I found another academic essay on Cher that came out in 2011: "Cher-ing/Sharing Across Boundaries" by Loran Masan. The synopsis of it is this: Cher’s multiple performances challenge the concept of a fixed or authentic originality for both gender and ethnicity. They are both performative identities. In other words, you aren’t either masculine or feminine; Black or Hispanic or Jewish as a personality (apart from heritage), you perform these identities culturally.
Some notable quotes:
“Peggy Phelan argues ‘the promise of feminist art is the performative creation of new realities.’ Cher’s persona, performances, and acting career are a microcosm through which to explore theories of drag, masquerade, and performativity, and to critically reapply them to ethnic performances in order to bring to light how this icon of popular culture challenges the myth of authentic or originary gender or ethnic identity and potentially creates new realities...Cher’s subversion comes not from individual performances of identities but from the shifting multiplicity of ethnic performances...the excessive femininities of her costumes and wigs’ identities that exposes the manufacturing of ethnic and/or gendered identities and rejects ideals of naturalness or authenticity...[and] creating incongruities by claiming many different naturalnesses.”
“...the particular disruption that Cher’s persona creates by refusing to ever settle on a solid authentic or original singular ethnic identity...[ex:] Both of Cher’s previous surnames are obviously ethnically marked [me: three of them are actually: Sarkisian, La Pierre, and Bono] and instead of changing them to some Americanized moniker she drops a last name altogether.”
“Mary Russo in Female Grotesques: Carnival and Theory, reclaims the idea of ‘making a spectacle out of oneself’ and maintains the spectacle of female masquerade by women creates unruly representations that can be transgressive, dangerous, and produce a ‘loss of boundaries.’ This loss of boundaries in masquerade is quite similar to that of drag...”
“Neither Cher’s nor Cher drag queens’ feminine performativity can be read as natural. There is no original because the original is consciously performing herself. Cher’s feminine drag produces a subversion of authenticity.”
“The academic love affair with Madonna in relation to similar arguments about gender, unruly women, and racial or ethnic celebration frustrated me as I began to meld my love of Cher with my feminist ideals. Where were the academic theorizations of Cher’s persona and career? They are few and far between. “
Cher continually questions authenticity in various ways and THAT is the what the rock and roll elite really hates. Because they worship the pose of authenticity. How well Cher sings is really irrelevant isn’t it? And I contend that Cher presents an “unruly woman” (in her costumes, her career choices, her conspicuous consumption) that is affront to what amounts to an essentially ridged and judgemental rock and roll establishment.
She’s truly too unruly for them.