Academic journal article Hecate

'I'm Sorry-I'm Not Really Sorry': Courtney Love and Notions of Authenticity

Academic journal article Hecate

'I'm Sorry-I'm Not Really Sorry': Courtney Love and Notions of Authenticity

Article excerpt

`I'm Sorry -- I'm Not Really Sorry': Courtney Love and Notions of Authenticity

This article tells a story. In a way, it is one of the classic American dreams. It is the tale of someone -- lacking in cultural capital -- who makes it. It confirms the myth of meritocracy that underwrites America: anybody -- if they want it enough and work hard enough -- can make it. Yet the protagonist of this tale has not gained the usual universal praise that the embodiment of the dream expects to garner. Instead family services took custody of her child, and a documentary accused her of successfully plotting to murder her husband.(2) Many, including friends, ex-lovers, her father, journalists and various celebrities, have expressed open animosity towards her. This is the story that circulates around and through the celebrity of Courtney Love.

The narrative I spin makes no claim to be a `True Story.' When writing on celebrity, it is impossible to convey the `truth' of the real person. The media's many portraits and the audience's multitudinous and mutable perceptions have morphed the person into a media cyborg wearing a `celebrity skin.' The issues of our time play out on the surface of their skin as an audience stares in rapt attention. Greil Marcus worried that his exploration of Elvis would `merely reduce something we cannot quite get our heads around to something that can be laid to rest by a line.'(3) Marcus emphasises the difficulty facing cultural commentators who write about stars: the temptation is to remove inconsistencies to provide a smooth argument. To be a `star' is to embody an array of contradictions. To write out these discrepancies is to remove what makes Love -- and all stars -- fascinating. Instead I choose to let the contradictions pierce this narrative. The overarching structure of this article is linear: Courtney Love's public life divided into three clear stages as marked by her band's albums. Still, recurring and clashing themes interrupt this linear progression. I argue that Love is particularly relevant for feminism. That her celebrity communicates an array of contrasting feminist meanings. This article contends that Love's make-over, from punk rocker to movie star, highlights the contentious place that discourses of beauty and authenticity have within feminism.

Pretty on the Inside

In September 1991, Hole released their debut album, Pretty on the Inside.(4) This was a punk album, as signified by the voice of the angry young woman that screamed out on the title track:

Slut-kiss girl won't you promise her smack?

Is she pretty on the inside?

Is she pretty from the back?(5)

Poppy Brite, the writer of Love's unauthorised biography, writes that `Pretty on the Inside is often described by non-enthusiasts of punk as difficult or even impossible to listen to.'(6) Listening to Hole's first album is like experiencing aurally the visual equivalent of a large, weeping wound. This is music for a narrow niche market. This is an audience which defined `success,' not by record sales but by credibility; consequently the bands that had the most prestige in this scene were the ones judged to be the most `authentic.' Love states:

When I was making Pretty on the Inside, I had just been kicked out of Babes in Toyland, and I had a real chip on my shoulder. I was like, "I'm gonna be the angriest girl in the world, fuck you!" I didn't want to have a crack in my surface and put anything jangly on there.(7)

This is why Pretty on the Inside is more `punk-sounding' than a lot of the early punk records. In comparison The Clash, The Damned and The Jam sound positively melodic. In spite of -- or perhaps as a result of -- this purist punk sound, Pretty on the Inside sold very respectably for a punk debut album and was well reviewed in the music press. In fact it sold more than Bleach(8) -- Nirvana's first album.(9) However, this was a record in search of credibility, not huge sales. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.