In a scathing cover story in the UK's Sunday Times magazine, famed critic and self-described "dissident feminist" Camille Paglia fires multiple salvos at the gaudy pop singer, calling her a "manufactured personality" who rips off her music and fashion from "Cher, Jane Fonda as Barbarella, Gwen Stefani and Pink." Paglia also disses the star's attractiveness, saying that "Drag queens, whom Gaga professes to admire, are usually far sexier in many of her over-the-top outfits than she is." Her sex appeal, or lack thereof, is quite a problem for Paglia:
Furthermore, 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…
The critic also uses her essay to comment sweepingly on the millennial generation that apparently adores Gaga:
Generation Gaga doesn’t identify with powerful vocal styles because their own voices have atrophied: they communicate mutely via a constant stream of atomised, telegraphic text messages. Gaga’s flat affect doesn’t bother them because they’re not attuned to facial expressions. Gaga's fans are marooned in a global technocracy of fancy gadgets but emotional poverty. Borderlines have been blurred between public and private: reality TV shows multiply, cell phone conversations blare everywhere; secrets are heedlessly blabbed on Facebook and Twitter.
Needless to say, there were some critics who raised an eyebrow to Paglia's anti-Gaga rhetoric, including The Guardian's Alex Needham:
Paglia's main criticism seemed to be that Gaga simply isn't sexy enough. ...But Lady Gaga has never presented herself as a sex object. She sells weirdness and eye-popping spectacle, not sex. She isn't posing in a meat bikini to woo Nuts' one-handed readers, and why should she? Though Paglia's tome Sexual Personae posits sex as the prime mover behind all culture, you'd still think that as a feminist she'd applaud the fact that there's a massive female pop star whose appeal doesn't depend on how many men she manages to arouse. Before Gaga, we had Britney – and look how that turned out.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.