January 07, 2005

There is no me to look at


No doubt there are those who will object that, in our GA posts, Tim and I are 'imposing our fantasies' on the women of the group. 'Really' (aha) Girls Aloud are just 'ordinary women', not imperious Masoch mistresses. (Cue tabloid shots of Cheryl stumbling out of a car.)

But this impulse towards pyschologization and personalization - in short, Oedipalization - is fatal for the allure of Pop. What is Pop, after all, if not a machine for producing fantasies? The fantasies Tim and I have woven around Girls Aloud are not 'ours' - but, then, no fantasy really belongs to any one, on the contrary, as Zizek argues, it is your fantasy that is definitional of you - they are an effect of the GA deliriumachine.

By contrast, the current popcult hegemony of Gossip is - often explicitly - resentful of Pop Glamour. The ostensibly 'liberating' gesture of photographing Pop and film stars - almost invariably female stars of course - in unflattering clothes, lights or situations is in fact an act of vicious agression. The 'Realists' who delight in such 'demystification' are, like the anti-Game insurgents in Cronenberg's Existenz, credulously operating under the most lamentable and unsupportable of assumptions - the idea that you can strip away all fantasy. The 'reality' they defend is, in fact, the ontology of a depressive: grubbily empirical, nothing ever adding up to more than the sum of its parts, nothing worth getting worked up about, nothing connecting with nothing.

The resentment simmering behind the Glum rejection of Glam is nakedly Oedipalizing. 'C'mon admit it, it's all Oedipus really... all of this is just a charade, a pretence...' As if it were possible to step outside masquerades and roles, as if were possible to be just 'you'.

The result of all this is the grim spectacle of the likes of Robbie and Geri, both of whom proffer postmodern neurosis as a substitute for performance. At the beginning of their solo careers, both fell over themselves to assert that, really, they were more than the role they were 'forced' to play in the 'manufactured' groups that made them name. Really they were unique creative individuals hungry for the opporunity to express their inner talent. Of course, when the mask slips away we do not encounter the 'real' person behind Take That Robbie or Ginger Spice, we encounter another set of masks, albeit masks that are instantly disclaimed.

How many more videos will Halliwell produce in which she (yawn) 'deconstructs her image'? (She ought to be careful. Pop consumers are notoriously sniffy about that kind of allegedly sophisticated detachment, rightly sensing a rockist disdain for them. Kylie was only able to refloat her floundering career when she ditched all the meta-ing about that she first indulged in the atrocious 'Confide in Me' video: different Kylies! Kylie self-consciously complicit in her own commodification! Puhleaze....)

The assertion of the 'real' me never points to anything substantial, a full, authentic self with specific content; no, the alleged 'real' is only present in the moment of disavowal of the artificial. Hence the pathetic spectacle of both Robbie and Geri disclaiming every gesture they make, every pose they strike, even as they strike them. I am too clever, too complex, to ever be any of the roles I assume. So now Robbie is only ever meta-Robbie, Geri is only ever meta-Geri.

(Girls Aloud, by contrast, are going deeper and deeper into Gibsonian hyper-artificiality. With each video they manage to look ever more unfathomably unnatural and sleazy-synthetic, instanta-tan and product thick multiply-dyed hair surely presaging the arrival of implant mirrorshades and retractable claws...)

What Geri has never understood is that she was never a fantasy object; she, like the rest of the Spice Girls, was a fantasy subject, an off-the-shelf persona which any of the girl fans could assume. In effect, the only Geri that anyone was ever interested in was the physical incarnation of that persona. As with GA, the fantasy the Spice Girls mobilized was not of having sex with them but of being them. As soon as the Spice Girls wanted to assert their 'real' identities, the apathy that greets everything they now do was inevitable. This is in part because of their refusal to be a Fantasy kit which girls could wear, but also because they dissolved the collectivity of the girl pack into individual Oedipii.

Posted by mark at January 7, 2005 02:44 PM | TrackBack