The Smu Reviews

Pop Culture
Music / Art / Pop Culture

Whatever happened to the teenage dream?

My mom should’ve understood. At the Beatles’ 1966 concert in Chicago, she’d had to slap my Aunt Martha hard to get her to stop from screaming herself into a faint. From the teenyboppers to the Beliebers, teenage girls have been mocked for their crushes, but that scorn is just a shoddy mask for the anxiety these crushes inspire. Because a teenage girl with a crush is frightening. The Beatles were always on the run from shoving, hysterical girl-crowds, who wanted—what? To crush into them, to crush themselves, to crush against other girl-bodies that were all feeling the same feeling together, a chaos of feeling, a feeling that took your breath away. “A Beatle who ventures out unguarded into the streets runs the very real peril of being dismembered or crushed to death by his fans,” Life reported in January 1964. A girl with a crush is also capable of crushing.

I wake up and my wig is falling off my head, and my mole is on the other side of my face. My fake mole. No not fake, it’s just surreal.

Ok so there has been a shitstorm brewing around Lady Gaga and fur for the last few days and since everyone and their uncle has been sending me links to articles (of varying levels of accuracy) about it I figured I might as well just go ahead a post up my thoughts here. Kill two birds with one stone as it were. Sorry, was that inappropriate?

The essential facts of the story are as follows:

Gaga has been seen wearing various fur coats recently 

PETA sent her an open letter calling her out on it

Dear Gaga,

Many of your gay fans, I among them, have long admired what you told Ellen: “I hate fur and I don’t wear fur.” I included a link because these recent photos of you in fox and rabbit and with a wolf carcass make it appear that you have amnesia. I’m also including this brief videohosted by Tim Gunn showing the violent cruelty that you promote when you wear fur. What happened? Are your stylists telling you that it’s fake, or are you a turncoat? Many gays are animal advocates because we recognize that the same arrogance and indifference that some have toward animal suffering has at times been directed toward us personally because of our orientation. PETA has long participated in Pride events around the country, and just last week, we helped lead protests against Chick-fil-A. But by wearing those dumb furs in a heat wave, you’re making yourself a target just like the mindless Kim Kardashian. As we plan our fall campaigns, please tell us whether what you gracefully told Ellen was heartfelt or just a pose.

We await your reply.


Dan Mathews

Senior Vice President


She deflected the issue with a trollish tweet and cryptic follow-up

Everyone is freaking out

So my thoughts:

Well, for anyone reading this who doesn’t know me, I’m a vegan and therefor don’t wear leather or fur or eat meat or dairy.

So far no one still really knows if it’s real or fake she’s wearing – and I’ll be damned if I can tell from looking at it – I can never spot fake fur unless it’s like the coat I’ve got that cost £12 from the kids section of Primark and basically looks like skinned Build-A-Bear.

This either makes her pretty smart or pretty dumb in how she’s handling it. I don’t much care for how PETA are handling it either way – what exactly does Mr Mathews’ sexual orientation have to do with anything?

I will be disappointed if it is real but less because of her actually wearing the fur than because of her response. Hang in there with me on that one..

I can look the other way when she wears fur or leather because I live in a world where almost everyone I know wears leather and eats meat and fur is really not a whole lot different to me.  It’s much easier for the average person to be sanctimonious about real fur because they will likely not be able to afford it (other than someone’s Aunt Trudy’s of course) but would never dream of giving up their  inexpensive leather or meat – fur is, rightly, seen as more flagrant and dickish. It has that air of Cruella De Ville. Yes, yes, meat is (albeit in-essentially) nutritional not just fashion and leather is a byproduct and blah blah blah but once you get over the other side of veganism it just all starts to look like uniformly barbaric carnage. So I choose not to think too much about the choices of others in that respect because, you know, I want to have friends and shit. 

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEAT DRESS I HEAR YOU SAY? The meat dress I could live with because it was an arresting image, really is no different to eating the meat (which she does, along with spending most of last year head to foot in leather) and opened up a lot of interesting conversations for me with meat eaters who funnily enough often seemed to find it really disgusting..

Anyway the point is there is a BIG difference for me between wearing fur on occasion and being actively pro-fur. Being pro-fur is not saying ‘I know, but I couldn’t resit’ or ‘I know, but I was given it for free’ it’s saying ‘Fuck you, I don’t give a shit and neither should you’. And more than anything it bothers me how being all sassy about it will result in a million fans thinking YAYZ FUR IZ COOL GAGA SEZ!!! Taking a pro-fur stance would be neither popular with me or many of her fans (judging by comments on her posts about it) even if the fashionistas might back it.

On the other hand if it’s fake her tweet is hilarious. Well, it’s hilarious anyway but you know what I mean. If the coats are fake and she knows that PETA just haven’t done their research then she’s basically just giving them a big old ‘talk to the hand’. Right now I’m swinging towards fake because I would prefer that to be the case, her second post about where ‘real’ elegance comes from seems to indicate that to me and because I don’t think even Gaga is wilfully publicity hungry enough to take an openly pro-fur stance. Funny as it is, I do wish she would clarify her feelings on the matter one way or another though.

And no, even if it is real I won’t suddenly stop being a fan – that’s patently ridiculous – although I would definitely be pretty sad about it. I have a small handfull of friends who I would allow to argue with me on that but the rest of you can go back to your chicken fillets and zip it.*

*With love, of course 😉


Gaga responded tonight:

To the fans. i want you to know that I care deeply about your feelings and views, and I will always support your philosophies about life. We’ve been having over-arching conversations about society, equality, and politics for the past five years, and we should continue. I do not however support violent, abusive, and childish campaigns for ANY CAUSE. Particularly one that I respect. “Animal Rights.” I am choosing not to comment on whether or not the furs I purchase are faux fur-pile or real because I would think it hypocritical not to acknowledge the python, ostrich, cow hide, leather, lamb, alligator, “kermit” and not to mention meat, that I have already worn. This should already put me in a category as one who appreciates and adores the beauty of animals in fashion, but am not a strict vegan. I have truly always stayed away from skinned fur, especially as i have never been able to afford a nice one, but this does not mean my morals are rigid and that I won’t bend at the sight of an absolute art piece of a coat. I have no chains about this. You see a carcass, I see a museum pièce de résistance. But I am truly sorry to fans who are upset by this, its a fair and applaudable feeling about the health and safety of animals. I respect your views, please respect mine. 

And to campaigners, Save your flour to make bread for the children who are hungry. And Kim Kardashian is fabulous.

I may not share her feelings but she has articulated almost exactly the points I felt about the blowup myself. I agree with her about PETA’s approach and although I would have loved a more emphatically anti-fur response I am just relieved to see that she respects and understands the issue itself and the feelings of her fans. 

Edit: I know that sounds a bit wishy washy and confused, it’s hard to explain exactly what I mean.  I like her response in so much as it’s honest. It teeters on pro-fur but is more ‘never say never’ than ‘fur is fabulous’. As I said before I have a hard time seeing why fur is any more grotesque than the millions of everyday, invisible crimes that are committed against animals by almost everyone – it was reading about what is considered ‘free range’ and ‘humane’ that tipped me into veganism not couture coats. 

I do think fur is abhorrent and I respect the more hardline views of other vegans but I have issues with meat eaters and leather weathers being sanctimonious about fur. I realise I’m a bit contrary in this and I don’t expect many people to agree with me. I’m not saying Gaga’s position is good – I’m just not any more (or less) horrified by it than a whole lot of other horrible stuff. I think the view she is expressing is probably also less of a distance from the way most people feel about animals than they allow themselves to admit – and I respect her for manning up, even if I think she’s wrong. 

I predict the media will skin her alive for this though. Boom Boom.

Madonna’s Hands

I’ve got a lot of problem’s with Madonna right now but her hands aren’t one of them. Despite that they are the subject of this no doubt nauseatingly long think-piece.

I’m not going to talk about her laissez-faire approach to her recent musical output, her terrible lead single or her dubious forays into gym franchises. I’m going to talk about her hands.

Why the hands? Why not the exposed nipple? That’s what everyone else is talking about right? Or the cheek implants? Or the bum-flash? Or the sexy tour-dancing with her 20-something boyfriend? Or whether she’s too old to dress like a majorette? Or that mash-up?

I’m going to talk about her hands because they are a microcosm of all that and more. Madonna’s hands sum up all our fucked up issues with the aging process in one fell swoop. Yuk! Granny hands! Madonna’s losing it! What an old hag! In fact that picture is so nasty that the person I’m hotlinking it from has even named it madonna-old-lady-hands.jpg LOL She’s so past it now. Why doesn’t she just give up and leave it to Gaga and RiRi and Katy??!

How about this:


I mean, it’s pretty pathetic how she is soooo blatantly trying to cover up her ugly old lady hands with those nasty leather gloves. And fingerless gloves?? On a 53 year old?? It’s so juvenile and unbecoming. She needs to get a grip and stop trying to dress like a teenager! Leave the rock-chick look to Lola!!

Do you see what we did there?

Over on the left that’s a rock. Over on the right is a hard place. That unpleasant little space in the middle? That’s Madonna’s hands.

As a woman aging in the public eye you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. 

Personally the ‘granny hands’ don’t bother me a jot and it’s worrying about completely natural things like that which end up with the desperate attempts at disguising it.

Not even Madonna can stop time and we can’t have it all ways at once. It’s not fair to bitch about her surgery and the signs of aging at the same time. It’s not fair to blame her for the gloves when we recoil in horror at the sight of what lies below.

Some people would rather she continues down the surgery route and fights her age as much as she can. They are usually the same people who enjoy the idea that her faking a vacuous nubility that she never really inhabited the first time around (baton twirling! pom poms!) is liberating for women who want to ‘stay young’. They are the glove people.

Some people feel she should act her age, be more responsible in front of her children, stop flashing her boobs in public. Age ‘gracefully’. They are the hands people, right?

You would think so, but from what I can tell no-one seems to be the hands people. The age-gracefully people still have a utopian notion that she will somehow do this without a wrinkle on her brow. Only she’ll be doing it in a twin-set. Kind of like Evita but without Jimmy Nail.

Because when we see wrinkles and veins and liver spots appear on someone like Madonna it scares the shit out of us because we are staring right into the face of our own horrid mortality.

When asked in an interview in 1998 what she thought people saw when they look at her she said simply “they see themselves”. And we do. We see an heroic, perfect, insurmountable, archetype of who we could/should/would be perhaps but she has always been and always will be a mirror to our collective social mores.

I, personally,  disagree with the people who are all-out, knowingly and enthusiastically for the surgical approach but it doesn’t bother me as much as the rest of us thinking that she/we can do both at once. You can get away with that for a while perhaps. A little bottox here, a slight alteration there. But there will always come a time where you have to pick between the age or the surgery because the more obvious the age gets so will the surgery have to too. 

We just can’t seem to get our heads around the simple, glaring truth:


That’s why those candid photos of her in her underwear that everyone uses as the full stop on any discussion of Madonna’s current sexual attractiveness will never bother me as much as the puffy cheek photos and the way her face barely moves any more. One is a fit 50 something woman (photographed off guard) in her underwear, the other is a woman fighting her age desperately and unsuccessfully. One is the hands and the other is the gloves.

And if you can’t see the connection between how we as a society react to the hands and why Madonna, of all people, has ended up in the gloves then I’m not going to draw you a map.

Congratulations world, we broke her. And enjoy it while you can because you will be wearing those gloves yourself sometime soon no doubt.

This piece isn’t really about Madonna of course (which is precisely why I don’t want to talk about the underwhelming album or the religious connotations of her show or whatever) but she is an unparalleled cultural barometer when it comes to how we view our own vanity, sexuality and self esteem.

Lets, please, learn to love Madonna’s hands?


Don’t ask me, I just share here..

I love social media, this is true. I could bore you to tears for paragraphs on the good it performs in modern society, but I am increasingly becoming frustrated and concerned by one particular aspect of it that the last  few week’s of news has intensified.

Let’s call it the ‘instant opinion’ problem.

Much has been said about the ‘quick fix’ aspect of the web but it cuts increasingly both ways. Speed is of the essence and when something significant happens we all feel we must Have Something To Say about it and preferably before anyone else.

This leads to several issues:

  1. The constant pressure to form an opinion on something within minutes of it happening (no matter how politically complex, personally distressing or just plain baffling) and project that opinion boldly to the world.
  2. The pressure, having done that, to stick to this opinion (even in light of new discoveries or change of heart) in case you seem a hypocrite.
  3. The fear that if you don’t offer an Instant Opinion you will appear shallow or foolish as you merrily tweet about your lunch or the new Ke$ha single instead.

What this leads to is everyone making a whole lot of noise about things they often don’t really understand. People have always had similar interactions – over dinner, across the water cooler – but in the past we had at least a little breathing space to gather ourselves. It concerns me that we are not only losing the desire (and ability) to consider, analize and chew over subjects but that doing so is in fact becoming almost stigmatised as a sign of a poor mind rather than an educated one.

I don’t have the answers to everything, so I plan not to pretend I do anymore!