The name ‘Courtney Love’ brings to mind a divisive web of pop culture phenomena, imagery of vintage slip dresses and smeared makeup, conspiracy theories, and public controversies all centered around the mystical former front-woman of hit 90s grunge band Hole and wife of the late Kurt Cobain. From allegedly shooting dope while pregnant, punching Kathleen Hanna square in the face at the 1995 MTV awards, being the muse of a Gwen Stefani diss track, to even being the subject of a widely-accepted (false and far-fetched in my opinion) conspiracy theory that she masterminded her rockstar husband’s death, Courtney Love is no stranger to public scorn and remains a polarizing figure to this day. Her erratic behavior, chaotic public feuds that come out of seemingly nowhere, and unsavory tangents are contrasted by her incredibly lucid and biting feminist art, blacklisting herself from Hollywood by whistleblowing Harvey Weinstein fifteen years before MeToo, and her probably heavily mythologized but endearing backstory of rags to riches style ascension from a stripper-groupie to no-fucks-given junky rockstar.
Maybe just by virtue of me writing a think piece on Courtney Love that isn’t centered on cancelling her you can guess that I’m a little bit biased. As a disaffected sixteen year old girl with choppy uneven blunt cut bangs that would make even Grimes shudder, you bet your ass I was rotting in my own nihilism and giving myself severe hearing loss with ‘Live Through This’ fuzzily shaking the stereo of my poor 2005 Honda CRV on the ride to school every day. As someone who enjoys the art of some other questionable loudmouths (Azealia Banks, Ariel Pink, Morrissey etc), I feel a weird disconnect when appreciating emotionally resonant, melancholic, beautiful art created by people who have done/said objectively harmful things and kind of suck.
I distinctly remember more than one time in a social setting a Mac Demarco song come on and someone chime in “did you know he stuck a drumstick up his asshole on stage in front of minors”. In the age of the fixation on cancel culture and consuming art within the lens of morally analyzing the personal actions of pretty much every artist or musician (contemporary or six-feet underground), I struggle to balance not taking a morally authoritarian hardline stance of black-and-white condemnation while acknowledging the degree of power structures that are potentially reinforced and the morally-grey and complicated nature of consuming art “death of the author” style. To not ramble on too much about a topic that I most definitely don’t have the knowledge or authority to give a non-derivative opinion about, all I know is that I find myself laughing at Courtney Love’s shrieking into the online void.
It is probably a natural progression that a figure who has clawed for public attention good or bad for the last 30 years would migrate to the modern shit flinging rat-race for cultural relevance and attention that is social media. Long text posts reliving her glory days as a 90s it-girl under a grainy archival film photo, name dropping, liberal usage of emojis, stimulant-addled rants about the Foo Fighters that get deleted a day later, and new age self-help mantras have peppered my instagram feed since I started following her. I appreciate the whiplash inducing tonal shifts from an innocuous picture of her dog to the next day ripping Olivia Rodrigo’s Live Through This inspired album photoshoot to shreds to a birthday shout-out to Kate Moss with no acknowledgment from the latter. Something that I appreciate about Courtney Love is her lack of rationalization or apology for acting like a deranged weirdo. Unlike a lot of the more covert narcissistic personas of public figures masked by performative neoliberal activism and philanthropic gestures, Courtney love does not beat around the bush and puts it all out there from intelligent and hilarious to absolutely vile.
Recently she has been trying to connect with the youth culture of today. After noticing a lot of teens have been attacking her for her 90s indiscretions, repeating Kurt Cobain murder conspiracies mindlessly absorbed via the tik tok algorithm, and calling her an “old hag” she was fed up. Under an esoteric series of post-ironic text-post memes she posted a long paragraph detailing her understanding and affection for our generation and our sense of humor. Instead of lashing out in intergenerational bitterness she light heartedly reclaimed the word hag describing herself as “Yassss. Serving sexiest hag alive since 1964!🐾🥕😘🍓💀🤗”
“They’ve had to grow up in late stage Capitalist realist psycho bullshit online, non-stop, IG filters, beauty standards which are the beauty standards of extinct elves, no self esteem, now a plague, and fuck knows what for their futurez”
In a couple of brief sentences entirely comprised of niche buzzwords that would be literally impossible to explain to a pilgrim, she perfectly captures the gen z consciousness. “Capitalist realist psycho bullshit” or “the beauty standards of extinct elves” could be screenprinted on a tank top and sold on depop for $40 a piece and I would buy it. The enveloping sense of precarity that looms in the background of the collective psyche as well as the increasingly idealized and curated online social world that we are bombarded with constantly is the perfect recipe for ironically detached and absurd memes. Courtney continues to post these memes made by teenagers and young people and seems to understand the appeal. I hope she continues down this path of social commentary and channels her chaos for good. Rock on Courtney xx 🥕🥕🥕🥕