We Still Miss You, Karen Carpenter
Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Karen Carpenter. (Cue line about rain, Mondays, and feeling down.)
And while the internet is still screaming with puns about Beyoncé‘s electrifying Super Bowl performance and the subsequent blackout, Karen Carpenter will have a more muted presence. Which is precisely the way she would have wanted it.
The Advocate, noting Karen Carpenter as an “unlikely gay icon,” tells us that:
No, Karen Carpenter is not Beyoncé. She isn’t Lady Gaga either. While Lady Gaga uses fame as fodder and perpetually embraces the notion of being “plastic” and “fake” as a touchstone trope of her work, Karen Carpenter’s fame seemed to only cause her grief.
Karen Carpenter was certainly aware of her fame and its plasticizing effects, but that awareness led to a severe eating disorder. In his emotionally resonant camp film, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, Todd Haynes “documented” fame’s objectification of the singer, literally casting plastic dolls as the actors.
Contrary to many contemporary popular media representations, not every LGBT person craves the spotlight; not everyone wants to be a diva dancing amidst the flames. After all, a spotlight can be seen as a confining ring of light; a wall of fire can be seen as a barrier.
As Karen Carpenter sings in Superstar, “Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear / But you’re not really here, it’s just the radio.”
Being a superstar/diva may sound sweet, but to some that sweetness isn’t as real as it sounds.