After the emergence of the now infamous crotch shots, famed cultural critic Camilla Paglia has come to believe, like everyone else, that Britney Spears has turned into a slut. But Camilla understands how Hollywood works, so she has special insight into what went wrong.
And in her view, the problem with Britney and Paris and the lot can all be traced to the decline of the old studios:
These are women who are clearly out of control because the old studio era is over. The studio system...guided and shaped the careers of the young women who it signed up. It maximized their sexual allure by dealing it out in small doses and making sure you don't have -- what has become here -- a situation of anarchy.
Good Lord! A situation of Anarchy, like there's stripping on the Boulevard! Camille sounds like my grandma!
But in any case, her point is that the whole dispensing of T&A is not supposed to proceed willy-nilly. Just a flash of boob here, a touch of ass there, can stretch a career out for years, maybe even until the girl's past thirty. It's like honey. A taste and they come running back. Throw 'em great gobs of the stuff and its value declines.
The obvious rejoinder at this point is: Madonna has spent the last two decades nekkid. How does she stay relevant? Paglia's answer, once again, appeals to the business dynamic of the star system. Madonna's years of recording success have given her the right to strip:
Madonna was able to flash her breasts and play peek-a-boo because she is an authentic, creative artist who churns out song after song, project after project.
But Britney seems like she's lost and the career track is obliterated
That is, in Madonna's case there is no need to skimp on the bare flesh in order to preserve her market viability. Paglia doesn't give a scale--for example, ten million albums = the right to expose both tits--but apparently Madonna has moved enough units that she can go the Full Monty any goddamn time she wants and nobody has cause to complain.
All of which seems a bit sexist to me. For example, Neil Young is an "authentic artist" who has sold millions of albums. And yet if he were to set up a grinding poll on stage at one of his concerts, get up there and wiggle his schlong to "Heart of Gold", he'd be locked up, even though this would be at least as entertaining as watching Madonna shake her stuff. Because at this point in her career, nudity is something Madonna inflicts on the public, not something the public demands or even wants from her. And yet when she does it there is no legal consequence.
As one final note, I ran the search terms "Camille & Paglia & Naked" through Google Images, looking for something to illustrate this post with. And I found Nada, not even a caricature or a picture of Camille's head shopped to the neck of a play-boy bunny.
Some things are just too horrible to contemplate, I guess.
So I found a picture of Madonna instead...
On another final note, I tried, really tried once to read Paglia's Sexual Personae, but stalled out at about page 80 because I kept stumbling over her constant use of the term "Cthonian". In fact, the term refers to the worship of spiritworld gods. I, however, mistook it for "Cthulian", meaning "...associated with Cthulu, demon overlord in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.".
At the time, the notion that Emily Dickinson's poetry (for example) might have been influenced by Cthulu, an evil octopus from space, seemed implausible. If I were to read the book again, presumably my experience of it would be quite different.