To her fans, Lady Gaga is the rocker supreme, a performance artist, philosopher, fashion genius, smart marketer, a spectacle of sexual liberation and human triumph over the odds. She is the ultimate “material girl,” with no apologies. To celebrate her is to celebrate fame as the highest of high values we hold so dear...but wait—what does Lady Gaga herself have to say?
“This is the Manifesto of Little Monster: There is something heroic about the way my fans operate their cameras. So precisely, so intricately and so proudly. Like Kings writing the history of their people, is their prolific nature that both creates and procures what will later be perceived as the kingdom. So the real truth about Lady Gaga fans, my little monsters, lies in this sentiment: They are the Kings. They are the Queens. They write the history of the kingdom and I am something of a devoted Jester. It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond, or the lie I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be or rather to become, in the future.”
Huh? Am I missing something, or are these pronouncements as breathtakingly, mindlessly incoherent to you as they are to me? “It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond, or the lie I should say, for which we kill.” What is this— regardless of the admitted lie, the bond between Gaga and her fans, it must be defended with violence: “...for which we kill?” Excuse me, but is this philosophy? Seems more like insanity to me, or maybe just sheer blathering.
One thing we know—fame, celebrity, stardom, power, to be worshiped by a faceless multitude as addicted to fame and celebrity as she is—these are her ultimate values.
“...The fame fame
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 blonds in odd positions
Doin' it for the
Until this post, if you were to google “is fame a healthy value,” nothing would have come up. This is America, after all, where fame is IT, everything. Who would question such a value?
That’s when she became a commodity, a marketable object, a “smart marketer.”
So what? What’s a gifted girl rocker to do, if she wants to get noticed? Well, maybe it’s more than just smart marketing; maybe something hidden informs such marketing decisions: Underneath the pseudo female-liberation, “hot babe” images of popular culture, lies the sad, sexist truth— female degradation and self-humiliation is the highest standard by which the misogynistic culture, a profit-oriented culture, judges female rockers. Thus, in the male-dominated music industry she was going to have to conform—she had to adapt her image to the overall zeitgeist, which just happens to be sexist and hostile to true female liberation, female empowerment, female dignity and respect. It wasn’t that Lady Gaga’s passion for fame was a triumph inspired by her having been a misfit in her teens, as the lie she tells her fans goes (her parents were wealthy; she was popular); it’s that she, as herself, was a misfit in the industry. That meant, given her lust for fame, she had do anything and everything to fit in, even if it meant killing her original self. She is not the misfit, making the abnormal normal, identifying with all outsider teens and their angst; she was, and is, the ultimate insider, now Queen of Conformity, Queen of Kitsch.
“She’s a really great manipulator,” said a close former friend. “It’s a long process to become a rock star, and she’s willing to crush anyone in her path to do it. She has zero ethics whatsoever. None.”
To her “Monsters,” however, Lady Gaga is salvation, solace, and friend to the friendless. She is worshipped. What she tells her fans speaks to an intimate connection, compassion and love: “When you are lonely, I will be lonely too...” That she manipulates her fans in this way is not manipulation at all; it is pure sincerity. She plays her fans like fools, and it doesn’t matter. If “we are nothing without our image,” then we are something with it. The delusions of connection, love, greatness, power, soulful intimacy, all become better than everyday, ordinary reality, where we must be content with our real selves and our simple, ordinary lives.
Lady Gaga’s fans have been suckered into her realm, by the magic and spectacle of celebrity, where just wishing makes their bond with her a reality. "I used to walk down the street like I was a fucking star... I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be - and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes the truth."
Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class: “The belief that we can make things happen through positive thoughts, by visualizing, by wanting them, by tapping into our inner strength, or by understanding that we are truly exceptional, is peddled to us by all aspects of the culture, from Oprah to the Christian Right. It is magical thinking...This magical thinking, this idea that human and personal progress is somehow inevitable, leads to political passivity. It permits societies to transfer their emotional allegiance to the absurd—whether embodied in professional sports or in celebrity culture—and ignore real problems. It exacerbates despair. It keeps us in a state of mass-self-delusion. Once we are drawn into this form of magical thinking, the purpose, structure and goals of the corporate state are not questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be seen as obstructive and negative. ...This magical thinking,...holds out the promise of an impossible, unachievable happiness. It has turned whole nations, such as the United States, into self-consuming machines of death.”
She is a “performance artist,” though, isn’t she? I say, No. She may be a performer, but she is no artist, except in the narrow meaning of the corporate music industry. A true artist is an iconoclast, not the icon itself needing to be destroyed. An artist goes ahead and draws a mustache on the Mona Lisa, as the French painter Marcel Duchamp did. Lady Gaga only copies, by inference and eager intentionality, a culture twisted by greed, violence, lust for fame, profit, competition, destruction, death, and the degradation of woman. She does not draw a mustache on the face of her culture, she celebrates it. What she performs is kitsch, not art, satisfying the wildest dreams of a culture that wants women humiliated and aching for attention from a world that hates them. Oddly, therefore, she is a better Zeitgeist incarnate than even Andy Warhol was; she is the embodiment of everything shallow, calculating, bent on a ruthless success and war against sanity that is this culture—except she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t care. After all, she is busy changing “the world, one sequin at a time.”
Chris Hedges: "He [Michael Jackson] became a commodity, a product, one to be sold, used and manipulated... He was infected by the moral nihilism and personal disintegration that is at the core of our corporate culture. He was a reflection of us in the extreme.
The cult of self, which Jackson embodied, dominates our culture...This cult has within it the classic traits of psychopaths; superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance; a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception, and manipulation, and the incapacity for remorse or guilt."
I don’t despise Lady Gaga—Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta—the person. Of course, I don’t like that she wants to role-model to young girls, that her “personal style is a commentary on what it means to be a lady,” that being a “lady” means humiliating oneself; that she and others to follow her may brainwash generations of young girls to delude themselves, to value fame above all; but, it is possible she is not as powerful as she thinks. What I despise is the zeitgeist itself, how everything real, everything honest, tender, gentle, peaceful, sane, wise and non-exploitive is turned on its head and rendered powerless in our culture. What I despise is what we’ve become, this sick, pathetic thing that Gaga unwittingly reflects back so accurately to us.