MIA polka dot body suit everywhere.
You can learn a ton about pop culture by watching an awards show on TV. This year's Grammys were particularly fascinating in the ways they dealt with women and our sexuality. You got M.I.A. about to pop, Katy Perry doing faux dyke and an unfortunately absent Rihanna.
Let's start with the good.
What a total joy it was to see M.I.A. performing in a polka-dot body suit while knocked up. No hiding the big bump there - strong, powerful and nine months pregnant, M.I.A. showed alot of mojo just by showing up at the show on the dot of her due date. Awesome. Add the body suit decked out with a painted-on bikini and the effect was totally yummy. Let's all kiss goodbye the days when pregnant women wore dresses with big bibs on them that not only hid the pregnancies but actually made a pregnant woman look like the baby.
Speaking of kissing, what's up with Katy Perry? Most of the time I kinda love it when pop culture appropriates lesbianism and makes it appealing to teenaged girls. So, kudos to Perry for putting a little lesbo love on the pop charts in the form of her huge hit I Kissed A Girl [video].
But the tarted up performance by Perry at the Grammys - did she really make her entrance inside a banana? - wins awards for dumbness. Never mind that she can't sing live and screeched her way through the number, or that she can't move either, except to wave her ass around a little bit. Her little bustier was ridiculous and all those women doing their imitations of the long-gone and lamented Solid Gold dancers humping away were laughable. Thank the goddess for Perry's little green flats - they were the only thing in the number that looked like anything resembling something a dyke might wear.
Not that I'm looking for reality from Katy Perry and her transgressive little song - can't resist the hot reference in the lyric to the taste of her cherry chapstick - just that this performance didn't look transgressive at all. It was more like a soft variation on porn - sexy lesbos designed for male viewing.
Interesting, too, that another song called I Kissed A Girl was a big hit for Jill Sobule in 1995 (watch her sing it here). Totally different vibe. There's irony there, and since 1995 saw the era of Riot Grrrls, it had a context. The main difference? Perry hopes "her boyfriend don't mind it." Sobule says, "I'd do it again."
But it was who was invisible that made Sunday's Grammys tragic.
Rihanna and Chris Brown failed to appear after Brown allegedly perpetrated an assault that evening, possibly on girlfriend Rihanna herself, though that's yet to be confirmed. The police are waiting for more evidence to surface before they decide whether to press charges.
Doubtless Brown has his own story to tell about his painful childhood experiences but it does make you wonder how such hugely talented female performers - Rihanna's been on top of the music world almost all year - hook up with loser guys?
I guess that's one positive outcome here: people get to see the reality of violence against women, namely that it doesn't just happen to one kind of woman and that strong, successful women, too, can get sucked into an abusive relationship.
If the Grammys are anything to go by, pop culture's regressed when it comes to referencing girl-on-girl love, determined to make it seem just stupid. But we can take some solace in the fact that we've obviously grown alot more comfortable with pregnancy. Happy birthing M.I.A.
As for Chris Brown - I hope he gets his shit together and that he gets some help. Whether this is the end of his career is unclear - he's lost a few gigs and at least one radio station has taken him off the play list.
Then again, it looks like Michael Phelps is experiencing more consequences for taking a coupla tokes. I'll be pissed if Brown gets the R. Kelly treatment. That R&B recording artist was dogged by rumours of his involvement with underage women and his career barely missed a beat.