Bored This Way: Gaga Lays A Giant Egg

grey Bored This Way: Gaga Lays A Giant Egg


This is an atro­cious, dis­astrous mis­take on Gaga’s part. It’s so bad it’s mind-reeling. It could very well mark the begin­ning of the end her career. After all that gigantic build-up and anti­cip­a­tion about her first new mater­ial in over a year she’s gone and laid a… giant egg. Never mind ‘the gay­est song ever’ it’s just Too Gay To Play. I sus­pect it’s too gay even for the gays. Too pat­ron­ising and crass and feeble. They’ll pre­tend to love it for a few weeks and then quietly for­get all about it. It will be the shortest-lived ‘anthem’ ever.

It’s a catchy single, of course, and will make a lot of money, but everything about this song is back­wards. The music, the lyr­ics, the men­tal­ity, the polit­ics. For all the self-righteous pos­tur­ing it’s com­pletely free of any con­tent. But brim­ming over with bull­shit. Not only are we ‘born this way’, and ‘God makes no mis­takes’, and being gay is appar­ently an eth­nic trait, sexu­al­ity is also now some kind of smug fuck­ing rail­way – ‘I’m on the right track baby’. Well, stop the choo-choo, I wanna get off.

It’s as if someone decided to remake The Rocky Horror Picture Show as a GLAAD pub­lic ser­vice announce­ment, with Harvey Fierstein or Dan Savage in the role of Frank-N-Furter. And cut all the songs.

In my humble opin­ion, Gaga should never write head-on about sexu­al­ity again. Ever. That’s her only hope of recov­er­ing the post-sexual charge that made her seem so inter­est­ing and rel­ev­ant just a few months ago. She embod­ies post-sexuality, and the notion that you might want to choose who you love or shag — or who you are — bet­ter than any­one.  But she clearly can’t artic­u­late it self-consciously in a lyric. It might be impossible for any­one to do that – but almost any­one could make a bet­ter fist of it than Gaga in ‘Born That Way’.

Musically, the homages to Madge were much bet­ter done on The Fame Monster (though it was the Boney M salutes such as ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Poker Face’ that were her best tracks). In 2011, espe­cially after being dubbed ‘the Diva of Déjà Vu’ by Camille Paglia (you were so right, Ms P!) she really, really needed to escape the grav­it­a­tional attrac­tion of Planet Madge.

But she wanted this song to be GAY!!! so she returned yet again to the nipple of the ori­ginal gay Borg queen at her gay­est. And as I say, she may have poisoned her­self fatally with this tra­gic pas­tiche, that is a HiNRG cover of Express Yourself in a Vogue stylee, but with less 21st Century lyr­ics than either of those 20th Century songs.

Maybe I’m com­pletely and utterly wrong. Maybe this is a genius mas­ter­stroke. Maybe Gaga’s delib­er­ately par­ody­ing old-skool American gay­ness here with her rain­bow vomit lyr­ics, God-bothering, gag­ging mix­ture of self-pity and pride, apo­lo­gia and anger — and slav­ish Maddy/Diva idol­atry — to show it up in its worst pos­sible light. To inocu­late The Gays against… themselves.

I mean, after the global-scale, tower­ing cack­ness of ‘Born this Way’ can there ever be a ‘gay anthem’ again?

That Lady Gaga backlash is so tired already

grey That Lady Gaga backlash is so tired already


The Gaga back­lash, which recently found itself a leader in Camille Paglia, was inev­it­able. It’s also mis­guided, argues Mark Simpson

(Out Magazine, Sept 24 2010)

My bitch is bet­ter than your bitch! And she wore that dress before yours did! My bitch would kick your bitch’s ass!

This is the kind of thing the older gen­er­a­tion – my gen­er­a­tion — has begun to say ever more loudly about the younger generation’s first bona fide super­star, Lady Gaga. David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Grace Jones, and—crossing ourselves and throw­ing salt over our shoulders—Madonna all did it years before Gaga, and so much better.

The world’s most fam­ous gay Madonna fan, Camille Paglia, was recently given four pages in the U.K.’s The Sunday Times Magazine to say this, “demol­ish­ing” Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Germanotta, as an “asexual, con­fec­ted copycat who has seduced the Internet gen­er­a­tion.” Paglia is a worthy critic indeed, and her mock­ing epi­thet “the diva of déjà vu” is bound to stick like chew­ing gum rubbed in a hated schoolgirl’s hair. But after read­ing her impas­sioned assault — which, for all its fas­cin­at­ing his­tory of female Hollywood stars, seemed to boil down to “she’s not Madonna, and I don’t fancy hold­ing her meat purse” — I found myself lik­ing Lady Gaga more rather than less.

Paglia’s essay was fur­ther proof of Gaga’s import­ance. As I like to say to gay friends of a cer­tain age who rail almost daily against Gaga on Facebook, for someone so shal­low, so tal­ent­less, and so deriv­at­ive she cer­tainly seems to hold your atten­tion. The pas­sion­ate hatred Gaga pro­vokes is all part of her remark­able potency. When was the last time pop music mattered? When was the last time you cared? Until Lady Gaga came along, just a couple years ago, pop seemed thor­oughly pooped. Some nice tunes and hair­cuts here and there and some really excel­lent fin­an­cial insti­tu­tion ad soundtracks, but really, who thought pop could ever trouble us again as a total art form?

Gaga has single-handedly resur­rec­ted pop. Or at least she’s made it seem like it’s alive. Maybe it’s a kind of gal­vanic motion — those pop promos some­times look like Helmut Newton zom­bie flicks — but boy, this is shock­ing fun. And yes, her per­sona is some­thing of a pint-size Bride of Frankenstein, assembled out of Photoshopped dead star body parts. But isn’t every­one nowadays?

Of course she’s not David Bowie or Madonna. It’s not 1972 or 1984. Instead, we’re a dec­ade into a new, blank, digital cen­tury when cre­ativ­ity is cur­a­tion. The pop past weighs heav­ily on our shoulders — but Gaga wears it so lightly and sprightly on her tiny frame it’s inspir­ing. In the flick­er­ing, shape-shifting shape of Lady Gaga, tired old post­mod­ern­ism never looked so frisky. And it turns out to be really good on the dance floor. The 21st cen­tury didn’t really get going, or have a decent soundtrack, until Ms. Germanotta came along with her Gagacious beats.

But the older generation’s resent­ful back­lash against Lady Gaga — how dare the kids think they have a proper star to speak for them! — is well and truly under­way. Paglia’s piece was well-timed and has already promp­ted a host of copycat columns around the world com­plain­ing about Gaga the tire­some copycat. It had to hap­pen, of course. She is now so huge as to be com­pletely unrivaled in pop cul­tural terms — the most fam­ous woman on the planet: too big and tasty a tar­get for the press not to chew up.

That mes­mer­iz­ing meat dress she wore to the MTV Video Music Awards — where she picked up eight trophies, includ­ing Video of the Year for “Bad Romance” — dis­played a spooky kind of pres­ci­ence. The inev­it­able lip-smacking Gaga back­lash seems almost to be a pre­de­ter­mined part of the Gaga plot. And to those who like to tut and roll their eyes over the meat dress and intone “It’s been done before, dear,” please remind me again which year it was that a female artist, let alone the biggest artist in the world, accep­ted an MTV award, or any music award, dressed as a rib-eye?

Gaga “wants to have it both ways,” com­plained Paglia in The Sunday Times, “to be hip and avant-garde and yet pop­u­lar and uni­ver­sal.” But isn’t that what really great pop — pop as a total art form — tries to do? Put images and con­cepts into con­texts they’re not sup­posed to inhabit? Like the pop charts? Isn’t that what Madonna at her best was doing? Yes, it’s prob­ably ulti­mately a doomed pro­ject, but if there’s any­thing that approaches avant-garde for the masses, it’s that meat dress at the MTV awards, or that jaw-dropping video for “Bad Romance,” com­plete with smoking skel­eton and spark­ing bra.

In the indig­nant roll call of the artists Gaga has “ripped off,” one who is rarely men­tioned is the Australian-born per­form­ance artist Leigh Bowery, who died in 1994 of AIDS-related ill­nesses. Bowery defied gender, and pretty much any cat­egory you care to men­tion, with his stun­ning, hil­ari­ous, and ter­ri­fy­ing body-morphing out­fits, some­times fash­ioned out of his own (ample) flesh. Like Gaga, he had a very keen sense of humor about what it means to be human and set out to sab­ot­age con­cep­tions of “sex­i­ness.” Famously, he once lay on a divan in a shop win­dow in a London art gal­lery preen­ing him­self for a week.

Gaga, how­ever, is reclin­ing in the shop win­dow of the world. Paglia’s accus­a­tion that Gaga is “asexual” spec­tac­u­larly miss the point that Gaga is postsexual. She’s post–the now bor­ingly com­pulsor­ily “sexy” world that Madonna helped usher in, bull­whip in hand, which is now as burned-out as that “Bad Romance” skel­eton. Gaga isn’t asexual or even par­tic­u­larly andro­gyn­ous — she’s tran­sexy. She’s delib­er­ately over­ex­pos­ing “sex­i­ness,” mak­ing it as trans­par­ent as her skin some­times seems to be. Instead of just rub­bing her­self up, she’s show­ing gender and sexu­al­ity up by tak­ing them to grot­esque extremes. Even if she some­times looks like Dali dood­ling his ideal inflat­able doll.

But I doubt any of this will per­suade those of my gen­er­a­tion who have decided to spoil the younger generation’s fun and let them know how ignor­ant they are. After all, that’s the only kind of fun we oldies have. Even if her detract­ors’ dreams came true and Lady Gaga was pub­licly burned at the stake in Central Park, they still wouldn’t be happy. “Oh, look at her!” they’d say, rolling their eyes. “She’s so tired! Joan of Arc did that in 1431. She had much bet­ter hips. And she did it in French!”

Copyright Mark Simpson 2010

Long Live Lady Gaga and The McQueen

Until last year I thought pop was a com­pletely spent force.  Oh, there were some nice bands around with nice tunes and some nice hair­cuts, but pop as a total art form was pooped.  Along with pop cul­ture.  It was just another Facebook app.

And then along came the New York songwriter-turned-singer that the press loves to dub ‘bizarre’.  2009 was indubit­ably The Year of Gaga, and not just because she had a string of block­buster inter­na­tional hits, but because they were the instantly unmis­tak­able product of a ‘kooky’ young woman who is actu­ally com­pletely in con­trol of her work and vis­ion.  And her own aes­thetic.  Hence per­haps the wishful-thinking sight­ings of a penis.  This chick doesn’t need a dick — she has a real one.

Last night at the Brits (where she per­formed acous­tic ver­sions of ‘Telephone’ and ‘Dance in the Dark’, styled by Miss Haversham salut­ing Marie Antoinette ) she won a rare three gongs.  She deserved much more.  And a much longer set.  (It was rumoured to have been cut down by anxious Brits pro­du­cers because she kept chan­ging her plans.)

Gaga has, almost single-handedly, resur­rec­ted main­stream, High Street pop music — or at least made it seem like it’s alive again.  She’s even made post­mod­ern­ism seem almost… mod­ern again.  That she does it with a look and start­ling pop promos that play so enter­tain­ingly with the deathly, gar­ish icon­o­graphy of fash­ion and con­tem­por­ary celebrity cul­ture is all the more remark­able.  Yes it’s a kind of gal­vanic motion — those promos often look like Helmut Newton zom­bie  flicks — but boy, this is shock­ing fun.  Besides, that’s the nature of the twitching/tweeting human sub­ject in a medi­ated, hyper-consumerist age.

Sorry to go on, but Gaga man­ages to be truly pop, and yet is a true artist.  She churns out crowd-pleasing dance-floor tracks that stomp on the com­pet­i­tion, but there’s also a win­some mel­an­choly and vul­ner­ab­il­ity behind the… Poker Face.

Some hasten to men­tion the ‘M’ word to put Gaga in her place.  But aside from moments of hil­ari­ous bril­liance such as ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘Vogue’ I was never much of a Madonna fan, even before she found the Kabala and I’m-not-Gay Ritchie.  Maybe it’s early-onset demen­tia, but I feel dif­fer­ently about Gaga.  Rather than see her as a Madonna knock-off, I see her as a more fully-realised Madonna.  She’s the Madonna Madonna wanted us to take her for (and legions of gays did).

And it’s not as if Gaga doesn’t pay homage.  ‘Dance in the Dark’, which Gaga per­formed at the Brits, is prob­ably my favour­ite track from The Fame.  It’s very 1980s HiNRG — with a talky bridge that is a touch­ing trib­ute to Madge’s Vogue.  It’s actu­ally gayer than Vogue, which is quite some­thing.  You can almost smell the pop­pers.  And I don’t even like poppers.

Gaga, a ded­ic­ated fol­lower of fash­ion, ded­ic­ated her Brits per­form­ance to her friend Alexander McQueen, who died last week.  I don’t like eulo­gies, but I did rate his work.  He was a genu­inely free spirit, a gay bohemian of the kind that almost died out in the 1980s (and which Gaga is clearly inspired by).  That he seems to have taken his own life sug­gests that it wasn’t easy fight­ing his­tory, or fash­ion houses.

I never met Lee, but we did have a flirty fax cor­res­pond­ence in the late 1990s when I was still in my thirties.  His open­ing gam­bit was ‘we met once in DTPM a couple of years ago’.  DTPM was a London gay techno club where all the muscle boys went and took off their shirts and downed masses of drugs, dan­cing the night away, so of course I should have met him at DTPM — and for­got­ten about it.  But I never did because I never went there.  Or any­where, really.

In the course of our thermal-paper cor­res­pond­ence (which I think I still have some­where, now fad­ing away into blank­ness)  he asked me, in a hand­writ­ten scrawl on Givenchy headed note­pa­per, to marry him. I don’t know how ser­i­ous he was, but I declined, point­ing out I wasn’t really the mar­ry­ing kind.  This was true, but it was even truer that he wasn’t really my type.  Which is a sad reflec­tion on me, and per­haps on male homo­sexu­al­ity.  I sus­pect Lee was often told by gay men he wasn’t ‘their type’.

Either way, I could have done much, much worse.  And of course, I did.

Guy Ritchie: How Gay is He?

grey Guy Ritchie: How Gay is He?

Is the hus­band of the world’s most fam­ous ‘gay man trapped in a woman’s body’ a homo­phobe?  Or a con­flic­ted homo­phile? Or both?

Promoting his new book, Madonna’s brother Christopher Ciccone has been claim­ing that absurdly straight act­ing Guy Ritchie’s homo­pho­bia is one of the reas­ons why he and his slightly more fam­ous sis­ter are no longer on speak­ing terms.

You don’t have to buy Ciccone’s mem­oirs though to unearth evid­ence that Guy has some ‘issues’. Just watch his homo­erotic, homoso­cial and homo­phobic gang­banger movies — all the ‘homos’ are here.  As luck would have it, there’s another due out shortly, called RocknRolla.  I’ve yet to see it, but reportedly, it’s even more ‘homo’ than his pre­vi­ous films — and no less confused.

In the mean­time, here’s a dia­gnosis I penned for the Independent on Sunday eight years ago when Ritchie’s second film Snatch was released. Like Eminem, another gangster/gangsta groupie who came to prom­in­ence around the same time as Ritchie in the early Noughties, the homo­pho­bia in his work seems like a kind of highly con­flic­ted and highly erotic homophilia.

Actually, it’s more like homo­mania — lit­er­ally being unable to stop think­ing and talk­ing about bum­ming and prac­tic­ally draw­ing pic­tures for us. Which is prob­ably what I have in com­mon with him — though I’d like to think I’m slightly more self-aware.

In Ritchie’s world — as in Em’s — bug­gery is the only kind of sex there is. The only ‘snatch’ in Snatch belongs to men.

what sort of a guy’s guy is Guy Ritchie?

Mark Simpson won­ders whether Madonna’s hus­band is a gay man trapped in a straight man’s body

(Independent on Sunday, August 27, 2000)

Do you have big brave balls,” asks human Rottweiler Vinnie Jones in a stand-off moment in Guy Ritchie’s new movie Snatch, “or min­cey fag­got balls?”

We don’t enter­tain any doubts about the cir­cum­fer­ence of Vinnie’s testicles — and not just because he flashes a gun big enough to make Linda Lovelace gasp. What’s more, with the birth of Guy Ritchie’s son Rocco, the whole world knows that the 31-year-old writer-director of the spec­tac­u­larly suc­cess­ful Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels has balls big and brave enough to impreg­nate Madonna.

But is this middle-class gangster-groupie so sure about what kind of balls he him­self dangles? On the basis of his curi­ously sexu­ally ambi­val­ent out­put, it seems Ritchie — like his vast, appre­ci­at­ive young male audi­ence — is more than a little wor­ried about the pos­sib­il­ity that he might have “min­cey fag­got balls” after all.

Let’s not beat around the bush here: the Lock, Stock and Snatch genre — and the lad magazine cul­ture from which it seems to have sprung — is a kind of gay porn for straight men (or, rather, straight boys). As with his first film, Snatch is obsessed with bug­gery. Its “mock­ney geezer” dia­logue is thick with ref­er­ences to “‘aving me pants pulled down”, being “bent over”, “full pen­et­ra­tion”, and being “f–ked”. This isn’t very sur­pris­ing since, as in Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and the spin-off TV series he executive-produced, women are con­spicu­ous by their absence — the only snatch in Snatch belongs to other men. Hence the obses­sion with “hard men” and “pussies”; those who take and those who are taken. The erot­ics of Ritchie’s cine­matic uni­verse seem to be that of the prison showers (or the pub­lic school dormitory).

Ritchie is a hot ticket at the moment because, in an age of mas­cu­line con­fu­sion, he is the pre-eminent example of a rising phe­nomenon: the homo­hetero. Exclusively and adam­antly het­ero­sexual in the bed­room, the homo­hetero is nev­er­the­less entranced by mas­cu­line images, forever fan­tas­ising about a world of homoso­cial­ity that is just a dropped bar of soap away from homo­sexu­al­ity. Could it be that Guy Ritchie — who lives with the woman fam­ously described as a gay man trapped in a woman’s body — is a gay man trapped in a straight man’s body?

Perhaps this is why Snatch begins with a jokey dis­avowal of homo­sexu­al­ity. “Turkish”, the cent­ral char­ac­ter and nar­rator (played by the very hand­some “man’s man” Jason Statham), intro­duces him­self and “me part­ner, Tommy”, adding quickly, “I don’t mean ‘part­ner’ in the sense of ‘old­ing ‘ands.” And there’s cer­tainly a lot to dis­avow. The nearest thing to a sex scene in Lock, Stock was the lov­ingly shot, soft-focus, all-male pub party where the lads get very drunk, wrestle and light each other’s farts, before fall­ing into a bliss­ful, exhausted post-orgasmic sleep. In the first epis­ode of the TV series, they try to flog some dodgy porn to a fence. “It’s not gay, is it?” he asks, wor­riedly. “Do we look like a couple of rear-gunners?” the pretty boys retort.

Well, now that you ask, yes.  After a fash­ion. Certainly, as shown in his films, Ritchie’s rela­tion­ship to mas­culin­ity is a bit “gay”. Like Loaded and FHM — lad mags selling a com­mod­i­fied, aes­thet­i­cised mas­culin­ity back to a gen­er­a­tion of young men ali­en­ated from it in their own lives — it’s the sup­plic­at­ory, ner­d­ish and slightly mas­ochistic per­spect­ive of the wan­nabe. Take Ritchie’s idol­at­rous, near-erotic camera-worship of “hard man” Vinnie Jones. The most mem­or­able scene in Lock, Stock fea­tures Vinnie repeatedly slam­ming a car door on a man’s head in slow motion to uplift­ing music. The power of this reli­giously intense scene stems from the way that much of it is shot from the point of view of the vic­tim — Ritchie and the audi­ence are look­ing up admir­ingly at Vinnie “doing his nut”. It’s a moment which Jean Genet could have directed.

Ritchie can be touchy about his image. Asked a few wor­ship­ful ques­tions recently about his taste in clothes by FHM, he became a tad defens­ive, spray­ing about the words “fruity”, “queeny”, “f—ing fruit-tree” and “min­cey”, and declar­ing that he would be hap­pi­est “in a gla­di­ator out­fit” (a leather skirt?).

But then, Ritchie’s dis­avowal is deep-rooted. Though he now denies claim­ing any­thing of the sort, Ritchie is fam­ously said to have rein­ven­ted and relo­cated his past: “I’ve lived in the East End for 30 years,” he was quoted as say­ing last year. “I’ve been in a load of mess-ups … I’ve been poor all of my life …” It was sub­sequently revealed that he spent much of his child­hood at Loton Park, the 17th– cen­tury home of his bar­onet step­father. Coming from this back­ground, Ritchie under­stands that “street” is sexy — and that, con­versely, middle-class balls are “min­cey fag­got balls”. “They’re poofs. Soft as shite … fag­gots” is the ver­dict of one of Ritchie’s crims in Lock, Stock on the clown­ish public-schoolboy ganja grow­ers — who are humi­li­ated and dis­pensed with early on in the film.

It’s not just the nice middle-class boys, though. In a post-feminist era, most men are won­der­ing what a mas­cu­line world might look like. As Brad Pitt puts it in another homo-hetero movie, Fight Club: “We’re a gen­er­a­tion of men raised by women. Maybe another woman isn’t what we need.” (Appropriately enough, Pitt makes an appear­ance in Snatch, repris­ing his Fight Club role as a bare-knuckle fighter.) No won­der a gen­er­a­tion of boys is so inter­ested in see­ing “big brave balls” at the cinema.

But this fas­cin­a­tion doesn’t come without its own anxi­et­ies. And, iron­ic­ally, it’s the squeam­ish­ness of Ritchie in par­tic­u­lar — and homo­het­eros in gen­eral — about actual homo­sexu­al­ity that gives the lie to their lowlife fantas­ies. In Lock, Stock, one of the lads explains the per­fect scam: place an ad for “Arse Ticklers Faggot Fan Club anal-intruding dildos” in gay magazines, and wait for the cheques to roll in. Then, send out let­ters say­ing that you’re out of stock and enclose a cheque stamped “Arse Ticklers Faggot Fan Club”. “Not a single soul will cash it!” we’re told. (Obviously Ritchie didn’t know many fags when he wrote that.) It could be said that Ritchie and lad cul­ture have been run­ning that scam ever since the appear­ance of Lock, Stock — selling us a prom­ise of some­thing tit­il­lat­ing that never quite arrives.

All in all, it seems both a para­dox and entirely apt that big brave ball-fixated Ritchie lives with the ulti­mate gay icon: a woman whom many men would con­sider to be the biggest ball-buster in the world; an older part­ner whose own suc­cess and fame eas­ily dwarfs his. But watch­ing Lock, Stock, Snatch et al, maybe Ritchie’s interest in Madonna isn’t so sur­pris­ing. As he puts it him­self: “I like her, because she’s ballsy”.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2008

This essay is col­lec­ted in Sex Terror: Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture

Madonna and Guy — An Old Fashioned Celeb Couple

grey Madonna and Guy   An Old Fashioned Celeb CoupleMadonna inter­viewed with this month’s Elle magazine, excerp­ted this week in the Daily Mail under the head­line ‘My amaz­ing sex-life’. Apparently hubby Guy has encour­aged her to be more feminine.

Madge said: “I think I’ve been hon­ing and fin­ess­ing my fem­in­ine side. I’ve always been very com­fort­able with my mas­cu­line side — the con­fid­ence, the ball­si­ness. I’ve learnt to be more pli­ant, more vul­ner­able — and to be com­fort­able with that.“‘

I know it’s rude to quote your­self, espe­cially in pub­lic, but it does remind me of some­thing I wrote for this month’s Out magazine about tran­sexy celebs who are oblit­er­at­ing sexual dif­fer­ence with botox:

Even when a celebrity couple, like Maddy and Guy, act out a reas­ser­tion of tra­di­tional roles, it only serves as par­ody. When Madonna brags about her mock­ney gang­ster groupie hus­band boss­ing her about, it only serves to make it clear that Guy is the English nanny whose duties include hav­ing to pre­tend to dom­in­ate Madonna seven or eight times a week.’

But what, I won­der, was Guy say­ing when the pic (left) was snapped?

Given this story from last year about Madonna’s sex toy gift for him, per­haps it was: “The strap-on was that big I couldn’t get my hand around it!”