Feminist academic Camille Paglia has made headlines by labelling pop star Taylor Swift an “obnoxious Nazi Barbie”, and going on to compare the singer to “fascist blondes who ruled the social scene during my youth”. It’s just the latest big-name takedown from the famed author and academic. In the not so distant past, and through a series of columns for the likes of Salon and The Sunday Times, Paglia has shared her views on everyone from Katy Perry and Rihanna to Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Perhaps most shockingly of all, she once praised US reality TV franchise The Real Housewives…, calling it an “intelligent and sophisticated documentary filmmaking that really needs to be honoured”. Well, alrighty then.
Here’s a rundown on what Paglia has had to say about other modern icons (and Swift, once again).
“Perry’s prolific hit songs, saturating mainstream radio, hammer and yammer mercilessly. She’s like a manic cyborg cheerleader, obliviously whooping it up while her team gets pounded into the mud… Most striking about Perry, however, is the yawning chasm between her fresh, flawless 1950s girliness, bedecked in cartoonish floral colors, and the overt raunch of her lyrics, with their dissipated party scenes… Katy Perry’s schizophrenia — good-girl mask over trash and flash — is a symptom of what has gone wrong.”
“Rihanna is in love with the camera, and the camera is in love with her. Not since Diana rocketed from a shy, plump kindergarten aide to a lean, mean fashion machine has there been such a ravishingly seductive flirtation with the world press.”
“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.”
“Madonna is the true feminist. She exposes the puritanism and suffocating ideology of American feminism, which is stuck in an adolescent whining mode. Madonna has taught young women to be fully female and sexual while still exercising control over their lives.”
“I think Stewart’s show demonstrated the decline and vacuity of contemporary comedy. I cannot stand that smug, snarky, superior tone. I hated the fact that young people were getting their news through that filter of sophomoric snark… I find nothing incisive in his work. As for his influence, if he helped produce the hackneyed polarisation of moral liberals versus evil conservatives, then he’s partly at fault for the political stalemate in the United States.”
“I say there is a big parallel between Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton–aside from their initials! Young feminists need to understand that this abusive behavior by powerful men signifies their sense that female power is much bigger than they are! These two people, Clinton and Cosby, are emotionally infantile–they’re engaged in a war with female power.”
“It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train.”
“I’m happy with what Trump has done, because he’s totally blown up the media! All of a sudden, ‘BOOM!’ That lack of caution and shooting from the hip. He’s not a president, of course. He’s not remotely a president. He has no political skills of any kind. He’s simply an American citizen who is creating his own bully pulpit.”
“In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.”
Taylor Swift (again):
“There’s Taylor Swift, America’s latest sweetheart, beaming beatifically in all her winsome 1950s glory from the cover of Parade magazine in the Thanksgiving weekend newspapers. In TV interviews, Swift affects a ‘golly, gee whiz’ persona of cultivated blandness and self-deprecation, which is completely at odds with her shrewd glam dress sense. Her themes are mainly complaints about boyfriends, faceless louts who blur in her mind as well as ours. Swift’s meandering, snippy songs make 16-year-old Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit ‘It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry if I Want to)’ seem like a towering masterpiece of social commentary, psychological drama and shapely concision.”