Hopefully, you've been following Lady Gaga's mostly preposterous columns for V Magazine. It's been a chance to see the world's favorite sensationalist evolve, like a college freshman, from the hungover self-righteousness of her first column, to second-semester signs of budding critical thought.
Her latest sermon is on the perniciousness of what she calls "Extreme Critic Fundamentalism"—a type of harmfully negative fashion journalism practiced, solely it seems, by beloved front-row curmudgeon and New York Times scribe Cathy Horyn. Gaga opens with a question: "Doesn't the integrity of the critic become compromised when their writings are consistently plagued with negativity?…When we can predict the same predictable review from the same predictable reviewer?" It's a valid query and the answer is, "of course." Thing is, in targeting that question toward Horyn and her kind, Gaga has missed something important.
In fashion coverage, cheerleaders outnumber qualified critics 100 to one. The Internet is heavy with posts and pieces heralding the genius of this designer or the transcendental beauty of that product. Rigorous appraisals of fashion are rare and precious.
Despite Gaga's claims to the contrary, Horyn is educated exquisitely in fashion, art history, economics, and many other subjects that make her an outstanding critic. She can be as effusive in praise just as she can be damning with words (both Nicola Formichetti and Gaga herself have felt Horyn's sting). As well, these Extreme Critic Fundementalists—as Gaga calls them—are some of the few people who take fashion seriously, who demand more from it, who, sometimes just through the act of writing, can compel a designer or brand to grow artistically. Rather than upending talented creatives, critics provide an intellectual framework for improvement and innovation.
Gaga is obsessed with citizen journalism, with "the range of artistic and brilliant intellectuals," she hears from every day on Twitter (is she looking at the same Twitter we are?) Democratically she asks, "Why have we decided that one person's opinion matters more than anyone else's." The answer is, we haven't—not really. The world is free to (and usually does) ignore Horyn and stock up on all the dreck it wants. But sometimes, when looking at something new and ambitious, it helps to have a true expert in the room, someone who expects more, someone who knows bullshit when she smells it. Whatever Gaga says about her, Horyn has an excellent nose—one we trust and value.