Pink and the Stupid Girls Video II

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A couple of days ago, I was moved to comment on Pink’s "Stupid Girls" video.  Why criticize the likes of Paris Hilton, Mary Kate Olsen, Jessica Simpson, and Lindsay Lohan?  Why would Pink need to make herself a spokesperson for "smart girls?"

I was wrong…as readers pointed out!  Tom Asacker observed that my examples of smart women were a generation or two too old.  Patricia said, "There aren’t many young celebrity women equated with high intelligence that could be mentioned as effective role models."  Anastasia Goodstein at YPulse made the good point that the high profile of the video may be taken as proof of its veracity. 

I can’t recall the last time I heard a true pop song that made a meaningful social statement to any effect. I’m sure they were made, but the fact that I don’t remember them points to the fact that they didn’t have traction in the media or culture. But now, Pink’s "Stupid Girls" is arguably pulling it off, even if the social commentary is generally off-the-cuff and fairly shallow. The fact is, it is sparking a lot of discussion, and Pink’s new role is manifesting in ways I wouldn’t have previously imagined.

So it’s time for the anthropologist to think again.  Last night I staged an informal focus group in the kitchen.  We tried to think of young women who now serve as celelbrities. (There’s a good chance we missed some.)

Here’s the list we came up with:

Beyonce
Keira Knightley
Sarah Silverman
Avril Lavigne
Little Kim
Britney Spears
Christina Aguilera
Natalie Portman
Nora Jones

A word on Sarah Silverman.  I really wanted to get this name on the list.  (Silverman is evidently smart as the dickens and I was still trying to prove my original argument.)  But it probably doesn’t belong there.  1) No one in my kitchen knew who she was.  So she is not a celebrity in the full sense of the term.  2) It turns out, she is 36 years old.  Damn.

It’s worth pointing out that Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Lindsay Lohan all went through "bad girl" moments.  This appeared designed to free them from the Disney brat pack, "not a girl, not a woman," vacuity, and to give them sufficient substance to survive the transition into older markets and new, more substantial material.  On the other hand, some will say that this new persona was a "dumbed down," that these girls were turning themselves into witless boy toys. 

Avril Lavigne is in that pop punk tradition (not so much angry as bad tempered) but I think it would be wrong that she dumbed herself down to win stardom.  The great case in point is of course Natalie Portman, Harvard educated, articulate, beautiful, charismatic.   This is I believe is what everyone means by a role model. 

Summing, there is some evidence to the contrary, but in general it appears to be true that young women (late teens, early 20s) are not supplied with an extraordinary number of smart girl exemplars.  This raises two questions: are young men? (and) is this age group ever so favored?  I leave these questions to very smart readers.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a piece about "what it’s like to be 18."  Apparently, I left one condition out: when you are 18, you are not well served by your heroes. 

References

Goodstein, Anastasia.  2006.  Pink’s Smart Girl PR.  Ypulse.  April 10, 2006. here

McCracken, Grant.  2006.  Pink and the stupid girl video.  This blog sits at…  March 31, 2006.  here.

McCracken, Grant.  2006.  What’s it like being 18.  This blog sits at…  March 27, 2006. here.

14 thoughts on “Pink and the Stupid Girls Video II

  1. R.J. Lehmann

    I’d add Scarlett Johansson as an example of a quite young, quite sexy, but nonetheless quite smart female celeb. She can certainly be bold and, perhaps in some quarters, controversial in her dress or demeanor (the remarkably flashy decolletage at this year’s Golden Globe awards, her public statements about trysts with men very much her senior) but it does not come off as cheap or tawdry. She seems a young woman very much in control of, but nonetheless not strictly defined by, her sexuality. And thus far, at least, she’s shown herself to be among the most talented actresses of her generation.

  2. Candy Minx

    Hi again, feel like I’m at home when I visit here, thanks.

    Justin Timberlake and Ashton Kucher attained “smart creds” when they hooked up with older women. On Real Housewives of Orange County the other night, an 18 yr old says something like, “when you’re with an older woman it makes you the man.” Meanwhile on this episode a 24 yr old woman is flirting with him, her fiance is jealous her attention is on the boy and at a pool party is a woman alone, single divorced and I couldn’t help thinking…wouldn’t her and the 34yr fiance make a dynamic couple? She would be older than him, but able to provide the things he can not find from his young fiance.

    When they first burst on the scene none of these women were famous for their smarts, Drew Barrymore Jodie Foster and Madonna. they have acheived smarts by longevity in the public eye and by becoming finacial moguls which is often associated with brains. As a long time fan of Madonna nothing bugs me more than the outsider judging with a left handed compliment “well, she’s smart she’s good with money (if not morals or talent)” Like her only talent was to seduce and trick the audience into buying her music when all we really want is a great dance song. Insulting celebrities is also a way to insult each other.

    Punk rockers have smart creds. Avril and Pink reflect their brain powers by rejecting social norms, out-thinking the masses has always been a cache of the punk rock experience. Unfortunately substance abuse often takes over their brains or what I like to call “artistic differences” Eventually too many stars like Sublime, Blindmelon, Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, Sid and Nancy get famous for their self destruction.

    Being smart is dangerous.

    And maybe that is why for the moment in our current times it is not worshipped?

  3. Overworm

    I think we have to expand the scope beyond actresses and singers. No offense to people in those professions, but starting there isn’t necessarily beginning with the best group when we’re talking about intellectual people. That is like going to a aerospace engineering conference in search of hunks; you might find a couple, but you’re swimming in a shallow pool.

    I like that you tried to include Silverman, but as you said, she isn’t quite a celebrity. Of course, moving beyond actresses and singers makes the search for celebrities more difficult. Especially if we’re holding to a teenage-to-mid-twenties demographic.

    I’d start with Zadie Smith,author of WHITE TEETH, although I’m sure you’d probably get more “who?” than “yeah” when you bring her name up. She may not quite fit the term of celebrity. But if she passed that test, she certainly passes those of intellect, beauty, and success. Although I think she has recently passed 30 years of age.

    And then there’s . . . gee, this is tough. Perhaps combining celebrity in our society with youth makes it difficult to inclue intellect. After all, in our society, displaying a powerful intellect doesn’t lead to fame, yet running fast, shaking one’s tush, and being in a rock band do lead to fame.

    Call in the anthropologists. We need an examination, STAT!

  4. debbie millman

    Well I have to say that agree with you entirely about Sarah Silverman, and in my book 36 is still pretty young.

    (heh heh)

    “Smart” isn’t really dangerous, per se, it is just something that can not be too apparent. For example, regarding the women mentioned on Grant’s list–they must have some semblance of intelligence to have accomplished what they have, particularly at such a young age. But being smart isn’t what these women want to be known for.

    I think that being smart and seeming smart are too entirely different things.

  5. Patricia

    I agree-Natalie Portman is an intellectual celebrity role model for young women. Although “V for Vendetta” wasn’t the blockbuster it should’ve been, Portman’s casting was no accident. If I look beyond media celebrity, I’d name Condoleezza Rice as an intellectual role model for young women. Rice isn’t that young of course, but relative to politics she is perceived as more youthful than her male counterparts.

    Grant- your question about young celebrity men is a good one. In the media venue I’d have to list Dave Chappell as a “smart” young male celebrity. However, I think gender does play a part when casting into the celebrity pool. Although I come up short for smart, young male actors, if I widen the net to include sports and technology, young, male, intellectual celebrities pop up much more frequently than women. My list would include Tiger Woods [sports], Larry Page & Sergey Brin of Google [tech], Trey Parker & Matt Stone from Southpark [tv production], Barak Obama [politics], and Justin Timberlake [music]–smart enough to dump Spears before her train wrecked. Slightly older smart male celebrities would include David Blaine [magician], Rivers Cuomo of Weezer [music], and Ethan Hawke [actor].

    Male celebrities from any genre seem to have a longer shelf-life than their female counterparts. George Clooney’s grey locks would be unthinkable on an older Natalie Portman, no matter what her IQ is.

    Thanks for such an intelligent blog!

  6. steve

    I don’t think entertainment celebrities are important role models, except for a small number of ambitious and/or talented people who are serious about becoming point guards or pop singers.

    Fictional characters provide more opportunities for role-modeling because it is easier to play imaginatively with the boundaries of their identities. You get to see a “true” view of these characters, unmediated by spin and gossip. You can abstract away from their unreal context to sense the essential virtures and flaws they personify.

    So smart role models for girls? Veronica Mars?

  7. Patricia

    I’ve just returned from the Nat’l Popular Culture/American Culture conference in Atlanta. They had plenty of good sessions dedicated to media icons. One session I attended discussed the new female action heros portrayed in movies such as The Matrix trilogy, Resident Evil, and Tomb Raider. While at the session I’d also thought of Sigourney Weaver in the Alien series–who was one of my favorite fictional female role models while growing up. Trinity and the female lead in Resident Evil in particular portray strong, independent, intelligent females who are caste in usual male roles as action heroes. This seems to be a new trend in Hollywood.

  8. Auto

    do you mean ‘real’ smart or just marketed/packaged so that the public presentation = ‘smart’?

    either way, none of those names on grant’s list really indicate smart to me.

  9. May

    How can you know whether these girls are smart or not? have you been hanging out with them? Isn’t this forum as vacuum as you claim their role to be?
    Leave these girls alone…
    and let’s turn our attention to the kids we know well (family, friends, students), what worries them? what do they need? are they receiving love, protection and education?
    Have you noticed how parents, educators and friends tend to blame the “role models” in the media forgetting THEIR role as models to their kids?
    Who spends more time with your kid: MTV or real people?

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