The 'Karen Del Rey' Question: When Our Faves Become Problematic

Over the past year, Lana Del Rey experienced a transformation unlike any other in her long and fruitful career, transitioning from the sultry, nostalgic pop star behind certified sad girl bangers, "Video Games," "Summertime Sadness," and my personal favorites, "Love" to her newest form, what some are dubbing the era of Karen Del Rey

While the Lana has had her fair share of problematic moments, including wearing a Native American headdress in her 2012 music video for "Ride," and performing in a scene depicting rape in an unreleased project that may or may not have had something to do with Marilyn Manson, The past year has been particularly questionable for the pop star. 

Quite a screenshot from her "Ride" video. Oof. 
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In May, Lana first caught flack for a long note she posted on Instagram, wherein defending herself against accusations of anti-feminist lyrics, she trashed several other artists, the majority of whom are women of color. "Now that Doja Cat, Ariana, Camila, Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyonce have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating, etc. -- can I please go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money -- or whatever I want -- without being crucified or saying that I'm glamorizing abuse??????" (Not cool, Lana, not cool.)

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Since her post, the singer has garnered accusations of Karen-dom after dying her hair blonde later this summer...

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 ... and more recently, faced notable backlash last week after she wore a bedazzled-mesh mask to signing for her new poetry book Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass at a Los Angeles Barnes and Noble.

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Once again, all I can say is oof, and apparently, so could other angry fans on social media. "Lana Del Rey really went from 'I got my red dress on tonight' to 'I got my mesh mask on tonight,'" noted Twitter user, @lanasmysoulmate ...

 
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Other users used gifs to express their discontent ...

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... including one that sums up how I feel about this situation pretty well...

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I was, and on some level, still probably am a massive fan of Lana Del Rey. Her music is sultry, poetic, and fearlessly feminine, and has been the consistent soundtrack of my adolescent life. But to ask the age-old question in our time of cancel culture, what are the ethics in stanning someone who has had such a problematic past? We all make mistakes, yes, but where is the line? What is my responsibility to those who her actions have harmed, including women artists of color, and everyone who takes Covid-19 seriously?

Since May, I've made a point to avoid listening to her songs on any streaming service and instead fulfilling my fix for "Video Games" with bad YouTube lyric videos and the Trixie Mattel cover that has been stuck in my head for nearly a month now, thanks, in part, to my roommate who sang it for days on end after its release. 

That said, I can't help but wonder what Lana would have to do to redeem herself. How can she make it right? I don't have to answer to this, yet here's what I can say: if your favorite artist does something problematic, call them out. Is forgiveness possible warranted? That's only something you, and the people the person in question harmed, can decide.

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