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:
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.
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.