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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Column: Go Gaga

Last Monday, pop music superstar Lady Gaga celebrated her 25th birthday by performing to a sold-out crowd at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Where do I sign up to celebrate my 25th in the same way?). Last Friday, it was reported that her latest single “Born This Way” has sold over two million copies just in the United States.

She was named Billboard’s 2010 Artist of the Year, and she currently holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Searched-For Female on the Internet.” Whether you love her, hate her, hate to love her or love to hate her, there’s no denying that Lady Gaga has superpowers. Can she fly? Well, not unless she puts some glitter wings on the egg-mobile she rode to the 2011 Grammy Awards. Can she turn a few heads? In the words of Sarah Palin, another woman with a fan base full of oddballs, “You betcha!”

Why are we so fascinated with Gaga? Why do so many Little Monsters, as her fans are called, flock to the Monster Ball Tour where they pay homage to Mother Monster with ridiculous costumes? I’ll tell you why: she’s a freak. She’s not just any freak; she’s an insanely successful, marketing genius, over-the-top freak.

According to a new article by Victor P. Corona, a sociology lecturer at Columbia University, Lady Gaga’s aesthetic “celebrates a monstrous Otherness.” She’s dark. She’s weird. Her pop culture status relies on one commonality she assumes we all share: freakiness. I’m a freak; he’s a freak; she’s a freak; we’re all freaks, hey!

Just go take a look at the lyrics of her new single. If “Born This Way” isn’t an anthem for freaks and a celebration of being your own strange self, then I don’t know what is. Lady Gaga has a message for the people: “Don’t hide yourself in regret / Just love yourself and you’re set.”

If you want to wear a hat made of rotary telephones, go for it. If your sunglasses have cigarettes in place of lenses and you’re OK with that, then so be it. Gaga wants you to be yourself. Whether that means wearing rubber clothing or simply embracing your nerdy side despite what the cool kids think, I think we should all consider what Mother Monster has to say.

Some critics see Gaga’s antics as just another ploy to help rake in revenue in a day and age where record sales aren’t enough anymore. Stroke the egos of your fans so they feel special and spend money on Lady Gaga instead of Rihanna or Katy Perry. Because she likes to be so unbelievable, Gaga has been written off as your basic spectacle addict, hungry for media attention.

On a Nov. 2009 episode of her talk show, Ellen DeGeneres asked Gaga about the validity of the persona she portrays. The pop icon defended her on-stage and off-stage presence as being driven only by her true self.

“I didn’t fit in in high school, and I felt like a freak,” Gaga told Ellen. “So, I like to create this atmosphere for my fans where they feel like they have a freak in me to hang out with, and they don’t feel alone.”

This musician hasn’t just created a group of fans. She’s created a club for freaks. Her lyrics preach acceptance and tolerance. Her behavior embraces oddity as the new form of normalcy. To Gaga, wearing a dress made out of stuffed animals isn’t an attempt at a witty Halloween costume; it’s fashion. Wearing a meat dress is a way to make a social commentary that we should treat each other as more than just walking pieces of meat.

Gaga isn’t a completely new original. She borrows ideas from greats like David Bowie and Michael Jackson. Whether the songstress really is as crazy as she seems or she just wants to be as crazy as she portrays herself to be is another point that critics have brought up. But, do these things matter? She is still Lady Gaga. She is still herself.

Gaga isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all learn something from her. She might have plagiarized from Madonna for her new single. She might be a hermaphrodite. She might be from outer space. Whatever. At least she knows who she is, and the world does too. Can you say that about yourself?

CORRIE JACOBS likes to think her dance moves are as epic as Lady Gaga’s. Tell her she’s dreaming at cljacobs@ucdavis.edu.


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