In Praise of Lana Del Rey

Singer Lana Del Rey speaks during a ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, August 6, 2019. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
A singularly independent celebrity mind

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE ‘O ur culture is sick,” said Lana Del Rey, with unnerving accuracy, after being accused of racism for identifying a feminist double standard. After tumbling backward accidentally over a progressive tripwire, the 34-year-old singer-songwriter made no apologies. “I remain firm in my clarity and stance in that what I was writing about was the importance of self-advocacy for the more delicate and often dismissed, softer female personality,” she said in an Instagram video.

Good for her!

This (entirely pointless) controversy began when Del Rey argued for “the need for fragility in the feminist movement.” She pondered in an Instagram post why it was that other artists — women she admires, she later clarified — such as “Doja Cat, Ariana [Grande], Camila, Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé” all achieved praise and success with “songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, f***ing, cheating, etc, [sic],” and yet her own work “about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect,” had resulted in her being “crucified” (perhaps a slight exaggeration) and accusations that she was “glamorizing abuse.”

Del Rey’s crime was that she had failed to notice that her list of comparators were all women of color. Teen Vogue’s Danielle Kwateng-Clark deplored “the Caucasity of it all.” Slate columnist Jamilah Lemieux tweeted: “I don’t know who was giving Lana Del Rey a hard time but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Black women. Girl, sing your little cocaine carols and leave us alone.” (Which is funny, at least.) Jezebel writer Ashley Reese wrote: “The optics of Lana, a white woman, complaining about feminism lacking space for her while critiquing the acclaim allotted to several black pop artists is mortifying.” Another writer for BuzzFeed called her “arrogant and ahistorical.”

But wait — who said anything about race? Del Rey is adamant that this was not at all her point. “The fact that they want to turn my advocacy for fragility into a race war is really bad,” she said. I’ll say! Further, she’s adamant that racializing feminism says more about her critics than it does about her. “I’m sorry that a couple of the girls I talked to, that I mentioned in that post, had a different opinion of my insight,” she wrote. Still, an experience such as this “makes you reach into the depth of your own heart and ask, ‘Am I good intentioned?’ and of course for me the answer is always yes.” Always? The saintly celeb then unwittingly continued to stoke progressive rage by making yet another comparator to an artist of color. “When I get on the pole, I get called a whore, but when Twigs gets on the pole, it’s art.”

“I barely ever share a thing, and this is why,” Del Rey said in response to the uproar. “There are women out there like me who have so much to give and don’t quite get to the place spiritually or karmically where they’re supposed to be because there are other women who hate them and try and take them down whether it’s other singers, mal-intented [sic] journalists or, you know, men who hate women. But I’m not the enemy.” Indeed.

The episode recalls that of Alison Roman, whose food column at the New York Times was suspended after she criticized two successful women, Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo, who happen to be of Asian descent, and then — contrary to Del Rey — after criticism conceded that her non-racial remarks must have been, subconsciously, racial. What Roman actually said was that Teigen’s business model was too commercial, which “horrifies” her, that Marie Kondo had “f***ing sold out.” But bizarrely, in her apology she wrote:

I’m a white woman who has and will continue to benefit from white privilege and I recognize that makes what I said even more inexcusable and hurtful. The fact it didn’t occur to me that I had singled out two Asian women is one hundred percent a function of my privilege (being blind to racial insensitivities is a discriminatory luxury).

By refusing to back down, perhaps Del Rey will come out of this asinine controversy with newfound dignity. Then again, perhaps not. “As ever I’m grateful that my muse is still here and that I’ve been blessed, have had the ability to be able to channel two books worth of beautiful poems,” she said. Out of interest, I checked some of her poems and was pleasantly surprised. Despite using text-speak and emojis, some possess striking images and a commendable lyricism. Del Rey also makes good use of allusion, as can be found in “What happened when I left you.”

My life is sweet like lemonade now there’s no bitter fruit [fruit emoji]

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

Similarly, in her song “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have — but i have it,” she invokes the “muse” of Sylvia Plath: “I’ve been tearing around in my f***ing nightgown, 24/7 Sylvia Plath/writing in blood on the walls cause the ink in my pen don’t work in my notepad.”

Anyway, all this to say that I have newfound respect for this singularly independent celebrity mind. In particular, her sign-off to her I am not racist! follow-up video struck just the right tone. “God bless,” she said to her some 16.5 million followers. “And f*** off if you don’t like the post.”

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