With over one million copies sold in its first week and three top ten singles leading up to its release in the US alone, Lady Gaga’s new album Born This Way has become a cultural phenomenon, in which Gaga’s declaration of individuality leads all her little monsters to the glorious truth: I’m OK, you’re OK. Actually, we’re all fierce and fabulous.
Last year’s media attention on bullying seemingly inspired a slew of affirmation songs (for instance, Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Taylor Swift’s “Mean”), but no one has embraced the self-acceptance theme with the fervor of the Lady. This pops up repeatedly throughout the new CD, nowhere more clearly in the title track, in which she advises, “Don’t hide yourself in regret / Just love yourself and you’re set.” Why? Because you were born that way, baby, whatever “way” that might be. A more personal plea comes in “Hair”: “I just wanna be myself / And I want you to love me for who I am.”
Although the voice in “Hair” is that of a high-school girl, the song’s message is applicable for anyone who has had attempts for personal expression rejected. Still, other messages are more specific. In “Born This Way”, she gives a shout-out to subway kids and the disabled. Other kids are featured in “Bad Kids”, who Gaga advises, “don’t be insecure if your heart is still pure”, while “ScheiBe” speaks, in part, to an even more specific demographic, the “blonde high-heeled feminist enlisting femmes”.
Yes, Lady Gaga loves you, and she wants you to join her Monster’s Ball — as long as you stay in the audience, though. Gaga’s world is a glamorous world, one filled with men who walked out of a copy of GQ and women who fell out of Elle; commoners can watch, but we can’t play along.
The disabled and High-Heeled Feminist will only be seen onstage or in a video with Mother Monster if they have strikingly good looks, because her vids are homages to the beautiful. This is particularly noticeable in the video for “Born This Way”. Granted, her dancers are “black, white, beige, chola descent” and, presumably, “gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life”, but they are also surprisingly homogenous. One would expect a song celebrating diversity to have a video that actually shows some diversity beyond matters of race and sexual orientation.
Yet, it’s not just in “BTW” that Gaga surrounds herself with glamorous folk. She does it in all her videos. In the video for “Lovegame”, the Lady dances with the sexiest street gang around; even the cops who come to arrest them are hot. “Eh, Eh” features the singer walking the streets of New York City, where all the street folk are young, tight-bodied, and attractive. They must have all been out of town when I visited.
Still, “Eh, Eh” does feature a rare sight in a Gaga video: someone overweight, who gets two seconds of screen time arguing with another (hotter) guy. He’s not the only overweight person in one of her videos, though. There are several in “Telephone”, the one video that shows a wide range of people. Many of them are in prison, and the ones who aren’t, she kills. Kill the unattractive people or lock them up is a message that just doesn’t mesh with her new mantra.
“Telephone” also features the rare sight of an over-35 person (whom she also kills). “Just Dance” offers a few quick glimpses of a senior citizen, but the rest of the partiers are young. In fact, “Just Dance” may hold the key to how Gaga really feels. When the nerdiest guy at the party (i.e. the guy most like me) corners her at a party and goes in for a kiss, Gaga shoves him away laughing; later, though, she has no problem cavorting in the pool with two ripped studs.
Granted, almost all videos feature “pretty” people, and a performer would want dancers who are fit and healthy. However, if Gaga is going to go to such great lengths to extol the glory of all types of persons, perhaps she should positively feature them in some of her work. After all, if we’re all beautiful, why just show one type of beautiful?