World yawns as cardboard Kylie takes off clothes

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The Independent Online
KYLIE Minogue has produced a book of photographs in which she is clad only in hotpants and laddered tights, skimpy jumpers and knickers, vinyl bikini bottoms and transparent tops. She has also appeared naked on the cover of Sky magazine. I was never wholly convinced by Madonna that you can be empowered by showing your midriff (I could do that, I think crossly, whenever I see a Madonna video: I could lick religious imagery and jump about on beds with gorgeous male dancers. If I wanted). I am even less convinced by Kylie.

Kylie, for a start, is a useless name for a siren. Real sex symbols are so alluring that familiarity with them must be scrupulously avoided: they can only safely be referred to by their surnames - Dietrich, Garbo, Bardot. Names that rhyme with 'smiley' are death to the sex goddess, especially if they make you think of fluffy toys. So, too, is a catalogue of past hits that sound as though they were written for the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest. And so, unhappily, is having been voted, in the BBC/Smash Hits poll of 1990, Worst Singer, Worst Dressed Person, and Second Most Horrible Thing In The World.

I feel sorry for Kylie, who is in the sad position of having achieved success without acclaim (except from the gay community, who recognise that she's like one of those cardboard dolls with paper outfits we used to have as children, on whom you can try any number of images - actor, singer, Mandy Smith-lookalike - while she remains incorrigibly, essentially cardboard). If she continues to follow the Madonna example, the next thing, I suppose, will be the Kylie Also Goes For Girls story, though I doubt even this will get American women on campuses writing about her significance as an icon of post-modernism. And a good thing, too. Madonna may have made money from waving her bottom about in simulatory sex acts, but so do the strippers in the pub on our corner.

YOBS are always and exclusively boys, said Suzanne Moore in the Guardian last week. I wish this were true, because the current habit of attributing all social disorder to men is very gratifying if you happen to be a girl. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that even when I was at school there were girls who sharpened their steel combs and brandished them in the toilets. And things have probably got worse. The other day I'd collected my daughter from school and we were hanging around outside the Tube station waiting for our lift home when a gang of three older girls in uniform swaggered along the pavement. They glared, and then one lifted her skirt and showed us her knickers.

As unpleasantnesses go, I am aware that this comes a long way behind being beaten up by blokes who are trying to steal your car. Still, it felt like a violation at the time. Maybe I'd made the mistake of looking at them. Or maybe my daughter seemed too cute, coming home from her first week at secondary school with her mum.

If yobs are exclusively anything, it seems to me, they're anti- Establishment, which is presumably why John Major thinks it's safe to wade back into the muddy waters of morality: this time Tory MPs can be trusted not to be as guilty as everyone else. Yobs are also, I suspect, from a lower class than those who are being, as it were, yobbed. When upper-class louts throw rolls across restaurants they can be excused, Jeremy Hanley-style, for exuberance: we know they're going to grow up and become merchant bankers. Well, the second part, anyway. Yobs are everyone's underclass, always the Other, so we can all feel self- righteous about them. As trite political themes go, I preferred the classless society. I wonder what happened to that.

ALISTAIR Burt, the social security minister who has been in the news because he deplores the growing privatisation of relationships (people ought to get married, he says, not live together), is not as feted as he should be for his contribution to Nineties culture. For Alistair Burt, surprising as it may seem, is the person who introduced the idea of slacking to Britain. In June last year, when no one had even heard of Dazed and Confused, the new slackers' movie, and most people thought Generation X was a new ingredient in washing powder, Burt made a speech to the Scottish Tory Reform Group in which he argued that business was bad for people because it made them work too hard.

All those twentysomethings turning their backs on careers probably imagine they thought up slacking, but the truth is that the idea was given to them by a 38- year-old Tory minister in specs. It was a good idea, all the same. Watching the school year start you realise how many things you do at the start of your life, only to be whittled away by the time you leave education. Netball, languages, science, drama, field trips. I haven't been on a field trip for years. Alastair Burt is a man of the future.

THE British Video Association is to introduce a system designed to clarify its censorship rules: any PG, 12, 15, or 18 movie will carry symbols indicating levels of sex, violence and bad language. Parents who don't mind a bit of swearing but think nudity is rude will consequently be able to make more informed decisions. This is a good idea as far as it goes - film classification seems to me mostly mysterious (my 11-year-old daughter ought to be able to see Four Weddings and a Funeral, as she keeps pointing out and I agree). But what we really need is a symbol that tells children that adults think this movie is morally degenerate, so don't even bother to ask. The main argument at home at the moment is whether my daughter should be able to see Pretty Woman (15), which I think is vacuous and stupid about women, and she hears is brilliant. Now we've quarrelled about it for a few weeks, I expect I shall give in. When I was her age I remember being told by a teacher that we shouldn't be allowed to see If. . . on the grounds that it would give us ideas. Actually, we'd been plotting to murder our teachers for years.