Older men writing creepy profiles of extremely beautiful 20-somethings are nothing new – in fact, they come around with a terrifying regularity. But some are creepier than others, prompting prose bizarre enough to make headlines of its own. (Remember Vanity Fair’s insane Margot Robbie profile?)
The latest victim of a leering fashion magazine cover interview is Selena Gomez, who is the star of American Vogue for April 2017. As Jezebel notes, the story “Reduces Selena Gomez to a Fragile Archetype”, infantilising, pathologising and sexualising her all at once. Come, friend, and take a journey with me through this strange and uncomfortable profile.
Rob Haskell starts his interview by telling us all about a fun joke he made that made Selena Gomez laugh:
She responds with the booming battle-ax laugh that offers a foretaste of Gomez’s many enchanting incongruities.
Leaving aside the use of the word “battle-ax” (and its questionable spelling), let us note that it is seems to surprise Haskell that adult woman Selena Gomez has an adult woman’s laugh, presumably because he expects her to have the “rapturous giggles” of the children in “pretty dresses” he later describes.
If you are over 30 and find yourself somewhat mystified by Gomez’s fame […] watch the video for “The Heart Wants What It Wants.” (You will be late to the party; it received more than nine million views in the first 24 hours following its release.) Before the music begins, we hear Gomez’s voice as if from a recorded psychotherapy session, ruminating over a betrayal. “Feeling so confident, feeling so great about myself,” she says, her voice breaking, “and then it’d just be completely shattered by one thing. By something so stupid.” Sobs. “But then you make me feel crazy. You make me feel like it’s my fault.” Is this acting? Is it a HIPAA violation? Either way, there is magic in the way it makes you feel as if you’ve just shared in her suffering. Pay dirt for a Selenator.
This paragraph makes international pop sensation Selena Gomez sound like a begging Edwardian orphan who has somehow managed to make a multi-million dollar empire out of your pity.
As I slip an apron over her mane of chocolate-brown hair, for which Pantene has paid her millions, and tie it around her tiny waist, I wonder whether her legions have felt for years the same sharp pang of protectiveness that I’m feeling at present.
Where do we begin? The simultaneously paternalistic and oddly predatory tone? The fetishistic fixation on her body? The asides continuing to suggest that Gomez is more model than pop star?
The paragraph continues…
Even as she projects strength and self-assuredness, Gomez is not stingy with frailty. “I’ve cried onstage more times than I can count, and I’m not a cute crier,” she says. Last summer, after the North American and Asian legs of her “Revival” tour, with more than 30 concerts remaining, she abruptly shut things down and checked into a psychiatric facility in Tennessee.
We’re making a connection between thinness and “frailty” (am I in a Gothic novel?) and a mental health crisis in just three sentences. I feel dizzy.
“The Heart Wants What It Wants,” a ballad about loving a guy she knows is bad news. The title derives from a letter written by Emily Dickinson, though Woody Allen reintroduced the phrase when he used it to describe his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn.
Who thought it would be a good idea to shove in a Woody Allen/Soon-Yi reference in an article that simultaneously infantilises and sexualises its subject? WHO.
On August 15, Gomez uploaded a photo of almost baroque drama: her body collapsed on the stage, bathed in beatific light. Whether this was agony or ecstasy, it drew more than a million comments from fans.
You know that feeling when you go to an art gallery, and look at all the almost pre-pubescent nudes of blonde white girls with sad faces and skinny bodies and think, “Wow, dudes have been perving over these pictures for centuries and calling it art appreciation?” Yeah, that. Also: why do I imagine this guy is smoking a pipe?
In the tearoom at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel, little girls in pinafores and pink high-tops sit on heavily tasseled sofas and drink sparkling apple juice out of champagne flutes.
Let’s not talk about little girls any more. Please.
Doll-like and startled in pictures but almost breathtakingly at ease in person, Gomez was once described by her good friend Taylor Swift as “both 40 years old and seven years old”.
A sentence that starts by describing Gomez as “doll-like”, pauses to call her “breathtaking”, and ends by referring to her as “seven years old”. Well, I feel uncomfortable. Let’s go home.