Friday, 17 August 2012

The Return of Girl Power


Published in The Vine online today, written by Genevieve Rosen, is a rather well-considered article in the wake of the re-formation and appearance of The Spice Girls at the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony.  The interesting thing about her writing is that the de-mystifies the appeal the group has to its target demographic.

When the Spice Girls hit the radio in 1995, I was a 19 year old male adolescent - not exactly who the creators of the group were aiming for.  As a result, all the virtues that Genevieve describes in her story I completely missed at the time.  

The thing with any music for me is that I look past the media spin and past the cultivated imagery surrounding an artist and focus purely on the music.  I didn't like what I heard.  I still don't like it.  Dance pop of the variety the Spice Girls were known for just doesn't do it for me.  But that's a matter of personal taste, mind you.  Plenty of people did like it.  It also meant that any and all of the associated cultural componentry attached to the Girls was also lost on me.  Add to that the fact that the group were contrived, manufactured, formulated and marketed to saturation point and there was no way I was going to pay them any serious close attention.

In her piece, Genevieve describes how the Spice Girls encouraged young girls to feel good about themselves, to have thoughts of their own and to respect each other.  To stick together, to value friends and friendship.  These are noble concepts, to be sure.  But how much of that was really understood by their 4th grade-age audience?  How many girls at the time were looking for a role model to copy, and the Spice Girls were it?  How many girls took these ideas with them into teenage-hood and adult-hood?  My own view, as I saw it, was that for all their brashness they were sexually aggressive - almost as though if you looked at Ginger Spice the wrong way she'd swiftly kick you in the balls.  (If nothing else, the Spice Girls only hinted at that - soon after, Alanis Morrisette on her debut single "You Outta Know" left no doubt in anyone's mind what her intentions were!)

Inevitably the problem with things like the Spice Girls is that they were so iconic for their time that they tend to remain tied to their era; always reminiscent of a fashion that in retrospect looks pretty gaudy now.  The music hasn't aged well, but those who enjoyed it once before will cherish the nostalgia value of seeing the Girls on screen again now, and who can begrudge them that?  We all have something from our past that we loved then and still have a soft spot in our hearts for.

...and after all these years, those opening words "I'll tell ya what I want, what I really really want..." still have the power to make me shudder in horror.  Horses for courses, really.  Viva la difference.

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