I’m not usually big on fashion, but I do follow the hell out of two things: Maggie’s wonderful post-award show roundups here at HOF, and literally everything Celine Dion decides to put on her body. Honestly, she wears a work of art every time she’s seen in public, and I can’t get enough of it. So yesterday, as I was seated at a table at my favorite coffee shop, catching up on my Twitter feed as I got my caffeine fix, I was excited to find this article from The Guardian, “A Titanic moment: how Celine Dion became the fashion icon 2017 needs.” It sounded promising and it’s excellent timing—she’s in Paris as part of her current European tour, which just happened to fall on the same week as the city’s Haute Couture week. What better way to prepare for the day than by reading up on Celine’s foray into the fashion world? But then I got to the end of the article:
“Clearly, there is something ironic in the cool kids’ adoration of the queen of thumbs-up enthusiasm and middle-of-the-road music.”
…I’m sorry, what?
Guys, I’m at a total loss as to how there are still articles like this about Celine Dion that go out of their way to completely discredit anyone who finds any joy in the music of Celine Dion, at any time of her career. This particular one didn’t even have anything to do with her music, and they still found a way to gut punch anyone who earnestly sings along to her catalog. If this was a one-off instance, I probably could have raged about it for a minute and then moved on. Lately, though, there seems to be an inexplicable need for the media to declare the embargo on any good feelings about Celine’s music lifted. In particular, there was an article making the rounds a few weeks ago detailing how Celine “became cool” in the past year, citing the death of her husband (who was also her manager) as a major turning point. Aside from striking me as a horribly ghoulish statement that definitely should have never seen the light of day, it just confuses me as to why this has to be a talking point now, or why it ever needed to be a talking point. The sudden praise seems incredibly backhanded to me; okay, cool, you finally dropped all your pretenses and started enjoying life. That’s great. But let me just pose this question: if the media is now totally fine with loving all the things they once hated about her, why in the ever-loving hell did those things garner so much hate in the first place? (Not by everyone, of course; just look at Kim speaking the truth four years before it became “cool.”)
A big part in this dismissal is something that Sage so brilliantly outlined a while back, when she tackled that weird and unnecessary stigma attached to boy band fandom: because Celine is best known for epic love ballads, and because a large part of her fanbase is female, her music and her following are somehow “less than.” There’s a bizarre need to justify consuming any form of media whose perceived demographic doesn’t fit the consumer. You’re a straight dude who got caught listening to “Because You Loved Me?” Then it’s for the irony. You want to praise her pursuit of fashion? Okay, her fashion’s on point, but her music though… (let me counter with “YEAH, HER MUSIC THOUGH,” because can you hit these notes?)
Here’s what the outlets churning out these articles apparently don’t get: no one really needs them to determine whether something or someone is worthy of our attention. They can say she was at one point universally reviled, but the 250 million albums and counting she’s sold worldwide beg to differ. Celine’s fans aren’t listening to her because they suddenly decided to declare her cool again; we were completely fine with our choices long before they felt the need to try to legitimize them. We embrace the things that they’ve seemed to ignore or flat-out reject for so long. I listen to Celine because she makes me feel something, because she’s always made me feel something (even when it’s in French and I understand 0% of what’s going on lyrically). Because she feels something every time she puts her voice to work. One of the things that I love the most about this woman is that she is so open with her emotions. She’s never afraid to show them, but where they think that discounts her, I think it makes her that much more admirable (would that we all felt as free to express ourselves as she does). Most of all, I listen to Celine because I like listening to Celine. She was always cool to me because I liked what she was doing. And that’s all the justification anyone ever needs.
Not to mention, sometimes the best catharsis is to put on something like “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” and belt it in the comfort of your own home. But definitely with the long version; radio edits are for quitters.
The sad part, though, is that sometimes, if you hear people discrediting her work—or anything you like, for that matter—often enough, it gets to you, and I know that from personal experience. I moved from Pennsylvania to New York City for college; I knew absolutely no one in the city and was desperate to make friends. The group of people living in my Freshman dorm that I happened to fall in with had a killer sense of humor and were really fun to be around, and more often than not, we would spend our days in the lounge (the ONLY place where you could have access to the internet that you didn’t have to pay for) swapping clips on YouTube. Which is how I saw those “Celine Dion is Amazing” videos for the first time, and how she became the long-running joke among the group, along with “ironically” listening to her hits (I still don’t fully understand the concept of ironically listening to something, to the point where I really don’t think it’s a real thing; just admit that you like what you hear and live your best life). So I sat back, plastered a smile on my face and made a mental note to keep my Celine appreciation in check during these hangouts. Save the sing-a-longs for the *limited* privacy of the dorm room (looking back, I just want to give Past Sarah a hug and show her the light that includes a bunch of amazing friends to be made in adulthood who really don’t give a flying fuck what you like, as long as you’re happy). Keeping up appearances was important. I was convinced that it would be fine to keep that part of me secret.
But where’s the fun in that?
Fandoms are not flawless by any means, but one of the greatest thrills in life is to find a person—or a group of people—who loves the things you do with the same amount of passion. Because then you truly know that you’re not alone. It’s not so much about validation; it’s more about camaraderie. It’s about being able to give a voice to your opinions to people who are willing to listen and give their own, instead of simply keeping quiet. It’s about having people to freak out about the new release, or the new tour, or the new interview with. It’s about forming bonds with people that go beyond that mutual interest, that lead to honest to god friendships and relationships, connections that simply add more love to the world. But if we keep being discredited just for liking what we like, if the need to justify every choice we make with our entertainment keeps rearing its ugly head, if that discourages us from speaking up about our interests, how do we find our tribes? And how do we ever get past that ridiculous notion of guilty pleasures?
Because THAT, in essence, is all that this nonsensical justification does: it reinforces the guilt part of guilty pleasures. The people who are the most vocal about it says this thing is shit, so I should be ashamed that this gives me any sense of joy. Seriously? Screw that. Never, ever, ever feel bad that you know every single word to every single song from this singer, or have seen every single episode of that TV show, or have read every single page of this book multiple times. The whole point is that this thing makes you happy, that it makes life a little more enjoyable, no matter what this thing happens to be. And really…they’re getting your money whether you try to justify it or not, so why not just be honest?
The bottom line is this: it’s impossible for any piece of art/pop culture/what have you to be all things to all people. And that’s a good thing; can you imagine how boring the world would be if everyone had the exact same passions? So why would you ever introduce commentary under a headline that will obviously appeal to a certain fan base, but then craft it in a way that ends up insulting that fan base? Or, as I had the complete and utter misfortune of coming across during a quick Google search as I gathered my thoughts for this post, feel the need to take a few paragraphs to just mercilessly shit all over someone’s success for absolutely no reason? (Look at The Guardian being a repeat offender here!) I’m not saying that you’re never allowed to have a negative opinion. But there’s a line between voicing that opinion constructively and just being cruel, and at a certain point, you have to start wondering what happened to make these people actively try to suck the joy out of everything, and why it bothers them so much that there are people out there who *gasp!* don’t see things the same way they do. This world is hard enough as it is; where is the actual harm in taking solace in an expressive, genuinely enthusiastic singer with a crazy amazing vocal range?
This post is in no way an attempt to make everyone who stumbles upon this love Celine (in fact, I’d be willing to bet that those who came here were already fans in the first place), or an attempt for any sort of validation of my interest; I’ve been doing just fine regardless of whether or not you think I’m wasting my time with this, and I will continue to do so. But if you take nothing else away from this, just know: it’s okay. It’s okay to like Celine Dion. It’s okay to like whatever you like, even if someone else says you shouldn’t. Guilty pleasures aren’t real if you feel no guilt over them. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s possible to have dissenting opinions on these things without making the fan in your life feel like shit for being enthusiastic about them.
I’ve said my piece. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to marveling over everything that’s going on with these glasses: