has gone kaput; that blazing trajectory is over…”
THAT BLAZING TRAJECTORY IS OVER?!?!?!?!?!?!?! OH JESUS CHRIST, NO!!!
This comes as shocking news to me, because here I am in my 20’s, living what I thought was an appropriately interesting lifestyle for someone of my station and shade of bottle-blond – and actually having that lifestyle interact with my art. I mean, no one really knows me or gives a crap about who I am, but I at the very least thought that I had the “symbolic status of sex” thing down pat. A couple of nights ago, when my new play was being discussed at Lyubimovka, a critic who knows me a little too well said something like – “you can’t ignore the fact that this is a play about how an older man teaches a younger woman some things. Note the sexual chemistry between the priest and the girl.” Others disagreed, but I laughed in a guilty fashion. The audience seemed pleased. Blazing trajectory? I got it, babes.
Or so I thought, anyway. Thank God that Camille Paglia is on hand to tell all of us who happen to be Lady Gaga fans that we are, in fact, “marooned in a global technocracy of fancy gadgets but emotional poverty.” We don’t feel. And we don’t fuck. Or, if we do, we certainly don’t do it in an appropriately frenzied way – not in a way that critics do when they masturbate to old Madonna videos (sexxxay!).
Now, I personally think that Paglia is trolling – but not in a way that The Sunday Times editors think she is. This isn’t about pageviews, or generating buzz and discussion. Let’s face it: Paglia’s trolling for tits. She wants girls like me to read her latest tripe, get worked up, get a little flush to the face going, and scream: “Hey Camille! You want a blazing trajectory? I’ll SHOW you a blazing trajectory!” Cue metaphoric undressing via confessional blog posts, essays, columns and the like. Cue Camille cackling in the background. Am I right? I’m always right.
It’s funny to me, to read of Lady Gaga being referred to as “asexual” – in an article that natters on about Madonna Madonna Madonna, and then also David Bowie and others. Because… and why I even need to mention this is sort of beyond me at this point… what about Michael Jackson? Does Camille Paglia live in a parallel universe, one in which Michael Jackson never existed nor genuinely moved a generation? Michael Jackson – the freak, the monster, the possible criminal, and the artist – also frequently referred to as “asexual”, also showing up in public in weird outfits at odd places, and someone who was at the epicenter of a global phenomenon that re-exploded again following his death.
I was listening to Michael when I was five years old, living in a bleak late-Soviet high rise, playing with a cheap, knock-off Barbie doll. He shaped my understanding of music and pop culture as much as the Beatles did – and unlike with the Beatles, I didn’t have to play catch-up with Michael. I had no fancy gadgets, back then. People had no idea what text messages were. Were we all, according to Paglia’s fevered imagination, “ruined” (like fallen women as referenced by certain ancient religious texts) already? Was sex dead back then too, and did it get reanimated and lumber around for a while, only to be shot in the head by Lady Gaga’s machine gun bra? Or is Camille really just suffering from a case of “listen kids, back in MY day…”???
I hate to enter into an actual ARGUMENT with a screed by Camille Paglia, because that implies that there was a point to the screed to begin with (aside from the incessant trolling), but there it is. She has managed to genuinely perplex me. Sort of.
Meanwhile, on a particularly hot night this past summer, I was riding in a taxi through downtown Moscow, when Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” came on. I asked the driver to turn it up and obnoxiously sang along. My boyfriend got furious with me.
“But her boyfriend’s like her dad,” I sang back at him while he made faces. Serves him right for dating a younger woman, I suppose. But all kidding aside – there is power, and humour, and weirdness to Lady Gaga. I don’t know if any of it is meant to be sexy, actually. I don’t suppose that all of this somehow means that “sex is dead” – though perhaps for Camille Paglia, it really is dead. Which would be her problem. Not ours.
MY problem is the fact that people like Camille Paglia make more money than I do. I mean, seriously. Come on.