Off to the Races

Light of my life, fire of my loins, be a good baby, do what I want...

Is it trashy to quote Lolita in a song? A song about being a gold-digging, coked-up sugar baby, no less? Well, that depends on how Lana Del Rey rubs you with her retrograde lounge hoochie Nancy Sinatra aesthetic. I know plenty of people hate Del Rey for…well, for a lot of things, from valid concerns about glamorizing suicide and adopting such a blatantly unliberated point of view, to vapid ones like speculating if she’s had her nose done. I think that the Del Rey persona has quite a strong element of camp in it, and you can enjoy her brand of sad sugar baby glamour without taking it too seriously. Her lyrical point of view is not exactly progressive; she plays the part of the seductive sugar baby, the eternal mistress who will never be a wife, the sad floozy, the casting-couch climbing wannabe fucking her way towards the top, the heartbroken girl who wants to die because she thinks she can’t live alone, the woman who is empty and void of purpose without a man to guide her rudder. And yes, she is the lady who publicly said that ‘feminism is not an interesting concept’. (BTW,  I think that asking female celebrities about their position on feminism and then ripping them a new one regardless of what they say is a sexist booby trap in itself.) Yet that is exactly what makes her an interesting artist. All of those roles are ones we see secretly ourselves in, at one point or another, no matter how strong a stance we take in public. It’s essentially adolescent to think that any of those roles are valid identities, but even when we’re old enough to know better, we still find them romantic on some level. There is a powerful appeal to playing those parts, be it because it makes us feel better about the things that make us feel sad, or because sometimes those parts can serve as legitimate survival strategies. Exploring roles that are complicated and problematic is more interesting, and more important, and rings true in a way that taking a simplistic and insincere stance of ’empowerment’ does. The false empowerment of pop stars who offer vapid platitudes about ‘girl power’ and reassurances that ‘it’s ok to have curves because that’s what men like’, is truly threatening and insidiously  anti-feminist because it’s nothing more than an inoffensive facade that puts a gloss of self-love over the same old sexist status quo. Lana Del Rey may not have the well articulated feminist consciousness that Beyonce does, but her understanding of and interest in playing with complex social roles makes her an important and thought-provoking artist, and inadvertently, a feminist ally.


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