Monday, September 13, 2010

Defending Lady Gaga, And A Personal Reflection On Why I Do

I was looking over the comments at Jezebel's liveblog of the VMAs, and what's with vehement reactions to the meat dress? Folks are saying that it was, "Disgusting, wasteful, unnecessary, yes. Edgy, no;" it was, "too much;" "there can't possibly be a point to it; just a way to get attention." Although acknowledging that it was not real meat [note: to my surprise, I found out later that the dress was in fact made of real meat], one commenter wrote, "there are hungry people in the world and you're going to drape meat all over your body?" They "disapprove."

Okay: Lady Gaga is a woman. She is wearing meat. On her female body. Does this really require an explanation? Really? Okay, here it is:

I could understand not liking the dress because it's obvious and old and done, but that did not seem to be the complaint at Jezebel. And, while obvious, and old, and done, the statement is unfortunately still relevant. 

But you know what? Maybe Gaga was wearing the meat dress for some other reason entirely. Maybe it was about the wastefulness and extravagance of pop. Maybe it was a reference to her song lyric, "Take a bite of my bad girl meat." Maybe it was to get a visceral reaction from viewers. Maybe it was a statement about the impermanence of life; we are all just meat temporarily inhabited by a soul. Those are all good reasons for an artist to wear a meat dress.  

It's the underlying sentiment of, "pfft, attention whore," that bothers me. The insistence that an individual isn't saying anything meaningful (even though the meaning is really obvious), and instead that they're just making noise.  

And it bothers me because I relate to Lady Gaga. Not just because I share some of her privileges (white, Christian, urban, comfortably-off family), but also the insecurities she's expressed, her mysticism, the way she's latched onto the post-modern/constructivist  philosophy, in her case via Andy Warhol, in my case via political science and sociology. But sharing the same privileges is definitely a significant part of it. People who aren't class-privileged white women get treated with such dismissiveness every day. I need to pay more attention when it happens, and get this worked-up about it.

*Sigh* The sad thing is, that I will continue to read Jezebel. Just so I know what they're saying. So then I can write blog posts bitching about it. 


  1. Thanks for this great litle post. I've been really frustrated with Jezebel's treatment of Gaga lately, as well; it seems like so many commenters there have really begun to claim that Gaga's an attention whore, as you've said here, and worse, that she's "not even original." But part of Gaga's pop-cultural commentary is that nothing is original. She embodies the spectacle. More importantly, I wish we'd shift the conversation away from how Madonna and Andy and everyone who came before Gaga were so much greater and talented and deserving of their status. Instead, we should talk more about what Gaga is doing for a generation of young people who're growing up in heteronormative, patriarchal societies, ones that demand young girls commodify themselves for the pleasure of men, without any sense of irony or subjectivity at all. But no, everyone wants to focus instead on Gaga's life-before-fame and all the ways they find her message ineffective. Yet it's clearly effective for million of people, namely young people, around the world, and that is what's important.

    I found your blog a week or so ago, and I've really been enjoying it. :)

  2. It's funny, because critics like that seem to think that they're being all critical and discerning, but really what they're doing is just repeating the same trite music-snob cliches without actually stopping think critically about whether they apply or not.

    Thanks for reading! :)

  3. Hello, another new reader here, very much enjoying your blog and very much agreeing with you on this piece.

    I too am disappointed in the downturn at Jezebel, the moderating of their commentary, the rampant privilege (ha, trying checking them on it re: racism, body policing, disabilities etc, it's so much in, not) and I too am disappointed in the dog-piling on Gaga. Was it only a year ago people were claiming she was the breath of fresh air pop needed, the new pop Queen Bee?

    Obviously people have bored of trying to disseminate Gaga's every move/outfit change because she changes so much, and they're feeling way too challenged. This is why I love Gaga - she challenges every single day. The meat dress is a perfect allegory - she completely recognizes that people are starting to treat her act as boring/disposable/another piece of pop meat.

    She's barely two years into her career and already people are dismissing her.

  4. The attacks on her supposed seeking of attention.... she's on the cover of freakin' magazine. Generating buzz and attention is kinda a good idea and part of the job description.

    I love all the mentions of the so-called wastefulness of it. I know the rate of good food that gets trashed in the U.S, and if even one of those commentors is a little paragon of eco-humanist goodness, I'll smile and kiss a pig.

    Hype backlash. Right on time.


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