Histrionics follow-up: Narcissistic antics in the aftermath of Army of Lovers’ flop

(Update)

There’s something of an epilogue to the aforementioned performance by Army of Lovers in Melodifestivalen. As it turned out, their showy number didn’t take them very far in the competition (one of the semifinals) as the viewers voted them to a meek 6:th place out of eight contenders. No doubt disappointing for the veteran trio judging from the promotions of this being their big comeback, of upcoming tours and so on.

Indeed, just days later band member Camilla “La Camilla” Henemark was abruptly kicked out of the band. She was ridiculed in the media for poor lipsynching during the performance. Shortly thereafter, Alexander Bard, the informal band head, tweeted:

If after three months you still can’t lipsynch two sentences, then collective therapy is useless, you need a brain transplant.

Bard didn’t explicitly mention Henemark’s name, but it wouldn’t seem like a very far cry to guess it’s indeed her he’s referring to.

So, why bother with this kind of gossip? Because it so picture-perfectly illustrates the idealization–devaluation cycle – one of the major defense mechanisms in reaction to narcissistic injury (suffered, in this illustration, by Bard and the other members due to the bands failure). Just consider the figurative Rise and Fall of La Camilla over just a few days; from being worshiped as a queen during the Melodifestivalen performance – to being dethroned, derided as an idiot and sacrificed on the public altar. Wow!

We certainly don’t know all the whereabouts in this little episode and it can all be just a big coincidence, but the symbolism just doesn’t get any more colorful than this.

Psychologically, devaluation is utilized to regulate wavering sense of self-worth, caused by a setback of some kind (narcissistic injury). By devaluating someone else, the perpetrator feels re-empowered and rejuvenated. It exists in most relationships in varying forms and degrees, but it’s more common in persons with narcissistic propensities (such as histrionics), due to their common trait of fluctuating sense of self-worth (and thus need for mechanisms of regulation).

hen2 Update: Well, bad goes to worse. During a recent club performance, the band – now with a replacement for the female lead – apparently brought a live size Henemark-impersonating sex doll on stage and placed it mockingly on a throne. According to spectators (and seemingly evident in the footage), Bard even stabbed the doll at the end of the show (adding a new meaning to the “sacrifice” mentioned earlier). Well, I guess the fun of it ebbs out just about here. No need to be implicative any longer: this is clearly a vicious, vengeful behavior from someone with deep narcissistic wounds.

Histrionicism in LGBT culture

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As expected, Army of Lover’s contribution to Melodifestivalen the other day was a spectacle of rank. Alexander Bard in his trademark school uniform and red beard, Jean-Pierre Barda with nipple accessories and a partial lion (?) costume. La Camilla sat on a huge throne in a pompous queen outfit, flashing her underpants with a cross pictured in a “peccant” place (in reference to outfits from earlier hits, such as her nurse outfit in Obsession). The song and show itself was about, in short, having na-na-na-na-na-na, i.e. sex.

In the introduction, the band members proclaim (freely translated & emphasis added):

Today, many artists cozy up to the LGBT movement – Army of Lovers is LGBT!
–The Queer! The Lesbian! The Transvestite! We’re just a bit confused about who’s who…

In attempting to describe the whole thing, depictions such as bland and boring aren’t exactly the first that comes to mind. Rather, something like the opposite: flamboyant, ostentatious, provocative. Fawning for shock and awe. In fact, a suiting psychological description would be of it as histrionic. Histrionic behavior is characterized by exhibitionism, attention-seeking, superficiality, sexualization, lacking sense of boundaries etc. The underlying mechanisms hereto are traced from, among other factors, an under-developed or diffuse sense of self-identity[1]. Is there any correlation between this type of personality and LGBT culture?

An apparent paradox with the LGBT movement is that while it is purportedly about acceptance and tolerance of non-normative (sexual) identities – Accept yourself for who you really are! – elements within the very same movement, such as self-proclaimed LGBT artists, TV-personalities, even the Pride Parade etc, seem to be the source of some of the most notoriously materialistic, stereotype-adopting (usually of female attributes) and otherwise identity-externalizing displays you come across in society.

Perhaps this escape into exaggerated personas is not an act of actual identity formation, but rather a demonstration of emancipation: Look! I can be anyone I want and You can’t stop me! Like an obstinate adolescent acting to establish his identity with respect to his parents. Here, for the LGBT-person, the prejudiced and heteronormative society symbolizes the parents from which he emancipates. That would imply, however, that this “flamboyant period” of narcissistic exploration is transient and subsides as the identity solidifies…

…seeing that the Army of Lovers band members are in their 40’s and 50s, they’d seem either to be stuck in their personal development, or to be cynically exploiting the process.

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[1] Histrionic Personality Disorder, Melissa Arthur LCSW MA