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The spice of life

By Tony Carnevale
Arizona Summer Wildcat
June 9, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

My girlfriend bought a Spice Girls album today. We were in the music section of Best Buy, that great mecca of all electronic entertainment.

"For some reason, I want to get Spice," she said. I laughed, because this was obviously a joke. An intelligent, 20-year-old female, in what appeared to be full possession of all her mental faculties, as well as a healthy amount of cultural elitism, wouldn't dream of doing such a thing. At least, that's what I had thought. Then I saw that the album in question was, in fact, firmly in her grasp.

The situation was dire, but I could not show my terror. "That's nice," I said, fleeing for the software section. Any number of events might yet intervene. Even if my girlfriend didn't change her mind, the earth might mercifully open up and swallow all of Best Buy whole - this would be preferable to her purchase of Spice, and, I had thought until very recently, far more probable.

Sadly, the planet's rocky maw refused to eat us. I completed my survey of the video section (noting that the director's cut of "Basic Instinct" was $7.99) and rounded up my girlfriend. She still had the album, along with a mischievous glint in her eye. She knew that I didn't approve, and she loved it. On the drive home, I arranged my thoughts.

I decided that it's okay to enjoy trashiness - the Spice Girls, Jerry Springer, college journalism - so long as one's enjoyment is coupled with a recognition that one is intentionally and temporarily wallowing in mediocrity - "culture slumming," as it were.

I needed to know that my girlfriend liked the Spice Girls because she was subversively appreciating their complete uncoolness, and not because she was suckling indiscriminately from the maternal teat of mainstream culture. This required tact. I waited until we got to her apartment before striking.

"I'm a little disturbed that you got a Spice Girls album, heh heh," I said over the soulful drone of "2 Become 1." The "heh heh" was supposed to indicate casualness, but sounded more like a disquieted Beavis.

"I like the Spice Girls, okay? It's a girl thing."

I turned the CD booklet over in my hands. Posh Spice, her pulchritudinous limbs arranged in a manner that could not possibly have been comfortable, stared back. "What, exactly, is this 'girl thing?'" I inquired, the very portrait of calm.

"They're powerful women, you know? 'Girl power' and all that."

"If they have so much power, why are they wearing only slightly more clothing than zoo animals?"

The response was quick, reflexive, catchphrase-like. "Because they can do what they want with their bodies."

"Apparently what powerful women want to do with their bodies is make them appealing to men." I relaxed, a smug grin on my face. I had definitely triumphed in this skirmish.

Still, the fact remains that a whole lot of chicks dig the Spice Girls, and not because they like Scary's ass, but, bizarrely, for pseudo-feminist reasons. As far as I can tell, Hugh Hefner is more of a feminist icon than Emma Bunton.

It would be one thing if the Spice Girls merely sold their enjoyably fleshy bodies, but they're just so irritatingly contrived. That's not news, but the elaborate micromanagement behind the maintenance of the Girls' "image" bears reexamination.

Ex-Spice Geri Halliwell, known as "Ginger Spice" for the majority of her tenure, started off as "Sexy Spice." I swear to God this is true.

Geri was Sexy Spice, and everyone knew it. Who knows why her nickname was changed? Is "Sexy Spice" too racy? We'll never know. One day she was "Sexy," the next morning she was "Ginger."

If that wasn't enough, the world apparently suffered mass amnesia, ignoring the name-switch entirely. Here's an exact transcription of a dialogue I recently had with the most rabid Spice fan I know, who, of course, happens to be female.

Tony: Wasn't "Ginger Spice" formerly known as "Sexy Spice?"

Fan: "Sexy Spice?" What's that? Like, nutmeg?

Tony: Geri Halliwell, formerly "Sexy Spice," underwent a mysterious nickname-change to "Ginger Spice," and nobody seems to know or care!

Fan (eyes glaze over as she shambles evilly towards me): Human... knows... too... much. Must... kill.

Conclusion: the Spice Girls are the puppets of an international brainwashing, zombie-army-creating cabal hell-bent on the destruction of not merely good taste in popular music, but all humanity.

Not that I care. The video for "Say You'll Be There" is on, and Sporty is about to do that high-kick. Mmm.