The good, the bad, and the Gaga

Gaga shoes

The shoes I wore to the Monsters Ball

I love Lady Gaga—her power, her passion, her snake-skin Alexander McQueen armadillo/hoof shoes. As someone who enjoys kitsch, camp, pop culture and excess, Gaga’s arrival on the world stage was exciting, titillating and dangerous. Why dangerous? Well, I liked her immediately, but I pretended to myself that this wasn’t the case. She’s too pop. Too silly. Too out there. Too much. What would people think of me if I l bought her album? Wouldn’t they judge me for falling for her supposed emptiness, buying into her spectacle? Don’t I know better as an informed consumer?

Enjoying Gaga and her music gets me the same reaction as when I share my love of professional wrestling (WWF 80s style specifically). The response is either a perplexed, “really?!” laced in a chortle of disgust, or a joyful squee of shared tastes. Even though many partake in a similar level of excitement for Gaga, I can’t shake the sense that there’s something wrong about my love, something transgressive. And for some reason it really hurts my feelings when people hate on my Lady.

Now, I am of sound mind (in this instance) and I understand that people are multifaceted complex beings capable of liking different music and still getting along. I have enough Sesame Street literacy to comprehend this fact. Yet, when people drag Gaga down, hate her for being a copy of a copy of a copy, or they scoff at her irony as though they’re examining the “fabric” of the emperor’s new clothes, I feel judged. She refers to her hoards of fans as her “little monsters,” but I don’t think this sobriquet is meant to label us as abject for liking her.

The origin of the name goes along with the subject matter of many of her songs. She interprets certain encounters with gender, sex and relationships as monstrous and shocks us all with her performance of ugliness. In G’s world, everyone is capable of monstrosity whether it be through devouring someone’s heart (“he ate my heart…he’s a monster in my bed”) or losing oneself in the toothy maw of Hollywood fame. Gaga’s strange demeanor, abhorrently over-the-top clothing and wacky persona won over (or ate) the hearts of many who stand out as odd and constantly struggle to fit in. She deemed her fans her monsters as a way of accepting the outcast position and shifting the spotlight of pop onto the shadowy figures of culture. Usually, strange kids stick within their underground groups and construct counter cultural phenomena, but this concept of a popular movement of outcastedness presents a different approach that piqued my interest.

Clearly, such a concept can be problematic. Isn’t pop generated by co-opting the originality of often under-represented groups who’ve been discriminated against? Yes. Doesn’t the idea of the “weirdo” get processed, packaged and sold back to the desirous consumer when they already owned their weirdness for free? Uh-huh. And isn’t her brand of ugliness a little hard to swallow seeing as she’s thin, muscular, blond, rich and if not classically beautiful then strikingly gorgeous? Yeppers.

And I saw all this first hand.

I tucked my shame aside, put on my giddy glee and went to see Gagita in Auburn Hills. I fashioned a giant glitter spider headband, rocked some hot booties and doused my face in bold shades of metallic makeup. The show was a neon broken down mess of stimulating awesomeness. Her vocals clear, powerful, unaided by autotune, were actually better in person. Her energy was unfathomable and her performance was dazzling.

Still, I couldn’t help but be bothered by those nagging questions I mentioned before. At one point in the show she said something along the lines of it didn’t matter who we were, where we came from, who we loved or how much money we had, we were capable of anything and we were all together in monstrosity that night. Well, seeing as my friend Andrea and I were angry enough to tear someone’s wig off because we thought our seats were too far away from the stage (seats that cost $100!), I felt pretty awkward about the idea of classless equality. If we were in the cheap seats then the less fortunate monsters were definitely not in the building. On top of this, I saw more than a few gaggles of unnaturally mature little girls teetering about on their expensive stacked heels. These girls appeared affluent (judging by mom’s status bag) and looked like they walked off the set of “Mean Girls.” In the arena, Gaga was cheered for propelling a big F.U. to just this type of girl from her high school past. In my mind I doubted that the shared experience of being a little monster would be enough to end the nastiness between the mean girls and the weird ones. If anything, l could imagine the pretty girls’ fancier experience of the Gaga show just once again proved that they were better than everyone else. Now, I don’t know that those girls were actually mean or rich or that they didn’t genuinely feel ugly on the inside, but they just left me wondering.

Meanwhile, I also saw some amazingly positive shows within the show. A legion of LGBT fans were out in full force, more than a few crying and adoring every moment of the night. I saw mothers and daughters dressed in matching home-made costumes dancing together on a Saturday. I sat in front of an entire family replete with young boys totally enjoying the experience together. And I had a really great time. It was fun, like pop is supposed to be and the atmosphere was friendly, lively and communal.

Ultimately, though I know there are some irksome issues surrounding Lady Gaga and the big business that engulfs her, I still love her. Her boldness is both capable of lighting up lives and turning a lot of people off, but that’s what happens when you put yourself out there.

I think I get personally upset when folks bemoan her because beyond all the PR BS, I actually do feel like a stranger and I loathe not being able to please everyone. Things would be much easier if I could just pretend to be what everybody wanted, but I’ve done that before and it made me feel like I didn’t exist. At age 29, 5 years older that Gaga, if I can see her as a role model who helps me to be bold, be loud and upset someone every day, then I guess I’m saying I’m willing to take her—ugly truths and all.

2 Responses to “The good, the bad, and the Gaga”
  1. Angela Vasquez-Giroux says:

    YES. 80s wrestling. Miss Elizabeth, Scary Sherrie, Macho King, Ultimate Warrior, The Rockers….

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