My kids were astonished to hear that I love Lizzo. But how could you not? The woman radiates joy. Generosity of spirit flows from all her limbs, and her face shines with happiness. Happiness! When’s the last time you saw someone on stage who looks happy?
But I was kidding when I said, “How could you not love Lizzo?” The internet is flooded with people who find it very easy not to love her. The other day, I mentioned offhand that I wish my mother had lived to see her perform, and I was informed that Lizzo is disgusting, that she’s perverted, she has no self-respect, that she’s degrading the culture, and of course that she celebrates obesity, which, in case you haven’t heard, is unhealthy. Such courage, coming out and taking a public stand against fat people!
Part of me understands the discomfort. Lizzo is a lot. Her lyrics are smart and funny and clever but also sometimes fairly raunchy. Her outfits are sometimes gorgeous and elegant, sometimes deliberately outrageously revealing. I watched her strut onto a jet wearing jeans that had a window instead of a rear end. And of course, horror of horrors, she twerks.
But the thing about Lizzo is she does not seem to be doing any of this to turn you on. She is incontrovertibly provocative, but I am not sure it is lust she is trying to provoke. Instead, she is provoking people to simply…deal with her. And she is provoking people to deal with themselves, as they are. In a post-Christian world, for an audience of people who are radically alienated from any idea of the inherent goodness of creation, it is the closest thing to theology of the body I have seen.
Let’s be clear: This is not some coy argument that she is secretly Catholic. She absolutely is not. She’s a pro-choice, sex positive and plenty of things a Catholic really should not be. Pope John Paul II’s groundbreaking series of 129 scholarly lectures regarding the spiritual meaning of the human body and sexuality makes very specific claims, and they are about much more than just liking yourself and being upbeat.
But so is Lizzo. I encourage everyone to read her recent interview in Vanity Fair magazine, for some truly refreshing, occasionally moving insights into the mind of a thoughtful, intentional, hilarious young woman who is so much more than the raunchy provocateur some folks make her out to be.