I am always asking myself questions. And the Oprah show the other day with Pink and the video by Pink of Stupid Girls has been on my mind. I ask...what celebrity has an image of being a smart girl?
The internet always offers some relief heh heh. Here is a little from the fabulous Grant McCracken, one of my gods, about Stupid Girls. His whole blog is fantastic! A rich source of thought for us economicanthroculturevultures! Click on Stupid Girls title to find the rest of this entry. Careful, he is addictive:
In the Stupid Girls video from her latest album, Pink is supposed to have made fun of Paris Hilton, Mary Kate Olsen, Jessica Simpson, and Lindsay Lohan. When asked to explain, here's what Pink had to say,
None of these girls are stupid. (sic) They have dumbed themselves down to be cute. I just feel like one image is being forced down people's throats. There's a lot of smart women. There's a lot of smart girls. Who is representing them?
This is going to be an interesting cultural artifact in 100 years.
But why wait?
Here are 5 of the assumptions in evidence.
1) that these women have dumbed themselves down.
2) that "one image" is being "forced down people’s throats."
3) that smart women and girls need "representation."
4) that representation is the artist’s job.
5) that the way to represent smart women is to mock dumb women.
1) that these celebrities have dumbed themselves down.
I don’t know that this is so. Perhaps Pink has met the women in question. Perhaps they have revealed to her secret subtleties and depths. Maybe. Maybe there are what they seem to be, pretty ordinary except where blessed with beauty, talent, charisma and a fan base substantial enough to make a studio executive wet himself at lunch.
I prefer to think of celebrities as experimental vehicles. Experimental airplane are often named with an "X." (For instance, the "XF-92A" flew between 1948-1953, serving as a test for the delta-wing.) We could adopt this practice: Paris XHilton would signify that she is an experiment from whom we expect to learn something. In her case, we are looking at a girl who is well born, not quite with us (a little like Peter Sellers as Chauncy Saunders in Being There), inclined to sybaritic behavior and the scandalous, without a flicker of the lascivious or any apparent loss of status or celebrity. Now we know. It is not clear whether this is the triumph of self possession or the effect of watching too many Jerry Springer shows, but now we know that some people can do just about anything without cost. We also know, or more accurately we are inclined to suspect, that there is not the performance of stupidity. Paris XHilton has crafted herself in many ways but it is not clear that she dumbed herself down.
2) that one image is being forced down people’s throats.
This has got to be wrong. For every Paris XHilton, there is a Jody Foster. For every Jessica XSimpson, there is a Diane Sawyer. For every Lindsay Lohan, there’s an Ani DiFranco.
3) that smart girls and women need representation.
This is an ideological remainder from the 70s and the 80s. The cultural imaginary created for and by the media. We read these heavens to orient ourselves in physical and moral space. But because this imaginary has been crafted by and for special interests, some images are excluded. It is someone’s job to install these images in the heavens. Thus did the Mia Hamm and the US women’s soccer team of the 1990s help create big changes in the way in which young women thought about sports, competition, and soccer. For every Paris Hilton, there is a Madeline Albright. For every Jessica Simpson, there is a Condoleezza Rice. For every Olsen twin, there is is an Oprah Winfrey.
4) that representation is the artist’s job.
The avant garde are the keepers of culture. It is up to them to refashion our ideas. They do this by dint of their own courageous example. They will create new understandings of who and what we can be.
I think this is now the celebrity's job. That’s the service they supply us when they act of experimental vehicles. The artist’s lost this assignment. Popular culture took it away from them.
Of course, Pink is a celebrity, and in that capacity she is influential. But when she summons this explanation of her video, she is playing the artist's card, claiming the artist's prerogative. And my argument here is simple: celebrities instruct by example, artists by instruction.