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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?
  • Lady Gaga – Telephone is here!


    Lady Gaga featuring Beyoncé – Telephone

    Amazing! Did ya catch the Thelma & Louise at the end?

    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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    Why Lady Gaga’s Music is Feminist – Part 1 – The Fame


    Lady Gaga – The Fame (2008) on (Streamline/Konlive/Cherrytree/Interscope)

    Part 1:

    Oh snap. Yes, I just said it. Lady Gaga’s music is feminist. Why do I say such things? Because I can back it up. And because I love her music, videos, and persona. She is the reason I have actually started to listen to pop music again. So, let me tell you about feminist music….

    Why do I say that her music is feminist? Whether or not she herself claims to be a feminist, her work criticizes gender, sexuality, the body, pop culture’s representations of women, and the nature of power. This in itself is a feminist act. Now, feminism, I guess we must define in some form, considering most representations of it are: man hater, bra burner, lesbian, ugly, want power over men, bitchy, hate children…..not true. Feminism is the political and social movement for women’s social, political, and economic equality. In that social part lies music, and Lady Gaga knows exactly what she is up against in the music industry. Feminist Music therefore, can be made by anyone, male/female/trans, as long as it fulfills the goals of fighting for equality and justice based on gender.

    How does she present feminist ideas? I will give you a few examples.

    1. Paper Gangsta

    This song is my favorite from “The Fame.” This song discusses the institution of marriage, or at least, power in relationships. In the first part of the song, Lady Gaga says:

    “Midnight rush with a pen in my hand
    Inkin Lincoln sand-script with a fan
    Remembering me before it began
    Sometimes I felt so def in the jam
    But the ones who loved me told me to stop
    Like home girl can’t catch shit if it drops
    A superwoman chick you know that I am
    Some shit don’t fly by me in a man

    ‘Cuz I do not accept any less than someone
    Just as real, as fabulous”

    These lyrics first speak as an individual as an active subject of their reality. Lady Gaga is not being talked about as an object, through the Patriarchal Gaze, as someone who does not have any ideas, emotions, or power of her own. She is not a tool. Instead she proclaims herself a superwoman, she won’t stop being who she is, and that she knows what she wants in a man. She then states what she wants, not what she thinks she should want to please someone else. She will not accept anyone who is less than “real.”

    The chorus then, I think sums this statement of independence and freedom.

    “Don’t want no paper gangsta
    Won’t sign away my life to
    Someone whose got the flavor
    But don’t have no follow through
    Don’t want no paper gangsta
    Won’t sign no monkey papers
    I don’t do funny business
    Not interested in fakers
    Don’t want no paper gangsta
    Don’t want no paper gangsta”

    Once again, someone here who is real in the sense that they are not your typical dominating player. She will not accept someone who just puts on a show to impress her. She will not “sign her life away.” Basically, she will not commit to a relationship that will just use her. Hence, a “paper gansta” is someone who uses tradition patriarchy to get what they want from her. Criticizing that, and fighting against that IS feminist.

    Finally, the last verse:

    “Got something really shiny to start
    Want me to sign there on your range rover heart
    I’ve heard it before yeah the dinners were nice
    ‘Till you diamond words melted in to some ice
    You should have been rapping to the beat of my song
    Mr. California paper gansta
    I’m looking for love not an empty page
    Full of stuff that means nothing but ‘you’ve been played'”

    Here, her themes of empowerment and independence from power are clear. At first, all the attention from a man seems great. Yet, his intentions were not honest, not “real.” The man in question was not “rapping to the beat of her heart.” He was not looking for love, but it seems a good time. Hence, if she signs (stays) with him, she’s been played. She knows this. She refuses this traditional masculine power structure as defined in relationships. She will not be a tool. She will be herself, and anyone who wants to be fabulous with her, must be true to her heart, to the beat of her song. She knows what she wants. She will not accept anything less. She is smart, confident, and is an active authority in her life. That IS feminist.

     

    2. Her female-form distorting outfits

    If you are just going to continue to judge women’s intentions, ideas, value, and indeed empowerment based on their appearance and how they dress, then that is still SEXISM, no matter if they are wearing a bustier or a habit. Valuing women as “less than” via what they wear is one of the pillars of domination. Most criticism I have seen about Lady Gaga has been on her appearance. Typical. That is first thing anyone goes at when it comes to female musicians. Their value is still based off how they look, not how talented they are, or what statements they are making or what they doing. For women who are musicians, you are in a double bind. If you do what they guys do, you’re a freak. If you do what women are supposed to do, well, that just proves how much you are not as good as the guys. You’re just a girl after all. Know you place, be a little sex kitten, ready and willing, talentless and voiceless. But Lady Gaga defies it all by reversing the Patriarchal Gaze of how we view women in pop culture. Like Madonna before her, it is a fine and hard line to walk. Most people see her half-naked and assume negative from the start. But her image is carefully crafted for a purpose. And that purpose is not objectification.

    For example, her outfits reveal skin, but often distort things that out culture associates with being a feminine woman. Long legs, big breasts, full lips, figure eight body shape, hips ect. This distortion catches you because it is not what you expect or want. We want the pornified female form. The image she presents is not pornified, but an exaggerated caricature of femininity. Thus, she is taking the things pop culture wants women to be, reveal and stretches it so far so that we can see how silly and confining it is. She cinches her waits to the extreme, extreme high heels, overdone makeup to make you see how made-up women are. She wears masks and sunglasses, a symbolic hidding of parts of her herself, so you can’t see….but she can still see you. She is the one doing it; it is not being done to her. She is returning the gaze, looking at you looking at how you look at her, and she is laughing in your face. She is deciding about her, not you. She is not duped by the patriarchy just based upon her looks. Assuming that women have no agency is sexist. She is purposefully throwing back femininity in your face, and it is not the kind you want. That IS feminist.

            

    3. Paparazzi Video

    The Paparazzi video does this extremely well too. Lady Gaga’s form is distorted in her outfits that twist her feminine body in ways that are extreme. She is portayed sexed up, even when in a neck brace and bloody. This video is a criticism the violence against women in pop culture.

    It is extremely fashionable to show women dead, being beater, or assumed violence upon them in popular media. Whether it is to sell vodka, shoes, video games, or security devices, violence against women in advertising is everywhere. It is often sexualized, and combined with objectification. What this means is that often if violence is enacted upon women in ads/videos, it is made to be sexy, appealing, what the women want, and hence deserve. It is sexy to be violent, and women love it. This is the paparazzi video in a nutshell.

    Lady Gaga’s rise to fame in the video coincides with her being abused. She refuses the man’s advances in the video, hence she is called a “c*nt” and tossed of the balcony. If she won’t give into male entitlement to her body, and use of it to take pictures for his gain, she will be punished. Hence she “dies” and comes back her body broken. The sequence continues, showing her with a neck brace and crutches while showing other images of glamorous looking women dead. The images of women being murdered are everywhere in the video and they are everywhere in our pop culture. Just look at the Hitman ads as an example.

    In the video, the female dead bodies are sexed up. But it does not stop there, even when she is alive on the couch, she is being sexed up, and in some cases licked up. Finally, near the end of the video, she is back with her old flame (disguised as the “new” girl toy”), in her yellow outfit. She is the newest disposable female body for this guy. Or is she? She quickly reassumes her agency, poisons her boyfriend’s drink, and acts all feminine and coy. Oops! Even her outfit, a sorta Minnie Mouse hides her revenge. Appearances are deceiving in this video. If may seem in this video that women are helpless, powerless and just tools to be used. But underneath it, lies a women’s refusal to succumb to that end, hence Lady Gaga freeing herself from her boyfriend via poison. The end is also very telling when she is arrested for enacting the same type of malicious violence against her boyfriend. He got away with it, she doesn’t, symbolizing the double standard in so many ways. Lastly, she poses for the camera for her mug shots, does so with exaggerated sexiness, which we see then is being directed at her to do. Finally, the cameraman tells her to walk away.

    This video blatantly reveals violence against women in pop culture. Lady Gaga analyzes it, shows the impact of it, and symbolically comes back from the dead to take justice for it for her and all women. Her arrest in the end reveals the double standard of treatment for not only her actions, but also that when a dead male body shows up in pop culture it is rare, and not sexualized, but a tragic event. Oh no! Can’t have any of that. This type of video-activism, playing with these ideas, yet still remaining artistically valid and not further objectifying women IS feminist.

     

    So, that’s all for this post. I will continue with more on her work from The Fame and The Fame Monster. Thanks!

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