I’ve got a soft spot for Courtney Love. I listened to a lot of grunge in my teens and early twenties, but it’s Courtney as a public figure that I’ve always found fascinating. She seems to not give a shit about the rules controlling what female celebrities are supposed to be like, and for that I love her. But, like all women who don’t follow the rules about looking sexually available yet “not slutty”/not being sexual after 40/not having a relationship with a man who is cheating on his partner/not complaining when you get groped at work/not having more than one sexual partner during your adult life/not being controversial in any way – Lara Bingle, Kristy Fraser-Kirk, Madonna, Camilla Parker Bowles, Germaine Greer, Candice Falzon, Britney Spears, Lindy Chamberlain, Lindsay Lohan, even Julia “can’t be a real woman because she doesn’t carry a handbag around the office and besides, I don’t like her earlobes” Gillard – she’s copped so much shit.
So it won’t surprise you that I’m annoyed by all the judging that goes on in this otherwise interesting article by Eric Wilson in the New York Times: Courtney Love: ‘I’d Like to Be Trusted Again’.
She looked, as she has for several months, remarkably well put together. Her appearance is a startling contrast to the very low standard she set for herself during the years when she relapsed into heavy drug use, went overboard with plastic surgery and behaved in a manner that could hardly be described as rational… But if she was trying to present herself as a more respectable lady, it did not help that she had just posted some naked photographs of herself online.
Talk about being Judgy McJudgypants: low standards + she’s not rational + naked photos = not respectable. Not deserving respect. And what about the idea a woman should be well-dressed at all times, even when she’s addicted to “hard drugs”? I’m in jeans, Cons, and a Goonies t-shirt – Wilson would have a heart attack.
The article is about Courtney Love’s role in the fashion industry, yet a big chunk just rehashes her past. And, annoyingly, when Wilson writes about a dress she wore, he hyperlinks to a NYT page about the designer, not to the picture of Love in the dress. That’s poor practice.
Our conversation stretched on for more than five hours, during which time Ms. Love demonstrated, as is widely acknowledged, a keen intelligence and a remarkable understanding of the fashion industry, both about its history and the way things work today. She came across as calm, funny and well read.
And then, back to judging:
The bed was unmade, and there was an overflowing ashtray on the night stand next to five prescription bottles and some junk food. “These are my wakeup cupcakes, some anti-depressants and a cellphone book,” she said without embarrassment.
Who gives a shit about whether her bed is made or not? Mine isn’t. Besides, it’s a hotel bed which simply means the interview was done before housekeeping arrived. And again with the judging: apparently someone should be embarrassed about taking anti-depressants. It’s 2010 and this is being published in the New York Times?
“I speak to you as someone who doesn’t want to be perceived as a train wreck,” she said.
“Living in L.A. had a really bad effect on me in particular,” she said, describing what sounded like obsessive behaviour regarding the legal cases regarding the rights to Mr. Cobain’s estate and allegations of financial wrongdoing.
Would that be the DSM-IV classification of obsessive behaviour? Is fashion writer Eric Wilson also a psychiatrist? How many rhetorical questions can one ask before one disappears up one’s own arse?
As Jenna Sauers writes in Jezabel in response to Wilson’s article:
Perhaps she realises that women are judged for their personal lives in a way that men in the public eye rarely are — where male rock stars who are neglectful parents with histories of drug abuse are concerned, the press narrative is, shall we say, markedly different… Perhaps she just doesn’t give a fuck.
I love Courtney Love. Because she’s not a role model — and, even more, because she has never aspired to be. Because she’s not passive. Because she’s a woman who takes issue with the view that she ought to be defined by who she used to fuck in the early 90s and who she gave birth to as a result.
The constant sniping about what female public figures look like always reminds me of this fabulous quote from Cher about cosmetic surgery: “If I want to put my tits on my back, it’s nobody’s business but my own.”
To the mainstream media, all female public figures are the same. A grunge/indie musician is supposed to invest the same amount of time and money in her appearance as a woman who gets paid to ensure her appearance fits within the narrow limits of what is considered “hot”. And when she doesn’t, she gets called a train wreck.