December 14, 2009
So she's had some catchy hits. So she never wears pants. So she wore a jacket covered in miniature Kermit the Frogs. Isn’t Lady Gaga still just an industry darling, shocking her way up the charts? A profile in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times gave me some pause, portraying the 23-year-old pop sensation as not just a red carpet draw with costumes made of band-aids and galactic metal rings, but also an evolving feminist. As reporter Ann Powers points out, Gaga has rejected the term in the past, but says she’s been growing “more compassionate,” particularly focusing on the eclectic mix of gay men, bohemian youth and young women that make up her core fan base. Thankfully, Powers frames the article as something of a Gaga skeptic, noting that the pop star claims, “I don't see myself as ever being like anybody else,” while sporting a tuxedo-and-bra combination that doesn’t just reference Madonna, but mimics her exactly. But over the course of the interview, Gaga backs up her feminist assertions with increasing sophistication. Gaga describes her video for “Bad Romance” — which features the singer, among other things, getting kidnapped by supermodels — as a commentary on "how the entertainment industry can, in a metaphorical way, simulate human trafficking — products being sold, the woman perceived as a commodity." The Ace Bandage-adorned costume she wore at the American Music Awards was, she said, "meant to be feminine, healing, bondage gothic." It’s arguable that her position at the height of pop royalty undermines her attempts to evaluate – much less critique – the entertainment industry, but Gaga asserts that her status enriches her message: "It's kind of like a crusade in its own way. Me embodying the position that I'm analyzing is the very thing that makes it so powerful." Designer Gary Card points out that Gaga is far more willing than other pop stars not just to transcend standards of female beauty, but to frequently ignore them. “With Rihanna and Beyoncé there is an end result of desirability and unattainable sexiness, whereas Gaga is a really interesting bridge between the desirable and the grotesque,” Card says. “She's not at all worried about looking ridiculous or hideous; actually, I think she thrives off it." Is it possible that, through her pyrotechnic videos and physically distorting costumes, Lady Gaga stages a commentary on modern femininity and the consequences our hyper-technological lives? What do you think? Read the interview, and leave us a comment with your thoughts.