What I Really, Really Want – Viva Forever!

Posted by in August's Magazine

Over the past two months we’ve been positively spoiled with Spice Girls media appearances, this month we saw the pop crusaders at the Olympic closing ceremony inspiring the crudest form of dad dancing ever witnessed (from top politicians no less!) and there was last month’s poptacular news that Viva Forever! will be hitting London’s West End. Yes, the Spices reincarnate will be performing all of the Girls’ greatest hits with the blessing of the full Spice contingent. The news had a dizzying effect on my inner tween and if it weren’t for Posh’s sobering scowl at the press event I’d have taken the rest of the day off work. Instead I suppressed my screeching 10-year-old self and feverishly sourced dates, prices, tickets and times.

While scouring I came across all kinds of articles that hauled the age old ‘Girl Power’ movement out of it’s grave, painting these women as crusaders of the modern feminist movement. I hear you Baby, Sporty, Ginger, Scary and Posh – you made being a girl cool, so long as we dressed like we had daddy issues and wore shoes that brought a whole nation within inches of an ankle apocalypse.


Selfish bitch
The Spice Girls weren’t feminists and nor were their followers. Their fan base wasn’t brimming with empowered ten year olds poised to burn their trainer bras at a moments notice. Girl Power didn’t inspire bright careers in the political arena or in third sector organisations – the few places, if any, to make a difference. Instead the Spice Girls were the genesis of a superficial feminist hysteria that held no real credibility as personified by the characters the band members assumed. Baby Spice? Emma Bunton, you adopted a paedo-magnet persona that had connotations of sexual purity, naiveté and a dependency on breast milk; a blazoning juxtaposition that embodied so innocently all that the Spice Girls sadly weren’t.

They may have been a consistent vision (until Geri shattered it by leaving – selfish bitch) of female unity and friendship but that’s a little different to being true spokeswomen of the Vagina Agenda. Parallel to the Spice Girls’ popularity in 1997, the Canadian musician Alanis Morissette was the big deal across the pond. No artist with the same commercial success embodied a more truly feminist figure than this woman. But quizzically, the Spice Girls’ and their fanatical followers shed more light on the movement and the band were henceforth supposed leaders of a modern feminist ideal. Though I was a fan, this ideal was lost on me.

As I wiggled alongside my tweenster friends to the latest synchronized Spice routine I didn’t experience any kind of feminist enlightenment and nor did I feel that we were flying some kind of clumsily executed feminist flag. I really felt like my friends were being a little too harsh about my dance moves, that maybe I was a bit out of step and that this was fast becoming one of the most undignified and painful moments of my formative years.

Yes, the Spice Girls’ popularity stood for something and shed perhaps not great light but certainly a light on the sexual inequalities of the time and at a time when there was really little light on the issue, this can only be a good thing. Being at the epicenter of popular culture yields great power and for some, great responsibility.

Take Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber and their number one Jubilee single. Imagine the crushing pressure of writing a song for the Queen they both adore with the weight of an entire nation’s high expectations on your shoulders. Imagine your creative integrity questioned by someone who might be talented enough to be your equal. Imagine a flop. That’s impossible. Slapping two of the most well behaved British household names on the bill as creative directors sealed the deal but this love song to Liz was just as manufactured as the Girl Power movement.

Tory tosspottery
Lyrics like ‘So tell me what you want, what you really really want’ are hardly feminist vernacular and I think it’s clear that the Spice Girls are not feminists but equally they are not irrelevant either. The appearance of Take That and the Spice Girls at the Olympic closing ceremony was more than a celebration of two household pop acts. Barlow’s appearance was a distinctly brave performance following a very public family tragedy. It also sparked, for both good and bad reasons, another important debate on internet trolling.

And the Spice Girls? They showed us that despite most of them being yummy mummies they can still perform two of their hits with such crowd-pleasing gusto that it lead to the aforementioned gold medal winning performance in dad dancing from that protagonist of Tory tosspottery, Boris Johnson. Whether my generation went out to fight feminism’s corner as inspired by Girl Power, pigtails and actually quite difficult dance routines, I don’t know. What I do know is that at least, on some level, the Girls’ still make it look like a hell of a lot of fun.

Twitter: @StephHeph

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