Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Cher (centre) in a scene from "Burlesque"
Cher (centre) in a scene from "Burlesque"

Lynn Crosbie: Pop Rocks

Divas like Cher are no friends to women Add to ...

"You haven't seen the last of me," Cher torches in Burlesque - her comeback vehicle, opening Wednesday.

If you receive this news as a chilling line from a horror movie, you, too, understand the trouble with divas.

Divas are, by definition, female opera singers; that is, overblown, piercingly loud, brilliant women. But the word grew, last century, to encompass stage and movie stars. Or women whose existence was the essence of camp: "travesty, impersonation, theatricality," in Susan Sontag's shorthand.

Previous columns by Lynn Crosbie

Consider the squalid late life of Judy Garland, or Barbra Streisand's chilly imperiousness: Divas are women idolized by drag queens and whose lives offstage, camera or outside Las Vegas are lived in the Diaspora.

Lately, to be a diva is to be, plainly, stuck-up, spoiled and deeply unpleasant.

Cher's comeback is making headlines: She is on the cover of the new Vanity Fair; she is all over the news and was given big play on this week's 20/20, where she somberly told anchor Cynthia McFadden that she was a good mother, "in fits and starts."

But more on Chaz Bono later.

The return of Cher is good news for large numbers of gay men. But, for women, the persistence of the diva is disheartening.

These women - from Cher to Bette Midler to Liza and beyond - do not persist because of women's desire or obsessive fascination.

Possibly, there are women out there who actually enjoy Cher's nightmare synth-hit Believe; women who find Midler's caterwauling on about the invention of the brassiere in her stage play delicious; women who can watch Minnelli mumble-sing Single Ladies in Sex and the City 2 without feeling shame and revulsion.

Whoever they are, they do not travel in packs and, like me, enjoy a woman like Cher for purely sentimental reasons, or warily admire her obviously noir personality, which, like that of a Disney witch-villain's, appears to have kept her strong and artificially, truly, beautiful. But we have not organized November around the release of Burlesque, which, in advance clips looks like Cabaret passed through the same grinder that made Mariah Carey's Glitter.

And while we are gently heartened by the diva's world view ("I will survive!"), by her apparent timelessness and guts, we are simultaneously alienated by such women for they are gay icons who service a queer ideal of women that is, obviously, non-sexual, and rife with cruelty.

The diva is not a friend to women. Like one of Jackie Susann's chimeras, she lives for two things: a mirror and an audience.

As Cher, on the final leg of an exhausting and pay-dirt-hitting Vegas run (when asked about her vast fortune on 20/20, she deflected the question and demurred that she once held her shoes together with rubber bands), makes the interview rounds, she is reviving her career and, unfortunately, bad memories of her famous mean mouth.

"I was born yesterday, but not in Poland," she once hissed at Divine, who introduced himself as Elizabeth Taylor.

When Sonny Bono died in 1998, Cher - who disparaged him for years - seemed genuinely grief-stricken. "My sweet Sonny," she cried to the world. Yet she is now leaking stories of his infidelity and greed, as if this is salient; as if he can defend himself.

When Chastity Bono came out 10 years ago, Cher was widely reputed to have been deeply upset. She appears to have recanted and fully supports her transgendered son, whom she so often calls "she."

Chaz is credibly quoted this week in Mike Walker's National Enquirer column by an "insider" as saying, "My Mom does NOT accept my sex change - even though she says she does."

Yet no one expects her to be accepting or warm: That is not what divas do. In the Vanity Fair feature, Cher - who told Bono she thought the faces on Mount Rushmore had formed naturally - calls out a variety of "big idiot[s]" She does so without analysis, just glib dismissiveness, the same manner with which she turned on her friend Michael Jackson and said of his many surgeries, "He could just erase [his face]as far as I'm concerned."

This neo-Queen of the Night also calls Meryl Streep a "bitch" for succeeding; she slights Lady Gaga's couture as lightweight, and is the most paradoxical of goddesses: a sexy siren who emits not heat, simply ice and disdain.

Cher may well be the "chameleon" Bob Mackie calls her, but only in her reptilian demeanour and ability to adapt, cunningly, to her large LGBT following.

"Like the Statue of Liberty or the Pyramids," McFadden stated, wearily, of Cher, "she endures."

Not a bad burn, from a plain-Jane woman, who very likely, like many of us, has two nauseous senses of the phrase "And the beat goes on."

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeArts

 

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular