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Of Breasts and Guitars


This isn’t about what you think it is…

Ok, it is, but not exactly. I am sure you are aware of the grossly sexed-up instrument ads that feature buxom bikini blonds selling you the latest guitar, amp, or pedal FX. Like this ad for example. ‘Cause you know, nothing says this thing is awesome than double DDs in your face. Much like car ads with waify models spread upon them, or beer ads that proclaim you will get laid by this hot babe if you down this particular ale, advertising relies heavily on sexualized and objectified (heterosexual) feminine bodies to persuade you to buy their product. See Gender Ads for a complete work on the subject.

However, this post isn’t exactly about that. It’s about breasts, yes, but about those players who actually have them and play the instrument, not merely are advertising tools.

Anyways, so what do I mean? Well, as a guitar player, who is quite endowed on the top half, just simply playing your guitar can be uncomfortable and require some adjustments. Unless you can literally play your guitar so low that it hits your knees, you probably need to wear your guitar somewhere around your hips to waist. If you have double DDs for example, the guitar strap either has to squeeze right in between your breasts, or over one of them, causing a bit of a squish, if you will. Your breasts then are either extremely obvious with the guitar strap nestled in between them as you play, or, your breast hurts because it is being suffocated as you belt out how much you love rock and roll. It’s tough being a girl, and all we wanna do is have fun. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that.)

Ok, you say. So, why don’t you just play sitting down then? Great question! Similar problem. Consider acoustic guitars for example. You know the classic  dreadnought shape, and most are quite sizable.  They usually have to be to get rich tone. Sit down with one as a large-breasted woman, and again, adjustments are needed. You can either hold the guitar in front of you, covering your top, but yet again, squishing as you lean over to play, or as I have done before, try to fandangle one breast to sit in the curve of the guitar and the other behind it. Ok, it’s not the most rockstar pose. Frankly it’s weird, annoying, and again, makes playing your instrument while having to worry about how you appear painfully obvious.

It’s bad enough that women as performers have to be constantly aware of their appearance, both sexually and physically, without then having to worry if they can play their instrument without more googley-eyed stares. Looks come before talent in much of our culture, and female artists have to balance between their own personal desires when it comes to their appearance, and what everyone else expects of them to look like. Add on to that, playing your instrument in a somewhat comfortable manner.

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Alejandro: Lady Gaga’s Epic Video Toward Salvation & Social Justice


Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” premiered this 06-08-2010 and as I type my mind is buzzing with what it means. I have analyzed other Gaga videos before, “Telephone,” and why she is a feminist, part 1 and part 2, and about having to justify her feminism.  This music video is just as complex, provocative, and beautifully executed as the previous ones. Granted, the only person who can really tell us what a video “means” is Gaga herself, but it’s always essential to look at how a video is received and what messages it sends compared/contrasted to what is intended. So, here are some of my thoughts on the visual imagery of “Alejandro” by Lady Gaga.

A general note on German Expressionism/ Film Noir

One immediately notices the dark, sharp cinematography, contrast in light, hints of red, and grim industrial feel to the video. This style has been popular in Film Noir and German Expressionist films.Vice, taboo topics, powerful women, cold calculation, cynical reality, dark human emotions, and simple yet demanding visuals are all prominent. You may get a hint of Nazi Germany in the military attire as well. This style heightens the grave nature of religion, power, and sexuality in this video. The genre in general is about substance, the depth of the topics discussed, while also presenting them in a manner that reflects those topics. “Telephone” and it’s pop culture critique reflected the visuals and the visuals reflected the critique. This is also true with “Alejandro.” The nature of oppression isn’t  a very peppy or happy topic. With that in mind, let’s examine some of the main themes presented in this music video. I am sure there are more than I am covering and I encourage your comments at the bottom!

Gay Community as Warriors

I’ll begin with what Gaga has said about the video. She noted that it is a celebration of her love of the gay community. This can be seen in a number of ways, via the buff and numble dancers in the video. The men are visually represented as strong, sexy, confident, and gender-bending. As the video’s first choreography begins, we are met with miliary imagery, a “gay army” if you will, symbolically reflecting on the determination, strength, and perseverance of the gay community. Also, on another level, you could see this as a slight reference to repealing the DODT. We assume these men are gay due to Gaga’s above statement, and showing them unabashed in military outfits marching makes the gay men (and lesbian women) who serve in reality visible, rather than invisible, worth respect and attention. This is one of the first steps in fighting oppression. First name it, second, if you will, take it out of the closet.

 

Also, the military, as well as, police force has historically and currently denies rights to those who are not hetero, and responsable for horrendous abuses (Stonewall, gender dress code laws, DODT, rape to cure lesbians, ect.) In this video, the power structure is turned on its head, where those who are in power are now those who are oppressed. And what more powerful institution than the military….and later in the video religion to challenge oppression in? Gaga does this by representing her fellow community members in a manner that is not seen in popular culture with seriousness and style. 

Gender Bending & Subverting the Male Gaze

So, we have the sexy gay militia, who also gender bends in the video. I have written about how previous videos have queered the narrative/images, and this video continues that motif.

 

The men not only wear fish net stockings, but also high heels, two things that are strongly associated with femininity, especially heterosexual femininity. This gender-bending does a few things. It challenges gender conformity, and hence sexual orientation conformity to hetero-partrarchal terms.

Further blurring the lines of acceptable sexual pleasure and sexual scripts is the mimicking of sexual intercourse with Gaga via the bed scenes. These are gay men, yet, Gaga has noted her own bisexuality, so what kind of sexual relations are going on? Much like her kiss with the prison inmate in “Telephone,” the assumed subtext to any visual narrative in our culture is heterosexual. Therefore if a woman, Gaga, kissed someone, it is assumed it will be a heterosexual man. Much like the subtext of any romance novel, condom ads, and Valentine’s Day cards are heterosexual (we fancy academics call this idea heteronormativity) Gaga challenges this by visually showing us gender bending gay men, entangled sexually with herself and the other men in bed. Basically this plays with ideas of power, and who’s “on top” so to speak. Normally, its heterosexual men. Here, it is unclear, and that uncertainty drives the status quo crazy. Power controls by having ridged “in and out” rules. The visuals presented break this dichotomy.

 

The light bondage here, also makes reference to a misunderstood and taboo sexual practice, but also to the symbolic “bondage” we are all faced with when it comes to what society tells us is acceptable desire, sexuality and gender performance. Along with the bondage, if we just look at simply the body placement and positions of the men, it is not normally positions that are considered powerful in a male hetero sense. Powerful positions are standing, “erect” if you will, alert and ready, while the men are writhing on bed, legs spread, and well, butts made noticeable. This is something we expect women to do doing on a bed for male pleasure. So here again, “correct” male behavior and positioning is challenged via the queering positioning and actions. Gaga’s own the role in the action balances between a top and bottom, perhaps the balancing act we all play in trying to make sexual relations equitable?

Also, the queering of the video also attempts to subvert the “male gaze” or “patriarchal gaze” of which most popular culture is seen and created through. This is where women are objectified body parts and merely advance the male protagonist’s aspirations and desires. The women have none of her own, and only serve to either prove male heterosexuality, or as an obstacle for which men must overcome to become “real men.” Feminists have pointed this gaze out in a variety of formats, and it can be something very hard to combat. You often must evoke the images of them to challenge them, and Gaga does this in ways that do not further degrade the women, and in this case, gay men in the video.

Gay men and feminized men have often served as “substitute women” when it comes to oppression being enacted upon them. In a culture where straight men are on top, gay men have stereotyped as effeminate, therefore not real men, therefore symbolic women.  In the male gaze, women are not only degraded, but anyone not conforming to prescribed sexual and gender codes.

So, Gaga reverses and subverts this gaze by giving us visuals of powerful sexuality, powerful gay men, and a lone female body that looks back at those watching. She is not being looked at. She is in control. Hence the goggles.

 

Her body is not objectified, but becomes a pallet where objectification is pointed out. The red tape covering her genitals and breasts for example. It serves more as a marker of where the attention is “supposed to be” on women, rather than actually making those areas sexier for the male gaze. It almost obscures it, and makes it not “sexy.” Exactly the point. A side note to that, the shape of the tape on her genitals is rather phallic, hence the challenging of that penis rumor. Or, in some ways, a sign of solidary with the gay male community.

 While there is queering of the narrative, there is also bits of androgyny being employed. Obviously some cross-dressed via the men in heels, and black faux-corsets, and Gaga in a black sleeveless suit, and priest-like robe. Short hair on women has been associated with a lack of femininity, even lesbianism. And Gaga’s flesh-toned bra and undies actually blends her feminines features rather than accentuates them. She becomes genderless/sexless. (The mop-tops on the men are effeminate as well, and also kind monkish.)

 

Finally, the gun-bra. Like the tape and fleshy lingerie, the gun bra has a few meanings. One, it draws attention to an area often objectified area of the female body, and exaggerates it in a way that is not traditionally sexy, if sexy at all. Boom. Subversion of the male gaze. But also, a bit of a tongue in cheek move that hints that breasts are somehow “weapons” and “dangerous.” Breasts are hyerpsexualized in our culture, and often seen as innocent/asexual in religious imagery.  The breast of Mary nourished Jesus for example. Breasts give life.  But also in the male gaze narrative, they can cause men’s downfall. The contrast and contradiction of women’s bodies parts, religion, and power are all wrapped up into a few seconds of dancing. It gives new meaning to the phrase Lethal Weapons!

 Gaga as Symbolic Military/Religious/Oppressor/Liberator

Gaga in the video plays a dual role. She is at once the oppressive authority figure, watching over the gay military, but also a religious figure dressed in a PVC nun habit (nuns are to be pure and chaste) and gothic Queen Elizabeth regalia (Queen Elizabeth I, also known as the Virgin Queen.) Power and authority, religion and morality. It is all there, and not by accident. The link and mixing of  military and religion is nothing new. Rulers who have been appointed by “god” and vise versa have quite a history. Gaga is making clear that intermixing at various points in the music video.

 

So, why the religion/ruler imagery? In the context of the homage to the gay community, it becomes clear. Gaga in her live shows and music videos allows herself to become the object of the evils she sees in society. She becomes a “monster” whither it fame, pop culture, or sexual oppression. In both religion and the military, there is sexual oppression. As the goddess-queen, she demands the loyalty if her militia, her flock, in return for love.  Yet as an authority figure, she is also oppressive. In the same ways that religion can be a liberating force in people’s lives, it can also be degrading. The christian visuals  represented are a critique on Catholicism, and all religions that contradict between loving your followers, and controlling them. That contrast is the tension in the music video.

 

How is this tension resolved? At one point Gaga swallows a rosary, perhaps Catholicism swallowing their pride over persecution of gays/lesbians? Choking on hypocrisy? Eating their faith? Gaga seems to resolve these tensions by sacrificing herself to the gay military in a sequence hat leaves her naked, symbolically implying that those in religious authority give up themselves to their people. The projector in the music video displays various scenes of destruction to which Gaga (the authority) is accountable for. Atonement is needed. Justice is due. In the end, de-robed, and dethroned, Gaga no longer hides behind the cloth.

 

  

Sacred Hearts, Death & Enlightenment

The funeral procession in the beginning doesn’t have much explanation until the ending. Likewise the Sacred Heart imagery is significant. Symbolic of love and devotion to Jesus, the heart in the video is frozen, mutilated, and bearing an “A.” “A” I am guessing for “Alejandro” but perhaps a little bit of “A” for adultery as in the Scarlet Letter. Either way, the meaning of this sequence at the beginning feels like a reference to the deaths of all of those in the gay community from hate crimes, abuse, AIDS,  and general death of identity due to having to conform to heterosexuality in order to survive. The Sacred Heart is something positive in Catholicism, yet seen here as frozen represents the fear, intolerance, and hatred that has come from that religion against those who are different. Where is the love and compassion in that heart for the gay/lesbian community. Alejandro is a symbolic martyr. His death mourned in the black and falling snow (or ash from the furnaces of those who were murdered for being different?)

 

The eulogy begins the film, and it seems a proclamation ends it. Behind Gaga, a cross, and radio gear as she asks her name not be spoken. But perhaps, since she (as authority figure) has been sacrificed to her followers, she is now enlightened and spreading the message to others. But if you look closely, Gaga is talking into a microphone in the same room where the Alejandro character is seen. Look closely for the similar table and chairs. The visuals come full circle.  It appears that Alejandro has died, but could it be NunGaga? If you look closely, the man on the bed with her has a golden gun. Does he kill himself or Gaga? It looks like blood is splattered right at the end, just before Gaga’s face morphs into light. So, has Gaga transformed into liberator, or is this her transformation into dictator? Is it a symbolic of the path of the military/religion/status quo? To what end are we traveling?

 

In the end, it is not her name, but the power in the name of authority that determines the worth of individuals. Individuals always have worth of course, but the power structures in our society only give it to certain groups. Gaga is challenging this authority and power in religion, the military, and in general for the gay community. Watch it again now, and decide for yourself. Alejandro: Gaga’s epic tale toward salvation and social justice.

 

Anything I missed? Let me know what you think.

My previous posts on Why Lady Gaga is a feminist.

  • Lady Gaga is a feminist! Why can’t people just accept it?
  • Is this Love? That I’m Feeling? Or is it a Killer? The Power Ballad…


    As some of you may know, I am finishing my master’s thesis on women in music. Specifically, I am looking at women in the music store culture. I’ve been doing a ton of researching, reading, citing, stressing,  and have come across many a topic, none of which surprise me about the sexism, misogyny, and general slammin’ of women in the music biz.

    I have also thought of some topic ideas for future research and thought the following idea would be interesting: a research project about “Power Ballads.” You know, “Monster Ballads,” those lighter-waving, big, emotional, heartbreak songs of the hair band era. I’m listening to them right now on my favorite hair band internet radio station. Apparently, heaven isn’t too far away…

    Ballads are not new by any means, but that rocking, big guitar solo, falling-to-the-floor-in-agony, power ballad is its own special creature. Which makes one wonder what purpose it serves, from a cultural/rhetorical/gender script standpoint.

    Perhaps they were just a revision of the traveling troubadour singing songs about his lady-love. Perhaps they were a clever marketing ploy to get more women into hair/glam/metal music. Or, maybe from what I know about gender, power, and music, “power ballads” represent an attempt to woo and keep female listeners in the symbolically abusive relationship that is the masculine fantasy of “cock rock.”

    Think about it. Every hair band worth their spandex had at least one power ballad on their albums, if not more. And these hair bands were aqua-net deep in performing white-heterosexual-macho-masculinity to the max. The thrusting on stage, the stroking of the microphone, and the masturbating guitar solos (just look at the faces of the lead guitar solo players and you’ll know what I’m talking about.) And the lyrics….oh the lyrics! Nothing but sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, but mostly about sex. Women in these lyrics are typically objectified, simplified, and talked about as “nothing but a good time.”  The band goes from girl to girl, just like from town to town, notching their conquests on their black studded belts. Some songs that display this hypersexual masculinity include:

    • Seventeen – Winger 
    • Cherry Pie – Warrant
    • Lick It Up – KISS
    • Sticky Sweet – Motley Crue
    • Let Me Put My Love Into You – AC/DC
    • Hot For Teacher – Van Halen
    • Slide It In – Whitesnake
    • Talk Dirty to Me – Poison
    • Rag Doll – Aerosmith
    • Cat Scratch Fever – Ted Nugent
    • Rock You Like A Hurricane- Scorpions
    • Lay Your Hands On Me – Bon Jovi
    • Pour Some Sugar on Me – Def Leppard
    • Once Bitten, Twice Shy – Great White
    • Smooth Up In Ya – Bullet Boys
    • and I could keep going…

    Ha, I’ve seen over half of these bands live. Now, nothing wrong with sexuality. Part of what makes rock & roll fun is sexuality, that connection and that force is musical poetry. But the sexuality depicted here is all about the man getting his jollys off at the expense of the disposable vagina (or mouth in some cases.) It is about only one person’s sexuality (the man’s.)  If not directly, or explicitly, the songs follow a standard narrative: man needs sex, women = fix. The woman wants it bad, the guys want it bad, and the dudes are all willing and able. Even if women are talked about as “wanting it” look at how it is referenced. It ends up not satisfying their needs, but the man’s ego that he’s a sex god.  Typical male fantasy, all women want you all the time and can never get enough.

    This is what various scholars in music have described as “cock rock.”

    The music is just straight sex. The rhythm drives, insisting you go along, the verse-chorus make up is the foreplay arousing you to the solo (climax), then release and prompt after-sex cigarette. The vocals are demanding and haughty. The lyrics are arrogant, assertive, and aggressive. Virtuosity here is key, by commanding your “instrument” be it the guitar or vocals. This display shows your virility, that you’re in control, that you’re “master of your domain,” hence a real man.  These things are all understood in our culture as masculine (Leonard, 2007; Bock, 2008; Tringali, 2005; Walser, 1993; Firth & McRobbie, 1990). This masculinity is at the expense of female participation in this scene as anything but groupies, fans, or wives (How convenient! Those who are sexually available.)

    Being assertive, arrogant, sexually initiative, and sexually entitled to sexual gratification at any time, are all things that our culture associates with heterosexual masculinity. In a way, you could say that the women in these songs (symbolically, though I am sure in some cases literally) are in an abusive relationships with cock rockers. They don’t have their own needs and desires (outside of pleasing men 24/7 that is), let along, creativity, autonomy, and individuality to do what they want. So, my hypothesis, enter the “power ballad” the symbolic “box of chocolates and dozen roses” apology for being a rock & roll douchebag.

    Think about it. You have all of these songs about womanizing, partying, and being a general player. At some point, a woman is going to get tired of that (even those imaginary ones.) So, insert power ballad, and boom! “I’m sorry baby for all the wrong I’ve done, I really love you not those other girls, please come back, I’m really not a bad guy…..” ect. Or “Baby, I’m hurting soo bad, I know things are tough, but I need you to fix it, you’re the only one who can save me…” ect. It’s the classic honeymoon phase of an abusive relationship cycle! As soon as the woman aqueissnes to your faux remorse, back to the strip joint!

    As in real life abusive relationships, the abuse happens, they apologize, the honeymoon phase, then right back to abuse. It is this vicious cycle that many often do not realize they are in, because of those instances of the abusive partner being nice and “sorry.”

    So, normally, cock rock’s status quo is: man has sex drive = woman fix it. In the power ballad: man done wrong/man hurt = woman fix it. Basically, in no matter what instance, women exist to fix man’s problems. A women’s place in this masculine rock culture remains a subordinate, second-class, and sexually degraded one.

    That is why so many female rockers purposefully challenged this status quo. Women either turned the tables and made their sexual needs important, reversed the masculine gaze (ironic mimicry) on their bodies to show that they weren’t pieces of meat but in control, satirically sang about typical sex roles, and had a riot grrrl music movement demanding that they be taken seriously as musicians and not be seen as “nothing but a good time.”

    But in Hair Band Land, the power ballad symbolically is a tool to control any female deviation from the norm. Thus, keeping women in their place to their soul’s demise.

    Vixen was right…Love is a Killer.

    Pat Benatar – Sex as a Weapon

     Tina Turner – Typical Male

     

    Madonna – Express Yourself

    Girlschool – Don’t Call It Love

     

     

    Lighter photo by lordferguson via flickr.

    For more info on “cock rock” and masculine rock culture:

    Bock, J. (2008). Riot Grrrl: A Feminist Re-Interpretation of the Punk Narrative. Saaebrucken: VDM Verlag Dr. Muller Aktiengesekkschaft & Co. KG.

    Firth, S., & McRobbie, A. (1990). Rock and Sexuality. In S. Firth, & A. Goodwin, On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word (pp. 371-389). New York: Pantheon Books.

    Leonard, M. (2007). Gender in the Music Industry: Rock, Discourse, and Girl Power. Aldershot: Ashgate.

    Tringali, J. (2005). Love Guns, Tight Pants, and Big Sticks – Who Put The Cock in Rock? Retrieved February 24, 2010, from Bitch Magazine: http://bitchmagazine.org/article/love-guns.

    Walser, R. (1993) Running With The Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.

    Why Lady Gaga’s Music is Feminist – Part 2 – More Fame


    Hello all!

    Finally, part two of my analysis of Lady Gaga’s music. Since my last review, I have seen her live, and she has come out as a feminist! All I can say is I knew it and good for her! It is something that is hard to admit and I commend her for doing it. More women need to, especially successful women in music!

    Now, I know there will be some Gaga haters out there, and still others who think her and feminism are like oil and water. They never mix. Nope, sorry, they do. Those who will chid her feminism based on how she looks or the style of music she writes are guilty of the same sexism they propose to be fighting. Judge not by the outfits one wears, but by the content of their character! Come on people!

    Anyways, so here are some more thoughts on why Lady Gaga’s music is feminist!

    4. Pop Music As Art

    Now, there are many people who think that pop music (popular music and pop style music) is inherently valueless, talentless, and just stupid, mindless entertainment for and of the masses. This type of musical elitism is quite annoying. I can say this because I used to be one of those people, and I quickly grew up and stopped being a closed-minded a-hole.

    First, popular music is the style of music that at the type reaches a wide audience and is popular with a lot of people. This changes over time. Pop style music is very “hook” based, radio friendly, with standard song progressions and formats, often focusing on the needs of the current youth. It is sometimes hard to distinguish pop music from other genres, since so many genres have a pop version, ex. pop-rock, pop-punk, power-pop, ect. But, nonetheless, I must stress that even if you do not like the genre of pop music, or what happens to be popular musically at the moment, you cannot ignore the cultural and social impacts it has, as well as, the messages it sends. To do this ignores a powerful source of reality shaping for so many people.

    Lady Gaga takes the popular style of music and turns it into something full of depth while still remaining very accessable to everyone. It is not trying to be “full of itself” by constantly throwing in your face that “They’re REAL musicians, REAL talent, blah, blah.” If you have to constantly prove to people that you are REAL, you probably aren’t. I’ve seen Lady Gaga live, and she doesn’t have to prove a thing. You see how talented she is, how devoted and hard-working. You don’t need to flaunt talent if you’ve really got it.

    Lady Gaga takes this popular style, the hooky, catchy driven pop song and subversively inserts positive and challenging messages that you may not even get on the first listen. As I had mentioned before, she does this in “Paper Gangsta” and “Paparazzi” but also with other tracks.  What she does that is so subversive is that she takes topics and ideas that most people have determined are worthless, valueless, and artifacts of mass cultural that are excessive and challenges them in their own medium. She takes the celebrity, the glamour, money, fame, drinking, partying, sex, beauty….and writes songs that critique them while doing it in a style that no one thinks holds a lot of criticism or deep thought. A song that does this for example is “Vanity.”

    5. Vanity

    For example “Vanity” on the surface, is just a song about how much people love themselves. But if you take another look at the chorus, it actually makes vanity seem silly, by blatantly stating just what it is.

    “Touch me, t-touch me baby but don’t mess up my hair
    Love me, l-love me crazy
    But don’t get too attached, this is a brief affair

    Vanity (pictures in magazines, movie screens)
    Vanity (mirrors and cameras, so many beauty queens)
    Vanity (it’s so good to be)
    Fabulous and glamorous, we love ourselves and no one else

    Vanity is to love yourself to the point of absurdity, danger, and even alienation. Hence, you love yourself and no one else. This song takes an excessive aspect of popular culture, the emphasis on appearance, and turns it on its head intentionally. This isn’t a song taking about how awesome it is to be vain, but rather, reveals vain culture in a manner that is honest, and by being so honest, challenges vanity’s very place in our celebrity culture. It is very tongue and cheek, and a subtle critique of something many spend way to much time on.

    It is Lady Gaga’s tongue and cheek style that makes her music so powerful and appealing to me. You could just say: “Hey, you’re all vain and shallow and wasting your time.” Make it into some angst tune, amid varying keys and instruments. Sure, it gets your point across. But Lady Gaga does it in a style you do not expect criticism to come from, hence, you are left dancing and bobbing your head going “Huh, we do love ourselves and no one else.” Boom. You’re in. You were not expecting a pop song to make you think twice about the current state of youth culture now were you?

    The same goes for other songs of hers on the Fame. The title track “The Fame” does this as well.

    6. The Fame

    “I can’t help myself
    I’m addicted to a life of material
    It’s some kind of joke
    I’m obsessively opposed to the typical

    All we care about is
    Runway models, Cadillacs and liquor bottles
    Give me something, I wanna be
    Retro glamour, hollywood, yes we live for the

    Fame, doin’ it for the fame
    ’cause we wanna live the life
    Of the rich and famous
    Fame, doin’ it for the fame
    ’cause we gotta taste for champagne
    And endless fortune”

    More tongue and check lyrics here. Gaga is expressing the current cultures obsession with fame. From reality TV to crashing presidential dinner parties, anyone will do anything for 15 minutes. And Gaga makes it clear what they want and all that they care about. It is about personal gratification and excess. It is similar in effect to Madonna’s “Material Girl.” It’s all about getting the limelight. It’s all about me.

    “Fame, fame baby
    The fame, fame
    We live for the fame, fame baby
    The fame, fame
    Isn’t it a shame, shame baby
    A shame, shame
    In it for the fame, fame baby
    The fame, fame”

    Yet, the way Gaga sings it and expresses it, it isn’t celebratory, but confessional. It is a shame.

    “I can see myself in the movies
    With my picture in the city lights
    Photograph my mind
    And whatever else you’d like to shoot
    You decide

    All we care about is
    Pornographic girls on film and body plastic
    Give me something
    I wanna see television and hot blondes in odd positions”

    Here, more honestly about celebrity culture, with a bit of feminism. Women’s objectification in the media isn’t something new. But in the second verse, Lady Gaga knocks down three things about how women are portrayed in it. The fact that their bodies are pornified for consumption, full of cosmetic surgery and/or photoshopping,  and that we want to see them “in odd positions.” Women are more likely in ads to be in compromising, uncomfortable and unnatural positions. These positions are often under men, restrained by men, or in positions where they are vulnerable. Confident, powerful people are always standing straight up, free to move. Women in ads, just take a look. They are not.

    7.  Dance In The Dark

    On the surface, this song just sounds like a song about literally dancing in the dark, at a club or at home. But a deeper meaning lies here.  This song is about a woman who is uncomfortable with herself and her body, and hence only will have sex (the dance) in the dark. Lady Gaga explain this herself: http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1628355/20091216/lady_gaga.jhtml.  This song is another example of her subversive tactics to spread messages about women’s lives and feelings. Once again, taking popular style music and making it into art.

    The ideal of self-esteem is a big issue for feminism and for women everywhere. It is hard for many women to have confidence, especially in the bedroom when they feel ugly about themselves. And the idea of having sex in the dark so your partner doesn’t see you, your imperfections, real or perceived, is a real thing, done by real women. I can say that I have done this myself when I feel ashamed about my body. And have had relationships where someone made me feel bad about my body yet “still give the dance.” Women are expected to “give” sex,(not really a choice if you feel like crap either way) no matter how they feel to their male partners. This is one of the cultural legacies of women being men’s property. Sure, there are laws against this now in our own country, but the idea that women must always please men, and that men are entitled to their bodies is real and current. If men didn’t feel entitled to women’s bodies, when, wherever and how they want, we wouldn’t have things like rape.

    Wow, pretty darn deep for a pop song huh? But, let’s take the song verse by verse if I haven’t convinced you yet.

    “Silicone, saline, poison, inject me.
    Baby, I’m a free bit(ch)
    I’m a free bit(ch)”

    If this isn’t obvious, what can I say. These are things that women do to their bodies in attempt to feel more beautiful. They are poisonous and dangerous. She’s a free “bit” and “bitch” in two ways. One could be in the idea that she is a music industry artist, and can freely be molded into whatever they want her to be, whether she wants it or not. additionally, “bitch” still is used negatively toward women. Being a free bitch in this sense is about entitlement. Gaga is stating exactly how the girl feelings when she has to dance in the dark, when she doesn’t want to. It makes her feel like a free bitch. She doesn’t have the power to say otherwise. Her body is free for you to do with as you want, not hers.

    “Some girls won’t dance to the beat of the track
    Won’t walk away, but she won’t look back
    She looks good, but her boyfriend says she’s a mess
    She’s a mess, she’s a mess
    Now the girl is stressed
    She’s a mess, She’s a mess, She’s a mess, She’s a mess”

    Another perfect example of feminist activism in music. Lady Gaga is writing about women, for women, from a woman’s perspective. This topic just happens to be about body issues and sex. The girl in the song wants to “dance to the beat of the track”, have sex her way, but can’t leave her current situation, nor face it. Her boyfriend doesn’t help ether, saying she’s not good-looking, that “She’s a mess” further adding to the low self-esteem the girl has. Now the chorus:

    “Baby does her dance in the dark
    Cuz’ when he’s looking she falls apart
    Baby does her dance in the dark
    Baby does her dance in the dark
    Cuz when he’s looking she falls apart
    Baby does her dance, does her dance in the dark”

    Here is the main point of the song in the chorus. The girl has sex in the dark because she can’t have her boyfriend look at her. She can’t be herself, let her real self be seen. If she does, she will “fall apart.” So, she has sex in the dark. In the dark, she can hide all of her insecurities, at quite frankly, still have sex with this jerk.

    “Around her kiss is a vampire grin
    The moon lights away, while she’s howling at him
    She looks good, but her boyfriend says she’s a tramp-she’s a tramp
    She’s a vamp, but she still does her dance
    She’s a tramp, she’s a vamp, but she still does her dance”

    Again, this verse reiterates the girl’s insecurities, since her boyfriend trashes her self-esteem by calling her a tramp.

    And the breakdown is especially awesome:

    “Marilyn, Judy, Sylvia, tell them how you feel girls.
    Work your
    JonBenet haunt like Liberache
    Find your freedom in the music
    Find your jesus, find your cupid
    You will never fall apart Diana
    You’re still in our hearts
    Never let you fall apart
    Together we’ll dance in the dark”

    The women mentioned here are: Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Sylvia Plath, JonBenét Ramsey, Princess Diana. I am not sure all of them had body issues and low self-esteem, but I think partly the reason they are mentioned is that we look up to these women as beauty icons. They must not have any problems. Yet, we know, no matter how beautiful we think these famous women and young girl are, that doesn’t mean that you do not have your own self-esteem issues. Basically, Gaga is saying it’s ok, we’ll band together in the dark. At least we won’t leave you, we won’t let you fall apart. We understand how you feel. Women need to support each other. Before it’s too late.

    Wow, this analysis of Lady Gaga’s music is going to be a multi-part posting that is for sure. I may just analyse all of her songs. So, enjoy this for now and I’ll be back with more insights! Until next time!

    My previous posts on Why Lady Gaga is a feminist

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