Under the Microscope: Flipside With Lana Del Rey

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Queen of the Tumblr generation or of the romanticized, "Sad Girl" façade? "Under the Microscope" is a look at cultural trends from a social standpoint- the progressive, the harmful, and all the gray area in between.
Lana Del Rey, born Elizabeth Wooldridge Grant, is an American alternative pop star with heavy vintage influence. Her voice and use of lush orchestras, retro themes, and ever-misery have made her a distinct musical artist. Lana takes her own experiences with love, adventure, and questioning and conveys them through the lens of her own persona- creating something completely different in a 2010 era of electronic beats and shallow messages. She has acquired a large and dedicated fan-base of mostly teenagers, and her notoriety has been achieved partly due to her prevalence on social media/ blogging website Tumblr- possibly the first to do so and setting off the "Tumblr Queen" alternative wave of artists including Marina and the Diamonds, Melanie Martinez, Sky Ferreira, Halsey, and more. Personally, I adore Lana Del Rey. The dramatic presence she has created is addicting to see in her unique videos and songs, and I am firm in saying no one can pull it off as well as she can. However, there are some aspects of her that are not as rosy. 


Image result for lana del rey maxim

Body Celebration

Along with her many other talents, Lana Del Rey has been thought of as something of a sex symbol. Gracing the pages like Maxim and Rolling Stone, it is clear that she is a beautiful woman. Her body, however, is different from the media's seeming ideals: toned and tanned, stick thin and lanky, curvy in all the right places. It instead resembles something more underrepresented- yet, she is still esteemed as someone attractive. Given that her fan-base is widely in the teenage girl niche, this fact can be something encouraging and very beneficial. Having someone you hold to such a high esteem in beauty (and otherwise) possess a body you can see in women every day is helpful to women who, growing up, often experience body image issues. You don't have to be as skinny as a model or as curvy as the Kardashians to be considered sexy, and Lana Del Rey is showing that.



Lana Del Rey is nothing if not sad. And there's a problem with that. The issue is not with the despair itself, but the way in which she conveys it- as something tragically beautiful. Depression is ugly and should be treated as so, but the image Lana projects through her social media and songs suggest otherwise. In an interview leading up to the deaths of young musicians Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, Lana del Rey proclaimed that she wished to die young, too. This received backlash from Kurt's daughter, Frances Bean, respectively, saying that Lana should not romanticize their tragic deaths. Lana del Rey portrays it as a something of a heroic happening, but these artists she claims is attempting to imitate have led horrible lives of drug-abuse, suicidal tendencies, and more that should not be simply glossed over. 

But, the biggest culprit is Lana's songs and what the lyrics speak of: dependence, abuse, vague pedophilia, and more. You can find these in almost every single Lana Del Rey song- most notable examples include: 

"I can sirens, sirens...he hit me and it felt like a kiss. I can hear violins, violins...give me all of that Ultraviolence."
- Ultraviolence. Besides the obvious references to an abusive relationship, the song gives nods to cult leaders and their similarity to Lana's undying obsession with her lover. Cult-ish and violent tendencies can be seen in her songs "Religion" and "Pretty When You Cry", as well. 

"Come on you know you like (good) little girls..."
- Put Me In a Movie. Though this is not under any of Lana del Rey's work, the girlish themes about an older man can be seen more subtly in songs like "Lolita", "Off to the Races", "Cola", and more. 

"Your soul is hunting me and telling me that everything is fine, but I wish I was dead."
- Dark Paradise. Utter, deathly dependence on a person is one of the themes that most characterizes Lana's problematic work. Although I believe you can find examples of it in every song, the hit "Born to Die" might be one of the better, and more well-known, examples.

Image result for lana del rey tropico

Cultural Appropriation

Much like many other celebrities, Lana Del Rey has been the carrier of some cultural appropriation in her music videos. In the short film, "Ride", Lana sports a vague, general Native American headdress. More hallowing is her use of Chicano culture in her short film, "Tropico". Down to the teardrop tattoo, she stands as the star in a gangster life complete with Los Angeles lights, white tank tops, 99 cents stores, the stripper scene, and religious references. Her Latino friends stand as a backdrop to this fantasy. This reduces a culture to a single idea, a single item of clothing that can be worn and thrown away with ease. It perpetuates stereotypes and Eurocentrism-. Lana Del Rey's response to the accusations
(that she has Latino friends) are the equivalent of someone claiming they simply cannot be racist- they have one (ONE!) black friend.

All in all, Lana has much that she pays no regards for or brushes off, and the body aspect is but a mere coincidence (she is definitely not some body image guru, nor has ever spoken of being one). Though Lana Del Rey still holds a very special place in my heart as the very first singer I deeply immersed myself into, she still has the potential to do a lot more for the communities she attributes part of her fame for. 

All in all, it is up to you to be a thoughtful consumer and take into consideration how problematic the things you listen to, watch, and read can be. Let me know what you think! What should our next "Under the Microscope" be on?

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