In the Stupid Girls video from her latest album, Pink is supposed to have made fun of Paris Hilton, Mary Kate Olsen, Jessica Simpson, and Lindsay Lohan. When asked to explain, here’s what Pink had to say,
None of these girls are stupid. (sic) They have dumbed themselves down to be cute. I just feel like one image is being forced down people’s throats. There’s a lot of smart women. There’s a lot of smart girls. Who is representing them?
This is going to be an interesting cultural artifact in 100 years.
But why wait?
Here are 5 of the assumptions in evidence.
1) that these women have dumbed themselves down.
2) that "one image" is being "forced down people’s throats."
3) that smart women and girls need "representation."
4) that representation is the artist’s job.
5) that the way to represent smart women is to mock dumb women.
1) that these celebrities have dumbed themselves down.
I don’t know that this is so. Perhaps Pink has met the women in question. Perhaps they have revealed to her secret subtleties and depths. Maybe. Maybe there are what they seem to be, pretty ordinary except where blessed with beauty, talent, charisma and a fan base substantial enough to make a studio executive wet himself at lunch.
I prefer to think of celebrities as experimental vehicles. Experimental airplane are often named with an "X." (For instance, the "XF-92A" flew between 1948-1953, serving as a test for the delta-wing.) We could adopt this practice: Paris XHilton would signify that she is an experiment from whom we expect to learn something. In her case, we are looking at a girl who is well born, not quite with us (a little like Peter Sellers as Chauncy Saunders in Being There), inclined to sybaritic behavior and the scandalous, without a flicker of the lascivious or any apparent loss of status or celebrity. Now we know. It is not clear whether this is the triumph of self possession or the effect of watching too many Jerry Springer shows, but now we know that some people can do just about anything without cost. We also know, or more accurately we are inclined to suspect, that there is not the performance of stupidity. Paris XHilton has crafted herself in many ways but it is not clear that she dumbed herself down.
2) that one image is being forced down people’s throats.
This has got to be wrong. For every Paris XHilton, there is a Jody Foster. For every Jessica XSimpson, there is a Diane Sawyer. For every Lindsay Lohan, there’s an Ani DiFranco.
3) that smart girls and women need representation.
This is an ideological remainder from the 70s and the 80s. The cultural imaginary created for and by the media. We read these heavens to orient ourselves in physical and moral space. But because this imaginary has been crafted by and for special interests, some images are excluded. It is someone’s job to install these images in the heavens. Thus did the Mia Hamm and the US women’s soccer team of the 1990s help create big changes in the way in which young women thought about sports, competition, and soccer. For every Paris Hilton, there is a Madeline Albright. For every Jessica Simpson, there is a Condoleezza Rice. For every Olsen twin, there is is an Oprah Winfrey.
4) that representation is the artist’s job.
The avant garde are the keepers of culture. It is up to them to refashion our ideas. They do this by dint of their own courageous example. They will create new understandings of who and what we can be.
I think this is now the celebrity’s job. That’s the service they supply us when they act of experimental vehicles. The artist’s lost this assignment. Popular culture took it away from them.
Of course, Pink is a celebrity, and in that capacity she is influential. But when she summons this explanation of her video, she is playing the artist’s card, claiming the artist’s prerogative. And my argument here is simple: celebrities instruct by example, artists by instruction.
5) that the way to represent smart women is to mock dumb women.
This is a dubious strategy at the best of times. It is not clear that anyone has rights of mockery. This right once did exist and it was routinely exercised. Elites would commander the op-ed page and hold forth against "young people today," "movies and TV," "professional athletes," or "wayward adults." We have been hammering away at elites for so long, and they have been misbehaving themselves so consistently, it is heard to see that they have much authority left. Blessedly, we rarely hear from them. But Pink believes this authority still belongs to her
Pink is many things of course, but punk, or pop punk, is an important part of the franchise. Punks defined themselves as the enemies of bourgeois hypocrisy. They protested everything that was false, posturing and inauthentic about middle class society. I am not sure but I think when punks are your moral arbiters, things are going very badly indeed. If I must choose an exemplar, I have to choose Ron and Nancy over Syd and Nancy. I just have to.
Still and all, there is something interesting and worthy about the "Stupid Girls" video, and I have made the cardinal error of listening to what the artist’s says about her art, instead of looking at the art itself. It’s has a little too much of the burlesque about the video, but it takes up important issues and I am deeply glad Pink made it.
Collis, Clark. 2006. The Upside of Anger. EntertainmentWeekly. March 31, 2006. p. 35.
Pink. 2006. The Stupid Girls video on IFilms.com. See the video here.
“This has got to be wrong. For every Paris XHilton, there is a Jody Foster. For every Jessica XSimpson, there is a Diane Sawyer. For every Lindsay Lohan, there’s an Ani DiFranco.”
C’mon dog. How ’bout a couple of female representatives who are top of mind with teenagers. 😉
Thats exactly the point. The “smart” women examples are all older, perhaps “matronly”. There aren’t many young celebrity women equated with high intelligence that could be mentioned as effective role models. Maybe Queen Latifah? She’s not exactly a sex symbol, or that young either.
Although I see Grant’s point, there does appear to be a [dare I say it] “double-standard” where intelligence and gender intersect, that may or may not be generated by the media. It’s rather subtle, but Pink’s “Stupid Girls” does touch upon it rather coarsely.
It was much worse in the 70s-80s, but not much better now. Its difficult to discern what comes first, the media’s parade of dumbed-down female celebrities, or the mediocre masses’ insatiable appetite for it.
Either way, to perceive that smart young females are ignored for the more mundane sexy airheads is in some way a cultural insult. But I’m not sure if any postmodern culture can mix sex and cerebralness in a young female celebrity and be successful, although on the other hand intelligent, sexy, handsome male celebrities [like George Clooney for example] have one up on their less intelligently perceived counterparts [like a Mathew McConahay]. What about Keanu Reeves [i read shakespeare dudes!]? Jury’s still out on that one 🙂
Tom, good challenge. Thanks. Grant
Patricia, yikes, I am quite prepared to believe that the is a “smart girl” shortage here. No, I’m not. But that’s not because i can think of counter examples. let me consult the experts and my TV guide and get back to you. Thanks for a great comment! Best, Grant
Here goes: buffy is now almost a generation off the mark, but as a fictional character would she not qualify. And how about the women in Gilmore Girls. Fictional again. Hmmm.
This is interesting!
i think you are taking her explanation too literally and have been slicing her arguments into microscopic proportions that you have lost track of the simplicity of her message. stupid girls is a song about the stereotypical cutesy, ditsy, blond and booby. personified by the likes Paris Hilton, Mary Kate Olsen, Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, and britney spears and mariah carey(think glitter oh god!) ad infinitum. simply put, the stupid girls video is relaying a timely message about popular role models for young people. Stupid Girls makes one think; which is precisely why the song is a work of genius. Put it this way, if you love mc donalds hamburgers and you didnt know that it wasnt really very good for you, wouldnt you then be at least appreciative if somebody who knew otherwise told you so? come on, lets not try question the artist for making a postive contribution. lets be real ok?
Michael, yes, I think its a useful corrective, and the comments here make me see that Gen Y could be a generation that is not well endowed with conspicuous smart women. This is crazy to contemplate and I am still trying to figure out whether it’s true. Thanks, Grant
Pink rocks! Is that meant to be Jess Simpson she makes fun of in the bright pink Juicy couture suit? Jess simpson is sooooo UGLY!
we might also think of how much exposure the media affords us in relation to the “foils” of the likes of Paris, Jessica etc. How much airtime and printspace does Jodie Foster get and is that in mainstream media or the quirky afficionado niche media? I think that repetition and volume still seem to work better than word of mouth and quality, and access to a more independent medium of communication, like the Internet,which was hailed as the ultimate liberator from the claws of corporate media, is not really helping. Google is a good example of what is considered hot and it’s not Jodie Foster, as top searches still include Paris and Jessica :0(. So maybe we are complacent in believing that there is an alternative. It’s like saying that Coca Cola’s reign is alternated by Innocent Smoothies 🙂
I accept Pink’s message. She doesn’t want to be a stupid girl, good for her. I don’t want to be a stupid girl either, however, I believe some do and all the power to them! This is one of the things that makes life interesting and people unique(if not a little annoying at times). Probably most interesting to me is this. While she is mocking these “stupid” girls in her video, turn off the sound. Instantly, Pink becomes one of them! Maybe deep down Pink wants to be a “Stupid” girl. It’s one way of picking up a dwindling career, isn’t it?
no. This video surpasses McCracken’s weakly critical comments. The fact that mass media does severely shape the views of the lives of young (especially the growing numbers of uneducated) whether the women pointed out are indeed stupid may be questionable but it would be hard to argue that they act quite stupid/frivolous/materialistic. Perhaps stupity is a marketable commodity. Another distraction from the growing inequality, world poverty and despair alluded to in the video. This video seems to have a positive message about basic morality, self-awareness, and pursuing higher consciousness. I see nothing at all wrong with these endeavours. Perhaps it is a sign that the more (recognized ) artists are “representing” and engaging in the critical dialogue that is persistently marginalized. Stupidity may “make life interesting” but it the manifestation of the disorderly remnants which strangulate vital dissent. In fact, stupidity encourages the growth of ludicrously extreme inequality (in its many forms) directly correlated with poverty, crime etc. Education is the answer folks!!!
Pink’s not a regular Nobel prize winner herself either. Didn’t she use to make videos in her underwear with a ton of makeup on her face, just like the people she now looks down on? Reeely unstupid!
The song “stupid girl” gives a message that girl’s don’t have to make themselves throw up to be skinny or to be beautiful. Because really what there really doing is making themselves more ugly. If girls stopped being so self-centered and if celebrates give a good example of how a girl is suppose to be like than maybe they wouldn’t be stupid. Pink might not think there not stupid but I think they are stupid girls 100% of the way. Also the music video is asking if the girl sitting on the chair watching tv would grow up to be a stupid girl or try to be the first girl president. Almost as if asking if she’d pick the doll or the football. I think she should pick the football because if she does than she won’t be a stupid girl in this world. Trust me we have enough stupid girls in this world. I use to be one of them but I grew out that and I wish that if that song does have a meaning to other girls they’d stop and get help for what they need. Stupod girls have a caused this world to be more harder to live in and if girls really try to be themselves and not the next supermodel than they would have a better futuer for other girls who are eighter babies or not born so they could be more happy. For you stupid girls out there, you know those girls who throw up, or don’t eat, or wanting to be a model, or are self-centered girls you need help fast. Trust me life will soon be over for you if you keep it up.
Wow, 4 months and people are still talking about this song! P!nk’s done her job then. 🙂
You know, I think that some “Stupid Girls” do their stupid things because of stupid boys. In fact, the chorus goes “Maybe if I act like that, maybe he’ll call me back” or something similar… stupid boys who are shallow and sexist want stupid girls who will just be… giggly and stupid. And since media is male-dominated, well no wonder more attention is paid to the skinny bitched with big boobs, and of course our children pick up on it, etc. And even if you’re a smart girl, or an avarige-intellegence girl whoa t least has commen sense not be be distracted by shiny things, well.. when your the sort of person who’s desperate for love, or at elast acceptance, you might be going down the stupid path befoe ou know it. However, you really ARE smart if you dump that loser’s ass. 🙂
I read interview with P!nk, she said “Being sexy doesn’t have to come with the price of being stupid”. Exactly. P!nk’s good-looking but she’s obviously smart, as well as fed up with there not being enough ambitious girls. P!nk’s obviously more about music than image, unlike, saaaay, Britney? Britney’s definitly a stupid girl, I mean, on top of all her stupid stuff she did as a pop star… she could have any guy she wanted… and she wanted that HICK? And had a KID with him? And is now walking around nearly DROPPING him? Eeediot! Now, Christina Aguilara, definitly not a stupid girl by my book? Shows her body? Yes. But any sign of easting disorder? NO. And she got married a few months ago too,m but it was to a record prducer if I recall, not some trailer trash. Yes, she is Beautiful, no matter what they say. And another pop girl who’s sexy and smart is Gwen Stefani. Has she dueted with P!nk? She should.
Right now I’m sure Paris, Lindsay, the Olsen Twins, Jessica, Britney, and the like aren’t too bothered. They’re rich and probabyl too stupid to understand anything… but I wish that P!nk would do more than jsut this song. She needs to tie the bitches down and lecture them, LOL. 😀 But, that’s probably illegal anyway, kidnapping and stuff. HEre’s what I think those bitches need to do if they don’t want to feel anymore wrath from P!nk, or me, or anyone else.
Paris – Honey, you got all that cash, do you know how much FOOD you could buy? Yes, FOOD! Ribs? Spine? Not sexy to look at. I mean, if I had your money I’d buy a million pizzas and sandwiches and a whole tanker truck of Coca-Cola… eheh, anyway, also, do something about that freaky one eye of yours. I mean, it was kinda a cute distinctive feature of yours, but now it’s just creeping me out like nothing else.
Nicole (Ritchie and Hilton) – Yes, I’m addressing Paris’ friend and sister here. EAT SOMETHING, PLZ!
Jessica – First of all, honey, the stupid act isn’t funny anymore. Yes, “chicken or tuna”… that joke’s 3 years old now. Second, I need you to take a good listen to your father. Your FATHER. Who talks about your BREASTS. Now, I know he’s a Christian, but if daddy touches you at night, well, I don’t think he’s a true one then. Of course, if you ENJOY it…. you either have issues or really are too stupid to know what’s going on. Read a book on sexual abuse and inappropriate relationships. Then, RUN LIKE THE WIND, JESSICA!
Lindsay – Like I’ve said to Paris & co.: EAT SOMETHING. Seriously. That rack of yours you used to be popular for? Where’d it go? It wasted away! Eat, and you’ll probably get the “twins” back, haha. And learn to drive correctly, plz.
Olsen Twins – Um.. okay, I think it’s only Mary-Kate with the eating disorder… so, if you’re getting help, good for you. If not, get it. And if you really are on cocaine… well, girls, let me put it to you like this… vomiting isn’t sexy, and neither is putting anything up your nose, mkay?
Britney – Well, uh… hmm… Bush supporter… child endangerment… married to a hick… ruined “(I Can’t Get no) Satisfaction”… STILL in the spotlight after all that….. no, can’t try and help her… Brit, jsut kill yourself, mkay?
And finally to all of the above – A DOG IS NOT DISPOSABLE. Srsly, either take care of your yappy little rats— I mean chihuahuas, or don’t get any. The ASPCA shoulda had your asses by now.
Wow! 4 months! That’s like an eternity for today’s crappy music.
Great job at the 2006 vma’s Pink rocks!
i like the song because it has a real persation to it.
give sme more picters