Monday, March 1, 2021

Cultural Appropriation - On The Left

Cultural appropriation is nothing new, nor is it limited to people on the right.

I took a piss recently on Lady GaGa for offering a half million dollar reward for the return of her dogs. And sure enough, somebody turned in the dogs to the police, supposedly a Good Samaritan. But I have a sneaky suspicion that whoever stole the dogs gave them to the Good Samaritan with $1,000 and told him to take the dogs to the police. Call me skeptical, but human nature is what it is. You put a half million dollar bounty on a couple of dogs and somebody's going to try to collect it.

I'm hoping that in a few weeks we'll find out the Lady GaGa intentionally offered this bounty in order to catch the perpetrators as part of some elaborate sting operation in cooperation with the LAPD. But I suspect that won't be the case. If it is, then my sincerest apologies for taking a piss on Lada GaGa.

But in researching her background, I came across a number of postings from people who are critical of her stances on issues - as well as her music - which some say sucks. She sort of claims to be one of "us little people," one of the Freaks and Geeks and LGBTQ people, of which causes she supports.  But some opine that it's just a facade, and that she's actually part of the mainstream, The Establishment, one of the elite, who just postures as being one of us little folks in order to gain popularity. When you perform at the Super Bowl, you are part of the system, lock stock & barrel.  You are not longer "alternative" anything.  Singing the national anthem at the inauguration (and not ironically) - you're part of the system.

Of course, these folks have been declaring her career "over" for some time now, but I suspect that she is so entrenched in the system, that we will have to hear about her, like it or not, like Madonna, forever.  Hell, once you do a "crossover" album with Tony Bennett, you're part of the landscape.  Is there anyone Tony Bennett hasn't done a crossover album with?  I have to admit, his duets with K.D. Lang (who is a real bona fide Lesbian, BTW) were pretty fantastic.  Then again, Ms. Lang has a real voice and no meat dresses.

It reminds me of a trend recently where some young people, particularly young women, claimed to be "geeks" or "nerds" because they saw a TV show that starred geeks and thought it was trendy. "I'm such a geek!" a young girl says, but unless she took three semesters of calculus and differential equations and maybe a little number theory she's not a geek, and hardly a nerd. Geekdom is not something you declare yourself to be, it's something you have to earn.

And sorry, we're not letting the popular kids into the geek club. They wouldn't let us into their popular kids club, why should we let them be part of our group? Revenge is kind of sweet, isn't it?

This got me to thinking about Lady Gaga and cultural appropriation. It's not clear that she's a lesbian or gay or whatever, although she makes some hints that she is perhaps bisexual, which I guess gets her into the LGBTQ club.  And of course, she supports a lot of LGBTQ causes which is very nice and all, if she was doing it out of the goodness of her heart and not for the profit motive.

Sadly, I fear that it is becoming trendy to be Pro-LGBTQ or trans or whatever these days and this concerns me greatly.  What is trendy one day is out the next!   I mentioned before that when I was president of the Gay and Lesbian Student Association at Syracuse University I had a friend of mine, Ruben, who was asked to give a speech before some group that was talking about gay rights issues. This was back in the early 1980s when this was all very novel still. Stonewall was only about a decade earlier.

He confessed to me that he felt awkward at this meeting, as all these people, academics and members of other student groups were being very supportive but also talking about Gay and Lesbian issues as if it were some sort of abstract academic concept. They were asking him how he knew he was gay and whatnot, and he told me he just want to break down and say "I just like [performing fellatio]" but that would have been politically incorrect.  That cracked me up.

He also made a comment that I thought was very insightful, that even back then there were some people who would claim to be "gay in college" because it was trendy, and then later on settle down and get married and say that was just "a phase they were going through."  And I wonder if this is even more true today, as being gay is seen is very trendy and we are getting a lot of attention.

It's like two young girls from Cornell University I saw in the vegetarian aisle at Wegmans, wearing chunky boots and tiny Manga dresses.  They were stuffing their cart with cookies and cereal, which technically were vegetarian items, and the one admitted to the other then she fell off the vegetarian wagon recently by eating a hot dog. That's about as far as you can get off the vegetarian wagon, I'm afraid - eating pig parts.  It made me think that perhaps she was being vegetarian just to be trendy and alarm her parents.  Plus, you get to be picky about your food and make other people go out of their way to prepare you special things.  It's a win-win!

Young people do weird things to get attention, and I say this because I used to be a young person and did weird things. Young people like to shock their parents and other old people by wearing odd clothes. What I was young it was to wear long hair and blue jeans and dress like a bum. Today is to have tattoos and piercings and dress like a criminal. Whatever it is, it has to be threatening and disturbing, Again part of the culture of belligerenceThe name of the game is to not be ignored.

But it could also be something as simple as declaring yourself to be vegan, perhaps gay or perhaps you can be trans. And I worry that some young people might go down this route without really understanding where they're going with it, or not having a real inclination those directions. We made it trendy and hip to be gay and and now transsexual, and I wonder if this is encouraging a lot of people who might otherwise have other inclinations.

I took a piss a while back on a guy who claimed to be a reformed gay. He was part of a gay youth group and wrote articles in magazines about homosexuality and helping troubled gay youth. Then he did a hundred-eighty-degree about-face and claimed to be a born again Christian and heterosexual and married.  What actually happened is kind of muddied, as some people claim he's gone back to being gay.  But I think the real issue is he's just a very confused young man.

It seems that we're selling sexuality like soap these days. I recounted before how we lived in Pompano Beach Florida, we started getting a magazine delivered to our condo called "Out!" magazine or something along those lines. We never signed up for this magazine and I'm not sure how they got our name. It's really creepy today how Facebook knows everything about you and you start getting things by email. It's even creepier back then, the 1990s, the early 2000s, that not only would they somehow know that we were gay, but find our physical address as well.

What freaked me out about the magazine with the cover story was about methamphetamine which they posited was "The new gay drug!"  There were lots of ads for Jeeps and Coors beer and cigarettes and whatnot. We were nothing more than a demographic marketing group to be marketed to, with a variety of products to sell us.

I could sense there was something very, very wrong about this, but I couldn't really put my finger on it. The marketers loved us because we didn't have children and thus have a lot of disposable income and would go heavily into credit card debt in order to look fabulous.  Well, maybe not me in particular, but a lot of other gay people that we knew.

In a way, I understand why many people on the far right, particularly conservative Christians, believe that there's some sort of "gay agenda" that is being advanced, because it seems like there is some sort of organized movement to sell sexuality, again like we used to sell soap flakes. And it shouldn't be that way. Your own sexual orientation is something that's very personal and private -  and not something that needs to be advertised or promoted.

Yes, it's wonderful that people are accepting today, and things that I never thought would happen in my lifetime, such as gay marriage, are now seen as commonplace. On the other hand, I don't think we need to cheer-lead for these things. Acceptance is one thing, when you start pushing it at people, it's another.

I think this is what disturbs me.  As a gay person I feel like this is being sold to us. If I feel this way, I can only imagine how fundamentalist Christians and people who have more conservative views must feel. They must feel inundated and overwhelmed by all this gayness and now transsexual stuff that's being talked about all the time. It makes for some awkward conversations with their kids.

Even for parents who are not right-wing or fundamentalist Christians, it must make for some awkward conversations. Imagine a child, three or four years, old asking their parents about transgender identity. They would  ask, "Does this mean I get to choose my gender?" And of course this makes the parents very nervous. Because deep down, they want their child to conform to their biological gender, even if they wanted to be supportive if a child made a different choice. But on the other hand, are children really be making choices like this?  Should they be?

We were at the local Tex-Mex restaurant on the island here and they have a taco Tuesday with $2 tacos and $2 beers. It's pretty good and if you're here you should go.  It runs between 3 and 6 pm. There was a group of young women in yoga pants from Atlanta or New York City, clearly not from around here, with a young girl who looked to be about 5 or 6 years old. They were going through every item on the menu and asking her what she wanted to eat, which I thought was hilarious. When we were kids we were told what we're having, we weren't given that many choices. In fact we weren't given any choices.

And that's okay, too. Kids like things to be organized and they like a clear line of authority and hierarchy. Children feel more comfortable in an environment where they know what's going on. Choices, and too many choices in particular, generate a feeling of uncertainty and instability. It's much more reassuring when mom tells them they're having macaroni and cheese and that's the end of it.

Thus, I think it's really kind of scary when people are asking their children what gender they want to be. We keep hearing stories in the media and parents celebrating their child's gender choice before they are even old enough for school. Just because little  Billy plays dress-up in mommy's clothes doesn't mean he wants to be a girl - it literally could be a phase he's going through.

Getting back to Lady Gaga, a lot of people have pointed out that most of what is her music is about, is really more of posturing. And I've noted before that throughout recent history, music has always been about the posturing and the image. When I grew up, rock and roll bands always had long hair dudes who would pout for the camera and try to look scary and maybe slightly androgynous as well. Sex sells, and sexual ambiguity sells even better, hence the whole "Glam Rock" movement and David Bowie.

Since then, other artists have seized upon this. Madonna, for example, used her outrageous costumes, persona, hairstyles, and whatnot to sell a sexual imagery that was quite popular especially with young women.  Remember the pointed bra and the "sex" book she sold?  Lady Gaga is merely taking this to the next level with idiotic things like her meat dress and bizarre hats and other outfits. It's less about the music than about the image.  Pop music has always been that way.  Whether it was Frank Sinatra and the "Bobbysoxers" or Elvis swinging his hips, or the Beatles and screaming teens, or Heavy Metal bands with their wild hair, it was the image that sold the music - at least initially.

There are, no doubt, more talented musicians than Lady Gaga, musicians you've never heard of because they don't know how to market themselves the way she does. She's a one-woman marketing machine and knows how to sell image and outrage. And she does outrageous things simply to get attention and be talked about. There's no such thing as bad publicity and she realizes this.

And jumping on the LGBTQ bandwagon is part of her marketing strategy. She knows that young people tend to trend liberal and thus supporting more liberal causes endears her the marketing segment but she is targeting.

That is why, to say the least, I'm not a big fan. First of all I'm way too freaking old for this sort of thing. I've outgrown the whole rock-and-roll bad-boy image type of nonsense. My taste in music has matured over time, and I tend to value the quality of the music itself, more so than who the artist is or what they wear or what they look like. A lot of the music I collected as a teenager and young adult, I simply cannot listen to anymore. I look back at it now and wonder what I was thinking?

A lot of it was posturing at the time, whether it was rock and roll, heavy metal, or the so-called "art rock" movement. Every artist had an image and a profile to promote. Back then we had huge album covers, many of which folded out and had inserts that contain pictures and photos which put forth the image of the artist, which was as important if not more so than the music itself.

What my brother was in college I went to visit him, and his roommate started playing some music and asked me what I thought of it. These were kids from New Jersey and they were playing Kiss albums. I'd never heard of Kiss and I thought the music was sort of blah. But not having seen the album art and the outrageous outfits and makeup that the Kiss band members wore, it wasn't as appealing to listen to the music. Even though I was just a kid in high school, it started to dawn on me that maybe the music industry was selling me a bill of goods.  And no, I never became a member of the "KISS Army."

Lady Gaga was just more of the same, which I guess is another reason why I'm not interested. Not only am I too old for the demographic, but I've seen this sort of nonsense before, and was not enthralled by it even back then.  Lady Gaga is just Gene Simmons in Drag.

According to some sources, she has a net worth now close to a quarter of a billion dollars. No wonder she can offer a half million as a reward for a couple of lousy dogs. To her, that's chump change. To the rest of us that's a lifetime a lifetime of savings.  What we struggle for, through 45 years of a working life is something she would hand out as a tip for bringing back her dogs.

Like I said, I hope that I'm wrong about this. Perhaps her offer of this reward was just a come-on in conjunction with a police sting to catch the perpetrator who brutally shot her dog walker. Maybe Lady Gaga will be seen as a hero, working with law enforcement to put these crooks in jail. Maybe, but I doubt it. Because part and parcel of this marketing effort today, is telling the kids that the police are no good and that criminals are just misunderstood people. They took her dogs because they needed to feed their children or something stupid like that. And that dog walker shouldn't have resisted – it was his own fault he got shot, right?

It just makes me wonder where we're going with this.

Beyond Lady Gaga, however, there is a lesson to be learned here.   Being a "fan" of a star is a waste of your time and energy.   You give the celebrities and stars a little bit of your money, and they accumulate a lot.  If you could figure out a way to take a dollar from every person in America, you'd have $330 million dollars, and most Americans wouldn't miss that dollar.   Lady Gaga has apparently figured this out.

So many people profess to be rabid fans of a sports team, a movie star, or a music star.  In fact, they make a competition out of it as part of status-seeking behavior. "I'm more of a fan than you are!  I've been to every [movie, rock concert, home game, bail bond hearing] of my favorite [celebrity, rock star, professional athlete]!" they say.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying a sport or going to a show, but when you become a mindless fan, what does that do for your personal life?

Like I said, Lady GaGa figured this out a long time ago - that it isn't enough to be a good musician, and that's a good thing, because apparently she isn't one.  It is the image you sell - the costumes and posturing that lures in the plebes and hooks them on you like a drug.   She's expert at that.

And part and parcel of this is the celebrity becomes immune from any critique or accountability.  There are still people today who are rabid fans of Michael Jackson, who think he did nothing wrong.  Folks who are fans of "Prince" who claim he is the "greatest guitar player ever!" and not just some drug-addled idiot selling a sexual imagery.   Funny thing, a whole legion of other people claim Eric Clapton is the "greatest guitar player ever!" and not just some racist shithead who covered and profited from, black people's music.  Well, at least he didn't wear a meat dress.  On the other hand, how low do you have to go to profit from your kid's death by writing a song about it?  I mean, particularly when he died due to your own neglect.  But I digress.

Of course, that comment will generate a reply from some mindless "fan" who thinks Clapton (or Prince, or Jackson, or GaGa) is a god and beyond criticism, critique, or even accountability.   They are just people, and in this case, musicians, which, believe-it-or-not were once looked down upon as the lowest class of people in a society.  Today, musicians - popular ones - are royalty.

The same people who breathlessly follow every move of Lady Gaga (or fill-in-the-blank politically correct celebrity) will blather on for hours about how the 1%'ers "took all their money away" and blame Ticketmaster for charging them a $15 "convenience fee" for their $250 concert tickets.   But as I noted before, the 1% didn't take all our money away, we willingly gave it to them with our blubbering thanks.

If you want to impoverish the 1%, simply stop giving them your money.   Not only will it make them a whole lot poorer, it will make yourself a little bit richer.   But you'd be surprised how many folks can't see that.  "What do you mean, not go to rap-fest 2021!  I have to see my favorite rap band even if it does cost me a half-month's rent!"

When someone can afford to pay a half-million dollars reward for the return of two dogs, that tells me I don't need to send them any more of my money.  Not when the reward for solving a murder is about ten times less.