Delete Your Account is a weekly column that takes the hot air out of celebrities and their social media shenanigans. Every Friday, I will decide whether or not each perpetrator should delete their accounts and never grace the internet again. This week, Lena Dunham is exhausting, Madonna has had it with thirsty Lady Gaga stans, Patton Oswalt goes on his first welcome Twitter rant, and Martin Shkreli hails Hydra.
Earlier this week, Lena Dunham and frequent Delete Your Account subject Amy Schumer engaged in an exhausting conversation about how the internet doesn’t understand their senses of humor and also how Lena joined the X-Men after she was able to telepathically determine that because Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t approach her like Ice Cube at the Met Ball and say, “Get your ass up and hurra,” he didn’t want to have sex with her and …
Every celebrity knows that the key to ongoing relevance is starting a feud with another celebrity. Last week, we dove into how the fake feud between Brandy and Monica to sell records boiled over into a real one, and now we get to dive into the never-ending drama between Lady Gaga and Madonna.
When Gaga first hit the scene with “Just Dance,” her visual style immediately drew comparisons to Madonna. Given that Madonna is a pop music icon, the comparisons were inevitable — everyone from Britney to Christina to Katy Perry has earned the same scrutiny to varying degrees. It wasn’t until Gaga’s performance at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, however, that the comparisons became something Madonna needed to address. Gaga’s striking performance of “Paparazzi” harkened back to the days of Madonna’s own legendary VMA performances, like her rendition of “Like a Virgin” at the first-ever VMAs in 1984, so MTV News’s Jim Cantiello asked Madonna about the performance backstage. Madonna complimented Gaga’s outfit, with just a hint of shade (“she looks like she’s going to carnival in Venice”), and said that she was "very flattered" by comparisons to Gaga.
This was, of course, before Gaga released the single “Born This Way” in 2011 which … sounds exactly like Madonna’s 1989 single, “Express Yourself.” The similarities are unmistakable. When asked about it on ABC News, Madonna responded with, “I can’t really be annoyed by it … because, obviously, I’ve influenced her. When I heard it on the radio … I said, ‘That sounds very familiar.’ It feels reductive.” Interviewer Cynthia McFadden asked Madonna if “reductive” was a good thing, which led to one of Madonna’s top shadiest moments ever.
Later that year, when Madonna kicked off her MDNA tour in Tel Aviv, she mashed up “Born This Way” and “Express Yourself,” then led into her 2008 track, “She’s Not Me.” The shade was evident. Gaga shot back during her own concert and told fans, “I don’t even want to fight back because it’s more important to me to keep writing music.” However, aside from an appearance on “Howard Stern” in 2013 where Gaga said, “I don't want your fucking throne,” their feud has been more of a Cold War for the past three years.
In 2015, Gaga was mostly off the pop music radar, busy touring speakeasies with her production of Edward Albee’s The Death of Bessie Smith or whatever it is she was doing with Tony Bennett. In order to drum up some controversy for her Rebel Heart album, Madonna had to resort to the tired line about “[pitting] women against each other,” because, thanks to Taylor Swift, every pop star who once enjoyed trading barbs with a rival in the press had to suddenly act like competition was antifeminist. “We live in a world where people like to pit women against each other. And this is why I love the idea of embracing other females who are doing what I’m doing. It’s important for us to support each other,” sounds especially hollow from Madonna, who has thrown shade at Whitney Houston and other pop stars throughout her career.
Which isn’t to say it’s all negative. Most of Madonna’s shady moments used to be playful, because that’s what pop divas did in the ’90s. Before the days of girl squads and pretending your music videos aren’t about a feud with Katy Perry, pop divas openly commented on one another in interviews. It was all in good fun and no one took it seriously until social media demanded everyone play nice. Mashups at concerts as shade? Calling Gaga reductive and then saying “Look it up?” That’s fucking hilarious, and it’s why I’ve always loved Madonna. It’s only when she plays the victim, like during her Prince tribute or calling her son the n-word on Instagram, that I’m ever like, Really girl?
Luckily, the shade Madonna threw at Gaga this week is altogether delightful, mostly because it’s 80 percent shade at Gaga’s insane fan base, which has been spamming radio stations pretending to be soccer moms so they can get Gaga’s new single, “Perfect Illusion,” spun nonstop on the radio. I wish I were making this up, but I’m not. As it is with stans on social media, half of them are serious, half of them are deranged. That’s what makes it funny. It’s funny, but like I said, it’s also deranged. But that’s what you have to expect from stans on the internet these days.
Madonna obviously heard about this scheme, which is what prompted her tweet about soccer moms. For the first time in quite a while, Madonna dropped a bit of shade that’s actually funny and clever, even if she is still referring to herself as the Queen. Lady Gaga already said she doesn’t want your fucking throne, sis, especially if it’s the one you used for that Prince tribute.
SHOULD MADONNA DELETE HER ACCOUNT? Nah, I’m actually feeling the Material Girl this week.
MARTIN SHKRELI, PART I
Martin Shkreli gained notoriety when he upped the price of a drug used to treat HIV patients last year. After getting arrested for fraud and misappropriating funds, there was pretty much nothing else for him to do but slink away into obscurity. But he didn’t, because Twitter exists, and it’s where all the horrible people on the internet converge to highlight how abysmal humanity can be.
Shkreli’s annoying-ass Twitter presence is somewhere between Brandon Wardell and an egg avatar on the scale of awful. His photo references black slang and his bio mentions Harambe. He’s a fucking idiot and there’s absolutely nothing funny about him. But he sure thinks he’s funny! There’s nothing else to say here about his fight with Stephen Colbert, because Colbert’s response was funny and Shkreli has the juvenile humor of an Adam Sandler comedy and responds to people with “suck a dick” like that’s the best insult that's ever been cooked up in all of humanity. Something that a large number of humans do for sexual pleasure is still the funniest joke that Shkreli and a 13-year old can think of when someone comes for them.
MARTIN SHKRELI, PART II
Now, while I generally enjoy Patton Oswalt as an actor and a comedian, I would gladly attend a G-Eazy concert of my own volition (and pay full price!) to never see him troll people on Twitter just so days later he can go, “You weren’t in on the joke!” Thankfully, this isn’t one of those situations. He was merely joining in the #TrumpCantSwim hashtag and Shkreli chimed in with “who r u again.” Which ONLY EVER WORKS as a response when someone addresses you. When you tweet “who are you?” at someone who isn’t even talking to you, you sound like a bird squawking from someone’s chamber door.
Oswalt got in a couple good barbs at Shkreli, but he also engaged with him far longer than any reasonable human being should. A good drag should be able to stand alone. Don’t let other people pull you into an ongoing trading of barbs when you have better things to do. And when it comes to Shkreli, literally anything else you are doing is better than arguing with him.
MARTIN SHKRELI, PART III
SHOULD SHKRELI DELETE HIS ACCOUNT? Shkreli should hire a bodyguard while he’s out here trying to start fights with Captain America.
GABRIEL ROTH VS. MERRIAM WEBSTER
Imagine getting dragged on Twitter by Merriam-Webster. Then imagine writing a cloying think piece about how you were dragged by Merriam-Webster and using it as a treatise on internet harassment and how brands will be taking down civilians in the future. To do any of these things, you should probably work at Slate. You should also be a white dude with a complete lack of self-awareness.
First of all, for someone who devoted so much time to writing about how internet culture is changing, Gabriel Roth broke one of the cardinal rules of Twitter when he started his “tweet storm” about Merriam-Webster: He tagged Merriam-Webster in the post. Listen, if you don’t start no shit, won’t be no shit. Don’t @ someone if you don’t want them to see your tweets! If Merriam-Webster had searched its name and tried to drag Gabriel, that would have been pathetic. But if you @ someone, you don’t get to act surprised when they respond.
Second, this isn’t even the first time a brand has done this — especially a brand with an amusing social media presence. I’ve been dragged by Chipotle before. Denny’s and IHOP do this shit all the time. But then again, those brands tend to engage with nonwhite people on Twitter, not people who speak dismissively about the word “drag” or imply that the phrase “delete your account” was banal until Hillary Clinton used it. And on the subject of the latter:
Third, Gabriel’s initial read of Merriam-Webster ... wasn’t funny. Who gives that much of a damn about Merriam-Webster’s tweets? He could’ve saved himself the trouble and made an article out of it — that way no one would’ve read it but we could’ve hate-shared it anyway. Instead, he put this boring essay out into the depths of Twitter as if it was profound. It wasn’t. But Merriam-Webster’s response was.
It’s profound because it was not only funny, but it sucked the air out of Gabriel’s initial argument. He called Merriam-Webster narcissistic, as if his original tweets weren’t narcissistic themselves. As if then writing a think piece about it isn’t the most narcissistic part of this entire thing. Gabriel points out how many people have enjoyed mocking him this week, as if he didn’t completely invite this mocking on his own. Which is nothing to say compared to the harassment women and people of color experience on the internet daily.
But then again, Gabriel doesn’t even think the response was clever, so we’re pretty much at an impasse here. Toward the end of his essay about the incident, he writes, “Even if the brand were to become aware of your zingers ... [you believe] the brand is prevented by commercial imperatives from acting like a dick in public.” But what do you do when a Slate editor is being a dick in public?
SHOULD GABRIEL DELETE HIS ACCOUNT: No, I want to be able to retweet Merriam-Webster’s response every weekend.