(C.L. Minou occasionally consumes pop culture! It’s true! And among that culture she recently started to follow is Tiger Beatdown unofficial patron saint Lady GaGa. In fact, she watched the Bad Romance video like ten times in one day because of its thrilling mix of gender identity and politics, surrealism, shout outs to German Expressionism, and even the obvious influence of Bauhaus–the design philosophy and, quite possibly, the band! As Sady has already covered “Telephone” at Feministe, C.L. thought she’d share her thoughts with you. And also write her own introduction in the third person, which is completely not annoying.)
1. Tarantino provides a visual idiom for everything.
Perhaps our zeitgeist has deteriorated to the point that it is literally impossible to touch upon any subject even remotely related to B-movie subjects from the 1970s without reference to QT — up to and including people of color fighting, prison movies, and God help us but I fear this will prove to be so, lesbianism. This might make the choice of, shall we say, mise en scene for “Telephone” forgivable.
What would be scary to consider is that it is no longer possible to conceive of any subject outside the purview of Tarantino, especially if it involves women doing anything besides falling in love with Colin Firth.
2. There is only one Tarantino movie, ever.
That’s not entirely true, of course. In fact, it is not even remotely true — his movies have shown a unity of look and conversational tics (like his fellow explorer of the “art as misogyny” trope, David Mamet), but have varied all over the place in precise subject, visual style, and even theme.
However, whenever you make something that is Tarantinoesque, you may only refer to a movie I call Pulping Bill To Kill Fiction Volume III. And you must never, ever mention the only movie that has a female character who is both sympathetic and not trying to murder other women so she can be the Nice Mommy, Jackie Brown. ‘Cause that shit don’t play.
3. By Now You’re Sick of the Tarantino stuff, so I will continue in that vein.
I mean, seriously, if you’re going to consciously imitate the Tarantino ouevre, and do the whole “deadly women are sexy” trip, do you have to also include the goddamn Pussy Wagon, which was owned, I should point out, by a rapist who rented out an unconscious woman to other rapists? I mean yeah Uma drove it around and was all bad ass and killing-folks-cool (where folks=women), but seriously.
4. Setting a video in a woman’s prison isn’t exploitative.
I mean, it doesn’t have to be–there’s tons of issues nowadays with women being incarcerated, and the horrific conditions they endure, and…
5. Even if you call it the “Prison for Bitches.”
Um. Well, you know, she’s picking up authentic prison slang…
6. And feature a cat fight, scantily clad prisoners and guards, lots of people of color hurting each other, and a lesbian kiss.
Oh, sigh. Just sigh.
However, I concur with Sady that it was very refreshing to see the kiss be a butch-femme pairing, consciously avoiding turning it into a Strate Dood fantasy.
7. Murdering an abusive man is an act of female rebellion.
Well, look. I’m not going to get all Mary Daly here (trust me — that just won’t be happening), but hey, I like a good female revenge fantasy every now then, even the flawed ones like “Enough” or “Hard Candy.” So no marks off for offing Tyrese.
8. Mass murder is also an act of female rebellion.
This one I have a harder time getting. Why kill the whole diner? Including a lot of women who, it seems, had been victimized by their main target in the less than five minutes he’d known them? I mean, if you want me to think he deserved it, I’m there. I just don’t know why the everybody else needed to get killed too.
9. You don’t want to think too hard about the racial politics in this video.
I mean, seriously. From the prisoners who scream and curse at each other or attack each other, to the woman at the counter who thinks in Japanese, and not even a word that makes any sense in context — just stop. There is some effed up stuff going on in here.
10. Speaking of effed up, what’s with the shot of GaGa’s…
Yeah. Okay. I guess I kind of need to field this one, right? I’ve written elsewhere about the whole backlash against GaGa by calling her trans, or intersex. And I think she’s handled it pretty well, including that infamous magazine cover:
So okay! I am down with that, and the way she’s mostly shrugged off the “accusations” and done so in a way that is commendable.
But this video? Aaaaah not so much–from the prison guards (who, I must add again, are dressed like they bought their outfits from the Sexy Cop section of your local Halloween costumer) who in context are implied to be trans of some variety, to the implicit equation of gentials = gender.
Which is ludicrous. I have a vagina. I am also trans. I could flash my Vajazzle target around — actually, I should probably Vajazzle a target on it beforehand — and that wouldn’t “prove” one way or another what I was.
Aaand more? Even before I had surgery, I was a woman. So I’m not sure what the message here is supposed to be, besides the aforementioned equation of gender and genitalia and the simultaneous idea that if for whatever reason they didn’t match, that would be bad or shameful or maybe not get you put in the prison for bitches.
Now sorry to be a downer, but this isn’t a small concern. Lots of trans women who are arrested are locked up with men, no matter what their genital status is, which surprise! — puts them at high risk of being abused. In prison, it is even worse: depending on where they were imprisoned, they may be housed with men in general population. Or, at best, be put into solitary — normally a punishment. Trans prisoners often can’t get hormone medication, even if they were receiving it outside of prison, and then further get put into the Catch-22 of not being able to be housed with their expressed gender until they have surgery, and not being able to get surgery because they’re in prison.
And I could go on, but I’ll just be back to my beginning, which is that it’s kinda callous to even start with a prison setting, given the pretty craptastic quality of the US prison system. I get that it’s being done “ironically.” In that hipster irony way, though.
11. Lady GaGa is a feminist.
Well… the song actually is kinda feminist — a woman telling her controlling boyfriend to stop calling because she’s out with her girlfriends having a good time and him calling her isn’t going to make her come home any sooner.
Too bad it seems like there’s only 50 seconds of it in the video.