Recently, Lana Del Rey stuck her foot in her mouth and she knew it. She admitted to dreaming of an early death, not a surprising musing of a woman whose music centers around all sorts of dark tropes of early loss and passionate love with difficult men. But the press wasn't so enamored of this interview and she was slammed repeatedly throughout the press. While Lana fired back, calling the Guardian, "sinister" and claiming she was asked leading questions, significant damage seemed to be done for a celebrity that has been criticized throughout her career for being inauthentic.
I'll admit. Lana Del Rey has been growing on me. Yes, she's pretentious, but that seems part of her image, where being precious and overwrought allows enough psychological distance for her to examine moody themes in the disconnected way that seems to typify the zeitgeist, full of vague cynicism and powerlessness. I think most people instinctually rolled their eyes in response to Del Rey's interview but I am not sure why her statement was considered controversial given the themes of her music. How is it considered more smug and self involved than a whole host of moody male musicians? And even more so, I think it's worthwhile to consider notice that female celebrities a whole are much more likely to be criticized than male celebrities.
I was talking about it this weekend with one of my friends, when were were talking about Little Women and how Winona Ryder was the star of the 90s. But her fall from grace was abrupt and extreme when she was caught shoplifting.
Charlie Sheen shot his fiancee and was still considered a bankable star. Sean Penn beat up Madonna during their marriage and went on to be an Oscar Winner. Sean Connery has always defended the practice of occasionally slapping women. But Winona was caught shoplifting and it was almost career ending. Well, that and her accent on Dracula but I mean, if Keanu could recover from that role, so should she. She has made a minor comeback but she appears permanently marked and discarded.
I don't know if I'd have considered the media's treatment of Ryder or Del Rey as sexism if I haven't seen so many versions of this type of hatred and derision before. Now, I am the last Katherine Heigl fan in America and don't understand how her vaguely described "difficult behavior" is somehow seen as much more problematic than male celebrities who have their own set of demands (Hi, Christian Bale). Or for that matter, why make such a big deal about Jennifer Lopez dating a young man when it is practically de rigeur for male celebrities both on and off screen to date much younger women? Or why is Kristen Stewart's sullenness is so much more offensive than Jared Leto's whole awful rocker, ombre schtick? And why can't Anne Hathaway be excited when she wins an Oscar? Seriously. If I won an Oscar, I'd probably laugh hysterically while peeing my pants. Yeah, she's a drama kid grown up but fuck, if you are too sullen, you are a bitch and if you are too excited, you are a total asshole because ladies, you just can't win. And don't even start me on how people act like Martha Stewart or Oprah Winfrey are monsters. You don't preside over a billion dollar empire by being nice. But if they were men, they'd just be considered complex instead of insufferable bitches, being awful and undeserving of their success.
Now I'm not above the petty criticism. I will not hide my hatred of Gwyneth Paltrow, mostly because she's the worst but regardless, it still is worthwhile to ask why female celebrities are so much more easily discredited than male ones. I remember doing all sorts of counseling with groups of teenagers and girls would talk about hating other girls because of "drama." Boys talked about hating other girls because of "drama."
And that's something that we always see throughout our culture. If we are too critical, we're seen as mean girls or if we rage about discrimination, we're called feminazis. And God forbid if we age, I mean, then we're just crazy cat ladies, sadly and desperately clinging to reality. Our interests are stupid and superficial. Our voices will never be considered transcendent. Yes, there always a selected few cool women whose value is usually measured by their ability to privilege their relationships with men over women. But for the most part, we're considered suspect and our fall from grace is inevitable because we should have never been taken seriously in the first place.
So I mean, by all means, criticize Lana Del Rey. I think there are many aspects of her image and her music which should be up for scrutiny. But, you know, you can never take the virulent criticism women receive regularly out of context—criticism that is so pervasive that we can often not even see it anymore. We are blamed for so many things. For being too young, too old, too fat, too thin, too ugly, too beautiful. We are punished for the ultimate sin of existing at all. And perhaps if we are bit more forgiving of the missteps that female celebrities make, we might be more able to be kind to ourselves because damnit, we deserve it.
Image from Hollywood Scoop