"Stupid Girls"

by Rob Horning

16 May 2006


I haven’t heard the new album from Bucks County’s finest, Pink, (okay, I haven’t heard any of her albums, but I do know a guy who claims to know a guy who claims to have made out with her in high school) but this article from The American Prospect by Devin McKinney piqued my interest. McKinney argues that Pink could be on the vanguard of a backlash against the feminist backlash.

Many teenagers manage to elude the stupid-girl virus. But as many as escaped it 30 years ago? Pink’s song asks precisely the right question—are we going forward or back?—and spots the single salient detail in what seems to be no more than the latest pop style for girls. Namely, that vapidity and vacuity are not mere byproducts of stupid-girl style—they are key to its chic. Where competence and self-sufficiency were once considered essential to the pop-cultural female image, now the behavioral accessories are docility, ditziness, and a dazed willingness to spread—with maybe a dash of diva sass for tossing at some predatory ‘ho.”

However, McKinney also worries that teenagers may end up thinking Pink’s negative message is what’s stupid—if they were right-wing dogmatists rather than teenagers, they might call her a cynic. Of the You Tube videos of girls’ lip-synching to the song, McKinney notes, “you can’t tell if these mirror starlets are making fun of stupid girls or being them—recasting Pink’s wrathful screed as their sitcom theme, their vindication as a subspecies of modern celebrity: stupid girls who emulate stupid girls to the tune of ‘Stupid Girls’.” Perhaps pretending to be stupid in order to get an audience can be considered a special kind of smart. I am sure there are some “optimists” out there willing to argue for that kind of empowerment. But I tend to agree with McKinney.

Pink should also be thanked for churning up something we pluralistic pop punters don’t always like to admit: that, as liberating as it can be for some, for others popular culture is a plastic bag over the mouth, a caul suffocating the abilities and the imagination, allowing only the merest possibility of escape from the blandishments of consumerism and the brain-dead end of tabloid celebrity. The way it happens, these “others” are usually girls.

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