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W.B.Yeats, Lady Gaga and the Death of Sex

November 9th, 2010
Lady Gaga performing on the Fame Ball tour in ...

Image via Wikipedia

Time for a look into High Culture and Low Culture! First have a look at one of the most sophisticated website presentations of an exhibition ever: The Irish National Library online exhibition on William Butler Yeats

In particular have a look a the Celtic Mysticism and Golden Dawn material – clicks enlarge things faster than Viagra ever could here!

After such a heady experience you may need to come back to earth by experiencing some icon-smashing. I used to like Lady Gaga until her obsession with violence and death started to bore me. The meat dress was the final straw. Here in this Sunday Times article ‘Lady Gaga and the death of sex’ Camille Paglia delivers the final blow to any traces of fascination you might have for her. Here’s an excerpt:

Despite showing acres of pallid flesh in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all – she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation? Can it be that Gaga represents the exhausted end of the sexual revolution? In Gaga’s manic miming of persona after persona, over-conceptualised and claustrophobic, we may have reached the limit of an era…
Gaga has borrowed so heavily from Madonna (as in her latest video-Alejandro) that it must be asked, at what point does homage become theft? However, the main point is that the young Madonna was on fire. She was indeed the imperious Marlene Dietrich’s true heir. For Gaga, sex is mainly decor and surface; she’s like a laminated piece of ersatz rococo furniture. Alarmingly, Generation Gaga can’t tell the difference. Is it the death of sex? Perhaps the symbolic status that sex had for a century has gone kaput; that blazing trajectory is over…


10 Responses to “W.B.Yeats, Lady Gaga and the Death of Sex”

  1. ‘Sex is mainly decor and surface’ but ain’t that the truth?

    Porn has never been more freely available to anyone with an internet connection and what is porn but ‘sex for decor and surface’ – there’s no genuine emotion, it’s all show for the camera and all superficial. Like Gaga.

    Not that I’ve seen any myself *cough*

  2. Maybe, maybe. but this is still only one section of the media commenting upon another. let’s not mistake the map for the territory. the media is a vast, massively influential map, but one (of many) nevertheless. It has been customary for the last 30 years or so to say that something or other is dead or ended to grab attention. for example Baudriallard’s ‘The Gulf War did not take place’ and Fukuyama’s ‘The end of History and the last man’. Not that what either author is saying is not interesting or even valid; but that by shouting ‘the end is nigh’ is a sure fire way of grabbing attention for one’s arguement. Pagila is certainly no stanger to attention grabbing behaviour herself, and this headline seems to be just that. Perhaps this headline and Lady Gaga herself is the desperate attempt of various aspects of the media to grab our attention, as more people ‘switch off their tvs and go and do something more interesting instead’. maybe

  3. I remember raising an eyebrow or two listening to Camille Paglia waxing lyrical about Madonna’s book ‘Sex’, raving how ‘radical’ it was, that Madonna had something to truly say about women’s sexuality and life in general (?!). ‘Sex’ was a glorified, albeit expensively produced, soft porn book being paraded by the likes of Paglia as culturally important. I wanted to throw my shoes at the TV at the time! And so, for me, it is a bit rich for Paglia to point the finger at Lady Gaga whilst expousing the merits of Madonna, when these artists are, culturally speaking, mother and daughter. They both have thrived within an industry that makes it’s money by the manipulation of surfaces and empty images and both these artists have constantly played with their surface image and used sex to sell. What is the difference between Madonna’s tedious bondage shots and her writhing in her pointy Gaultier bra feigning masturbation with a crucifix on stage and that of Gaga’s antics? To claim one as radical and enlightened and the other as not doesn’t wash with me. It certainly might say something about the over-sexualised visual world we are constantly exposed to, a world in which the depth, and the emotional and cultural complexity of sex gets distorted in a hall of mirrors.

  4. Quoting Camille Paglia is enough to turn me off reading this blog altogether.

    It also makes me feel marginalized as a Druid.

    There are real feminists who no doubt have more interesting things to say about the marginally interesting Gaga.

  5. Hi Stella,
    Please don’t feel marginalized! In the About section I stress that this blog is not an ‘official’ one or one focused on Druidry – it’s a ‘scrapbook’ style place where I try to put up interesting, fun or even provocative pieces. What I find interesting about Gaga is although she is – I agree with you – ‘marginally interesting’ – she provokes such interest. Note that noone has commented on the Yeats link which is by far more interesting!

  6. My dislike of Gaga (doesn’t deserve the title lady) isn’t based on anything chauvanistic, or anything to do with the sexual revolution. Her music is aimed at the young, I’ve often heard my 10 year old singing lyrics from a gaga song, like other slutty things such as Bratz she encourages the young to dress far more maturely than they should, she encourages them to sing lyrics that they have NO compresshension of the meaning.

    Apart from that she’s a talentless bint who is so desperate for attention that she uses shock tactics to grab as much attention, good or bad, as she can.

    That being said, she has such an influence, both positive and negative, that she will have a HUGE part in the changing of society, Like Elvis and the Beatles with their revolutionary music, some loved it, some hated it and considered it the work of the devil, but look at the changes it brought society. As much as I detest gaga, she will be the same.

  7. Gaga and Paglia aside, the Yeats online exhibition is wonderful and well worth a look! Having written the names Gaga, Paglia and Yeats all in the same sentence :0), it does strike me how fascinating culture can be. No matter what our own personal value judgements are – no matter what we might assume to be high or low art – it seems that all creative expression has something important to say about the way we live; it reflects something back to us about the society we are a part of. This link between our passion to create things and the way we organise ourselves, for me, is a heartening one because it suggests to us that culture is a fluid thing, that no way of living is set in stone and therefore we can use our creative energy to bring about positive change. When we study culture in its rich complexity – even the things that grate upon our sensibilities or challenge our values -we are offered an opportunity to expand our understanding about the life and age we are a part of.

  8. I’ll let others (like Paglia, who, like the subjects that fascinate her, can be quite tedious) analyze Lady Gaga. I like her because she’s fun. Original? Is anything original? Everyone borrows from someone else, but the one who packages it just right always gets more attention. That’s true no matter who you are. But the first time I saw/heard Lady Gaga, I knew she was different–and that makes all the difference.

    But Paglia’s putdown makes me think she’s simply too old now. As is Madonna, who continues to try and provoke when she no longer has the passion or any need to do so. When Madonna began her career, most people wrote her off as a talentless hack and said the very same things about her that are now being said about Gaga. Each generation’s best artists reflect that generation, good and bad. Lady Gaga is now, like it or not. And when you start waxing nostalgic for the Beatles or Madonna, it simply means you’ve aged out.

  9. Its all true, Gaga its not creative like most people say, she just pukes diferent things to the screem hopping for someone to like it, the lyrics of her music are the same to all other artists.
    She is not a women, she is a brainless zombie.

  10. I think Lady Gaga and Rhianna are of the same ilk, puppets controlled for Mass produced shock tactics. Note that I was fairly ambivalent towards both,I do not like Gaga’s voice at all but do like some of Rhianna’s ballads. My daughters with sensible heads and good taste put me wise on such matters with expressions of disdain at women being used and portrayed in such a way by music producers who perhaps have other agendas, they saw straight through it and so thankfully there are no fans in our house. I did think the lyrics to Rhianna’s M & S song, I cannot remember the name of it now, were fairly shocking. I heard it for the first time in the car on the radio with my 15 year old daughter as a passenger, and felt it was something that should be reserved to the bedroom or a torture chamber, between consenting adults, ie “sex in the air, I like the smell of it,” a male must have written those lyrics for a well paid puppet to spew forth. Yeats, I like. Particularly The Crucified One, concerning the fate of a Druid or Wise one, first at the hands of Christians and then the ultimate betrayal by his own. That resonates with me at a very deep level.

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