Lady Gaga has filed her latest memo for V Magazine and CC’ed her fans, “art historians,” “the world,” and (nonsensically) “intellectuals.” Having just read the column in its entirety, I could at least identify the nebulous point Gaga is trying to make: something about how critics aren’t really experts and the democratizing function of the internet has made non-critics into legitimate critics, something something, she’s pissed about that time Cathy Horyn bagged on her and said she looked “embalmed” in vintage Versace. Anyway, the main thrust of her column is that Horyn is predictably negative while someone like Tavi Gevinson can generate “specific, well-thought-out, debatable opinion” despite her young age and with only a blog as platform.
And then Gaga makes a pretty striking point: “How does someone like Ms. Horyn separate herself from the online pack? The reality of today’s media is that there are no echelons.” Elsewhere, she adds: “The public operates with the assumption that critics are experts in their respective fields. But are they? Does every critic have the soul to really receive a work in the transcendental sense? The out-of-body experience of art?”
I’m not going to touch the incoherent equivocation of art/fashion (I already tried), but here is a quick answer to her initial question: whether you like her or not, Horyn can distinguish herself from teen bloggers thanks to 1) her master’s degree in journalism, 2) her 25 years as a fashion critic, 3) various contributions to Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and obviously many more, and 4) being a stalwartly fearless critical entity (whether scrutinizing the most powerful figure in fashion, Anna Wintour, or frequently being banned from runway shows as retaliation for her openly scathing reviews).
Gaga’s argument is, of course, bizarrely anti-intellectual, considering her CC list. She seems to be saying that the tidal wave of online opinion from unqualified, barely-literate fashion bloggers–like myself–is just as valuable as a seasoned critic’s. Which is absurd, because Cathy Horyn’s opinion is 100 times more valuable than mine or any style blogger whose day is spent taking pictures of herself clad in whatever she’s been sent for free by whatever brand. The fashion press needs more Hoyrns, because she’s established enough to say whatever the hell she wants. Fashion blogs generate a legion of opinions and that’s great and you can find like-minded people throughout (in addition to inspiration, genuine debate and good writing), but if Gaga wants to say that the critical perspective of a teenager with a Tumblr is just as substantive as Horyn’s, I say: Fuck. That. Noise.
Anyway, I was at least kind of following Gaga’s narrative until the final paragraph which, let me be the first to say, doesn’t make any fucking sense:
Why do we harp on the predictability of the infamous fashion critic? The predictability of the most notoriously harsh ciritcs who continue writing their notoriously harsh reviews? Why give the elephant in the room a peanut if it has already snapped its truunk at you? That peanut was dead on arrival. To be fair, Mr. Horyn, the more critical question to ask is: when did the pretense of fashion become more important than its influence on a generation? Why have we decided that one person’s opinion matters more than anyone else’s? Of all the legendary designers I have been blessed to work with, the greatest discovery has been their kindness and their lack of pretense. They care not for hierarchy or position. They are so good, and so precise, that all that matters to them while they’re pinning their perfectly customized garment to my body is the way it makes me feel. Perhaps the pretension belongs in formaldehyde. And the hierarchy is embalmed–for us all to remember nostalgically, and honor that it once was modern, but is now irrelevant. Peanut.
Okay, so… peanuts? Isn’t Lady Gaga the Pretense of Fashion’s mascot?! Does she realize that designers are super nice to her because they benefit from her wearing the clothes? They wouldn’t be so warm and approachable if she was a nobody but surely she recognizes that? I can’t even focus here, though, I have so many questions, I’m kind of hung-up… does she want us to embalm the peanuts? Is the elephant dead? No, wait, the peanut is dead. It was “dead on arrival.” So we’re feeding elephants peanuts dipped in formaldehyde? No?
Thankfully, my opinion is valuable no matter what, or else I’d spend a little more time trying to parse out what she means.