Open Access Thesis
Internet sensation and pop music star Poppy’s 2018 sophomore album Am I a Girl? stands out in an increasingly oversaturated pop landscape, thanks to evocative imagery, cleverly ambiguous lyrics, anddaring genre crossovers that challenge conventions of contemporarypop music. Despite the album’s titular question, Poppy is not interested in being defined—instead, she seeks to transcend definition and exist in the space of questioning.On the album, Poppy explores concepts like gender, class, and consciousness in a way that pushes the boundaries of pop, deconstructing her genre, while also deconstructing the issues she sings about—and offering a vision for a future that can be constructed from the ashes of her deconstruction. Poppy accomplishes this, in part, thanks to a rich mythology that she has pushed alongside her music career, through a variety of YouTube videos and a striking internet presence. This mythology is perpetuated by a narrative that is woven throughout Am I a Girl?: Poppy is a robot that gains sentience and, in the process, becomes something more.
Deconstruction as a literary theory also evades definition. Jacques Derrida, known as the father of deconstruction, refused to explicitly define deconstruction, and even denied that deconstruction could be properly labeled at all. As he famously wrote, “Deconstruction is neither a theory nor a philosophy. It is neither a school nor a method. It is not even a discourse, nor an act, nor a practice. It is what happens, what is happening today in what is called society, politics, diplomacy, economics, historical reality, and so on and so forth” (Derrida 85). Based on this understanding of deconstruction, it could be argued that a deconstructive text is defined by its own refusal to be defined, while demanding to question and be questioned.In my thesis, I argue that Poppy’s album is a deconstructive effort because of the various, often conflicting, messages her songs send—the songs are at once celebrations of consumerism and gender identity, and also admonishments of capitalism, individualism, and identity politics.
Poppy’s deconstruction and her cyborg mythology come together to create a vision for a new understanding of the issues she deconstructs throughout the record, a new understanding of ourselves. Central to this understanding is Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Ontology,” a feminist, posthumanist framework that seeks to break the binaries contemporary American society was built upon—from the male/female gender binary to binaries central to our understanding of humanity, including animal/machine. Haraway describes her ontology as “an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction” (292). Like Derrida’s deconstruction, “There is no drive in cyborgs to produce total theory, but there is an intimate experience of boundaries, their construction and deconstruction” (316).
Throughout Am I a Girl?Poppy takes pleasure in deconstruction—often to violent extremes—but this deconstruction leaves not just destruction in its wake, but the potential for the binary-breaking cyborg ontology that Haraway champions. In this text, Iuse queer and feminist theory, psychology and psychoanalysis, alongside deconstruction and post-humanism, to analyze the multiple meanings present in several of the songs from Am I a Girl?, explore how they support Haraway’s vision of a cyborg future—and the real-world implications the album presents for academia and beyond.
Year of Submission
Master of Arts
Department of Languages and Literatures
Heather Jerónimo, Chair
1 PDF (v, 102 pages)
©2020 Stevie "Eve" Sanchez
Sanchez, Stevie Eve, ""This is how we play destroy": Deconstruction and the construction of a cyborg future in Poppy's Am I a Girl?" (2020). Dissertations and Theses @ UNI. 1068.