Have you ever wondered what future awaits children whose parents constantly tell them how everything they do is genius and laudable? Wonder no more. Last night, Lena Dunham did her best Lena Dunham impression as she lip-synced her way through Sia’s “Chandelier” on Late Night with Seth Meyers. There was temper tantrum flailing, running around with toilet paper, and bunk bed spooning. Some are calling it interpretive dance; I’m going to go with self-indulgent and embarrassing.
Sure, this all took place on a late night comedy show, and shouldn’t be given too much thought. But this thoughtlessness reflects a troubling trend of various modes of artistic expression being carelessly appropriated by celebrities too unskilled to pull them off (see: every novel, film, dissertation, whatever by James Franco).
In 1990, the boys of Milli Vanilli were castigated for lip-syncing, a fate shared by Ashlee Simpson a decade later. But this emphasis on authenticity has all but vanished. Britney Spears is known to not sing live and is rumored to use a backup singer’s vocals as her own on her records, yet she has a well-attended Vegas residency. And Sia doesn’t even bother performing her song, but has a celebrity do something random to get some buzz instead. The goal for artists no longer has much to do with the art and everything to do with going viral.
Even talented musicians like Sia have to resort to gimmicks like this to get us to notice, not because they don’t have something artistic to share with the world, but because the world no longer wants art. We demand spectacle instead. We don’t have time to listen to a whole album, but we have just enough time to share a viral LOL-worthy video. To paraphrase a famous quote, we accept the art we think we deserve. If the viral nature of this Sia/Lena Dunham collaboration is any indication, we don’t think we deserve very much.