#Problematic: Country Fans Don’t Have A “Girl Crush,” Madonna Is An A-Hole & Taylor Swift Is A “World Leader”
It’s been a tough week, kids. I’m imagining you sitting in front of an open refrigerator, the buzz of the light dulling your existential thoughts. That seven-minute video of Tom Hanks paying homage to his body of work is playing on your laptop from the other room, for no one in particular. You’re wondering how to feed yourself. You’re wondering if you even care anymore. What are pants?
One Direction is now one member short, and that’s apparently one too many. (As if Giuliana Rancic needed one more thing to freak the hell out about.) Insert joke about how they all apparently weren’t going in the same direction, by now you well know that Zayn Malik took his leave. I really, really don’t care. I do still wake up in a cold sweat every now and then after a dream about when N*Sync broke up though, so I can relate. I mean I get it, once Ginger left the Spice Girls that shit was over. But was anyone really banking on the longevity of a boy band? The best thing that will come from that whole sugary mess besides some pop songs that allow you to realize that maybe you still have some youth hiding deep inside, is the future of Harry Styles. The world has lost its last living boy band, and it shall mourn.
While we tackle some problems, feel free to borrow my home remedy for sadness—get in the bathtub with some essential oils, and just let the wine, sweat and tears all mix together. If the cat wants to get in too, even better.
1. Country Fans Don’t Vibe With “Girl Crush”
As a Dixie Chicks historian, it doesn’t take much for me to get fired up about the fraught relationship between country music and its fan base. It’s been 12 years since Dixie-Gate—when Natalie Maines said some disparaging, yet apt comments about then-president Bush on tour overseas. Everyone here at home in turn really got in touch with their antebellum roots because “war time,” “patriotism,” or better put, blind faith and lack of critical thinking. The death threats, record-burning and radio boycotts culminated in ending one of the best female bands of all time (I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining that). One (I) would like to think that enough time has passed (and enough years spent filling the musical void of a Dixie Chicks-less world with bad habits and tattoos) to perhaps mature our country pallets. Maybe the songs don’t have to just be about cowboys porking cheerleaders, and cold beer in the summer time. Perhaps you’ll let some gay people sit on your tailgate. Maybe whiskey is a drink best served neat, without a side of straight white male-steeped privilege.
Apparently not. Country music’s loyal, hamburger-helper-serving (to children, no doubt), god-fearing sector has narrowed its second amendment-loving sites on maybe its least deserving target yet. Little Big Town is a band that albeit talented, proves that unlike pop and rock, country is a genre more willing to fulfill the dreams of anyone. They’re middle-aged, middle-attractive and have lots of harmonizing, which is pretty much the best you can ask for in pop country these days. Their new single “Girl Crush” is a clever and slightly scandalous take on jealously, inhabiting the mind of a woman who becomes obsessed with her ex’s new girlfriend. If anything, the song proves that good country songwriting might still make it onto the charts.
The radio however, is another story. Boise, Idaho radio host Alana Lynn received an unprecedented amount of complaints for playing the song, including but not limited to being accused of “promoting the gay agenda.” Whatever that is. What is really problematic here, is that homophobia is so engrained in country’s hearty main demographic that they’re capable of wholly misconstruing a cheeky chorus about a woman missing a man into the big scary gay agenda. Luckily country’s most beloved morning radio host Bobby Bones, is also over this gay bashing shit too. He had the band on his show and cut right to the point which is, “It shouldn’t even matter if it’s a lesbian song, is the first thing.” Country fans will be country-minded though, just ask Kacey Musgraves.
As #Problematic as … stranger danger:
2. Madonna Is An Asshole
Much like Charlie Sheen or Michael Jackson (rest in peace sweet prince), no one really goes to bat for the sound Mind of (Esther) Madonna. But in 2015 America, it’s okay to be crazy. In fact, it’s more likely to get you somewhere than being sane. When was the last time you heard someone say, “I love that bitch, she’s so boring?” But just because we’re willing to be somewhat forgiving of the psychosis-lending nature of celebrity, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should encourage it. And that’s what’s problematic here. The world is encouraging Madonna, and I am not buying it. I don’t want what you’re selling, Madonna lovers. I likely should have taken the high road here, but I’m back on wine again, so it’s difficult. Let’s continue.
First of all, Madonna hasn’t made a great song since “Hollywood.” (I will hear arguments for “4 Minutes,” but let’s be honest that it’s just because of Justin Timberlake. Also let’s not confuse Timbaland’s penchant for capitalizing on waning pop stars as Madonna’s artistry). Currently equating the sartorial style of an early 2000’s Gwen Stefani crossed with Dita Von Teese as hip, her contribution to society has been reduced to lurking on red carpets looking as though her flesh suit is about to pop off, and her cover will be blown. Her new songs sound like an overly-produced regurgitation of her past attempts. Her habit of being controversial seems more like an obliviousness of the world around her, than any kind of meaningful irreverence to societal norms.
In this most recent interview she clearly is very pissed that Obama doesn’t GAF about her. She is incredibly resentful of all parties involved in his friendship with Jay-Z and Beyonce. She “jokes” (which for Madonna is when she talks with a knife in her hand) that if she was married to Jay-Z, she would of course be invited to the White House. She also doesn’t like Kim Kardashian, and clearly thought her fur bikini was stupid, but no one cares about any aspect of that. She also refers to her recent fall off stage as “being choked off stage by two little Japanese girls,” which sounds a little too pointed to not be very racist. She also says she likes to put her hand on her kids’ phones and “ruin whatever they’re doing.” She also is basically just a rich Beverly Hills brat. In reference to being around Michael Jackson (a black man who did want to meet her) she says, “I got him drunk at the Ivy in Beverly Hills. I was driving my Mercedes and dared him to throw his sunglasses out the window. We couldn’t stop laughing.” I want to laugh, throw something you like out of the window. Way to be, Madge.
As #Problematic as … mortality:
3. Angelina Jolie Is Way Less of An Asshole, But Still…
It is hard to not love Angelina Jolie. This is why we really don’t fault her for being one of America’s most publicized home wreckers. She is philanthropic. She is an activist. She is well-spoken. She is striking. She even has a sordid past (see: Billy Bob Thornton). She is probably the closest thing we have to the classic movie stars of early Hollywood, who lend a great deal of effort to refining a presence. She hasn’t done much acting in recent years, but at least we got “Girl Interrupted” before she became preoccupied with America’s most beloved penis. Her transition to more noble pursuits like motherhood and humanitarian aid was understated and classy, and it’s not like anyone was really hankering for “Salt 2.” I do entertain thoughts that she is possibly an alien, sent here to breed with a leading man and see what happens, but that could also just be cheekbone envy.
Jolie’s most recent endeavor has been her crusade against her own genetics. Two years after testing positive for a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, one that is linked with very high risk for ovarian and breast cancer, Jolie had a preventative double mastectomy. Now she has had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as well. She wrote an Times op-ed two years ago when the process first began, and has published again after her most recent surgery.
Now, Jolie is exhibiting a level of social responsibility and candidness that even her position doesn’t dictate for her. Her unshakable dedication to her children, and staying alive for them, is humbling. Her willingness to speak about her experience publicly, and with such great eloquence, depicts a devotion to humanity that is rare. Also, as a woman I can’t imagine the bravery required to surgically remove the very parts that make you female. Having said that though, what’s problematic with this fascination with Jolie’s choices and the new conversation in medicine sparked by it, is the inherent privilege in those choices. Just in reference to getting startling news from her doctor she says, “I called my husband in France, who was on a plane within hours.” Jolie does go to great lengths to explain that surgery is not the right choice for everyone, even if you carry the genetic mutation. She does not speak self righteously. But, the complete omission that electing to have preventative surgery is an elite privilege not available to most people, undermines her cause. At least she truly is redefining what it means to be a woman. So next time you’re arguing with someone about gender issues, you can bring that up. You’re welcome.
As #Problematic as … the birth industrial complex:
4. Hilary Duff Is Too Nice To Call An Asshole
Even though she was one of the last great pioneers of hair crimping, Hillary Duff has never held much intrigue. Her musical career was more a post-Disney hobby, and her acting didn’t really succeed outside of that outline either. Granted she’s provided us all with a cannon of Duffcentric guilty pleasures, her contributions to entertainment have been a little more interesting as America’s favorite basic.
She’s proven that once more with her new foray back into relevance. She’ll play a “sassy” (yeesh) up-and-coming industry executive in Darren Starr’s post “Sex And The City” exploration of what it now means to be a woman in New York. Where “SATC” spent six seasons illustrating that nothing is more important to a woman than nailing down a man, “Younger” will make the same argument about women and age. Unfortunately “Younger,” which premiers on TV Land on March 31st, will be wasting the charm of Sutton Foster on a 40-year old divorcée who pretends to be in her twenties to reclaim the career she gave up for motherhood. I’m waiting until the show airs to unleash holy hell on that premise, but in the mean time, let’s review the problematic things that Duff told Elle in her recent cover story.
In terms of how she relates to her character Duff muses, “She definitely has less—well, obviously, I’m a well-known person and people watch everything I do.” Hilbaby obviously is fitting in nicely in her new home of Brooklyn with this sense of self inflation. In reference to the choice for “Younger” to be on TV Land, “This year they decided to come like gangsters; their show line-up looks amazing.” Also in keeping with Brooklyn: cultural appropriation by white people. Tell us, Hillary, what does a gangster “come like?” Hillary goes on to make a lot of use of the word “edgy.” Her character is “edgy.” The show is “edgy.” It gets “edgier as it goes on.” Guys, they take molly. That’s so first season “Girls,” Hillary. As in four seasons ago.
I know I’m taking out a lot on Hilary right now, but like I said, I’m back on the sauce. Honestly, the show will be much more problematic than anything anyone will ever quote Hilary Duff as having said. But I’m just so, fucking sick of magazines sensationalizing privileged white women with nothing smart to say, and reporters who ask questions about how hard it is to keep that last five pounds off. You’re the problem.
As #Problematic as … Lauren Conrad’s empire:
5. Taylor Swift Has Been Defined As A World Leader
It was only a matter of time. You saw that spark in her eye while she stood atop that horse in the “Blank Space” music video, and you just knew. World domination wasn’t a goal for Taylor Swift anymore. Earth has been had. As we speak she’s enacting plans to colonize Mars. Katy Perry reportedly will not be allowed entry, even in the event of an earth apocalypse. Oprah is still undecided, Swift doesn’t like it when people out-gift her. Regardless how outer space takes to pop’s adamantly reigning queen, she doesn’t have to worry about humans anymore.
The proof being that she has been listed as the world’s sixth greatest leader in Fortune’s second year ranking the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. She is listed alongside CEOs, philanthropists, and Pope Francis. She outranks Bill and Melinda Gates. She is the only pop star on the list, and the only entertainer besides Jimmy Fallon who is listed at 48. Taylor Swift is on a list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders, most of whom you wouldn’t even recognize, because they’re world leaders.
In terms of her merit Fortune asserts, “Taylor Swift didn’t become the highest-paid woman in the music business by accident. Pop’s savviest star has crossed swords with Spotify, embraced corporate sponsorship, and moved to secure dozens of trademarks (including phrases like “This sick beat”)—plus she has proved shrewder at honing a brand in the social media age than virtually any other person or company. And she’s done it without resorting to dumbed-down salacious gimmickry. (Swift, ahem, is arguably the anti–Miley Cyrus.) With 1989, the top-selling album in 2014, Swift’s efforts to ensure she gets paid for her music could have a huge ripple effect on the way artists are compensated in an era of free streaming.”
Those are some of the most chilling words I’ve ever read. They are also irrefutably true. Taylor Swift is a fucking world leader, and that is as problematic as it isn’t. A pop star entirely altering what it means to be in an entertainer is something that has only been seen a few times in history. She is remarkable. But she is also terrifying. There is a disingenuousness in her sickly sweet dedication to fans, her pristine image, her ubiquitous brand—it all points to an obsessive self and world awareness that can only be indicative of a woman with no boundaries for what they want. Taylor Swift is an evil genius, and I just fear what will become of her and her brand once there’s nothing left to conquer.
As #Problematic as … Netanyahu: