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May 30, 2010

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Jeff McMahon

Mr. Kenny, I'm curious to hear you expound further on 'self-flattery' above, since I know you're referring to Mr. Seitz's comment, which I agree with in a broad sense.

Glenn Kenny

I wasn't referring to Matt's comment so much as Wells', but I think Matt makes a similar error, albeit to a less egregious degree. Because what is "they hate us for our libertinism, and its cultural exportation" other than the flip side of "they hate us for our freedom?" In the first place, the "they" is something of an insulting monolithic objectification, don't you think? And in the second place, well, bone up on your Iranian history, on your Afghanistan history, and so on, and so forth. "Sex and the City" in any manifestation amounts to pretty small potatoes in that chronicle. Conversely, M.I.A.'s paranoia about a C.I.A. plot to "control" members of the populace who are, when you sit down and think about it, already effectively doped with religion and sex and TV etc., is really giving...well, not so much that populace, but mostly her lame, flippant, marrying-into-capital-she-has-no-intention-of-threatening self, a little more credit than she might deserve.

John M

@bill: Touche. Though the "terrorism" stuff is partly coming from the fact that, for some reason, our government has denied M.I.A. a visa. So, again, she takes an injustice--however minor, in this case--and blows it up into something factually bogus, but speaking to a larger problem with the haphazard way our government sometimes picks who's bad and who isn't. M.I.A. doesn't rankle people JUST because she's so careless with her words. She's also: Sri Lankan, she's thrown her support behind questionable tacticians, she's British, she dresses like a lunatic, she samples gunshots, she's willfully tacky, etc.

This is what she does: she paints things with her own hyperbolic brush. She blows stuff up. Facebook might not be controlled by the CIA, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that they've gone way over the line in terms of compromising the privacy of their 400 million members (just think about that number). They're apologizing every other day at this point, and it's not because we're all just too paranoid. I simply don't take what M.I.A says at face value, but I see truth in almost everything she says.

She's a pop star, who's built an entire musical career on a political message that could be distilled to something along the lines of, "Fight the power"--which means, yeah, not much. The confusion in her message is, I would argue, part of why her music can be so enjoyable. She mixes things up--which is different from "editing," Hirschberg's phrase--sometimes willy-nilly. Lynn Hirschberg seems lightly miffed about these contradictions, and disappointed that she has the careerist impulses of every other pop singer, because Lynn Hirschberg is paid to be lightly miffed and disappointed. (She and Anthony Lane should have a demon baby together.)

And if we're talking pop stars--pop singers, which she kind of is now--which one has ever done more than talk the talk? This isn't a justification in and of itself, but...the faux-outrage on places like Gawker just seems silly. The most "provocative" anyone's allowed to be in the pop world is Lady Gaga, whose music is negligible: I'll take careless words and good music over Bowie-retread costumes and shitty Europop any day.

John M

Also, I have to say, I generally like Ryan McGinley's work, in the Times and elsewhere. Certainly more memorable than those bland screen tests. And really, would even he still characterize himself as a "bad boy"?

Glenn Kenny

"Which [pop star] has ever done more than talk the talk?"

Bobby Fuller!

John M

Hilarious--though it seems more like Fuller was fighting either "depression" or "drug addiction" or "fate" rather than The Law.

And I finally read that stupid Heffernan piece, which left me with one certainty: Virginia Heffernan has never read James Joyce.

The Jake Leg Kid

Have to say I much prefer Special Ed bragging about having a little island of his own, a frog, and a dog with a solid gold bone to MIA's tired posturing. Hip hop, at least in its original, classic guise, revolved around artists appropriating scraps from the mainstream as they saw fit and creating their own culture. MIA, on the other hand, jacks - with the full support of the recording industry - the music and culture of the marginalized and the invisible and sells it to the mainstream. In fact, her continued success seem very much dependent on the invisible remaining invisible. By her own logic, doesn't this make her an oppressor, at least as much as Facebook or Google?

John M

I too miss a simpler time, but saying MIA is "jack[ing} the music and culture of the marginalized" isn't really accurate. She's from the margins.

Jeff McMahon

Sure, but there's still an exploitative, inauthentic tinge to her stuff that undercuts her 'actual' authenticity. She might be a semi-radical British Tamil, but she's also a wealthy, not-especially-bright celebrity. Just because you come from the other side of the tracks doesn't mean you still live there.

And back to my earlier comment, Glenn, obviously Jeff Wells is an idiot, but I still stand by my earlier Facebook comment on that subject; obviously Sex and the City 2 itself is a pretty minor thing compared with decades of propping up the Shah, but it's also symptomatic of the same underlying problems: cultural ignorance, plutocracy, vanity, etc.

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