Archive for the ‘entertainment’ Category

After intense anticipation, Lady Gaga’s music video premiered today to much fanfare. As with most of her music and their accompanying videos, the material seems shallow and almost random on the surface. Digging deeper, however, there is incredibly intelligent hidden social commentary.

The most obvious example of its commentary is the critique of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) which is the military’s policy of ousting openly gay military members.

On “Larry King Live” Gaga commented that she supported the repeal of DADT and that “no person is worth less than another human being based on their sexual orientation.” Gaga further commented that the video was dedicated to her homosexual fans, which foreshadowed what was to come.

In the video, the imagery of the men dressed in tight leather military uniforms, all with conforming haircuts and movements, express the conflicting desires between the military and the individual. The military requires conformity, literally meaning these men must “fall in line” and possess heterosexual/masculine characteristics. On the other hand, these effeminate men desire to retain their individuality.

To further this point, consider the fact the military is antithetical to the individual. Marching in line, obeying centralized commands and the uniforms are all examples of the military’s assault on individuality. Specifically for homosexuals, DADT is the most abhorrent example of the fear of the “others.”

The men in the military uniforms are also meant to convey Gaga’s admiration in homosexuals’ “courage and bravery they require to be together,” as the military is obviously often associated with these characteristics.

This specific example of DADT ties into the overarching theme, which is the rejection of the patriarchal society.

To summarize the critique of patriarchy: individuals seen as “weak” are oppressed by the masculine “father” figures of society. Once again, the military is a perfect example of this. Refer back to the centralized command from the military. The commands to shoot, rape, and kill are generally given by a single man who by extension of his army dominates women, children and other men below him. The images of rape are ripe throughout the video as well, where the men from the military are consistently taking advantage of her. Even further, images of war and peace are prevalent throughout the video. On Gaga’s arm, the symbol for peace can be clearly seen. Toward the end of the video, there are multiple violent flashes of burning infrastructure in what seems to be a war zone. In fact, the men in the military are seemingly part of Nazi Germany’s military. The choice to use Nazis was likely because of their persecution of homosexuals.

These men oppress women and “weak” individuals in order to suppress any thought that might question the standing order of men in dominance.

This dominance is directly linked into the continuation of a never-ending cycle of war, as women and homosexuals are statistically far less likely to support war.

This is no coincidence. Both these groups are disproportionately negatively impacted by war. Violence against both groups increase during war, specifically in the areas where war is fought. However, it is not limited to.

Not to be redundant, but the policy of DADT is a perfect example of the oppression by the patriarchal system. “Weak” men and women that are gay are kicked out of “their” system.

It separates the “men” from everyone else, to ensure that “men” maintain their power. Which means the continuation of masculine dominance, war and the suppression of individuality.

The religious imagery is another way in which Gaga comments on the bigotry, specifically homophobia, in society. She uses mostly Catholic images (likely because she grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school), which is appropriate in this context as Catholicism calls homosexuality an “abuse of human nature.” This kind of rhetoric keeps scores of individuals “in the closet” and, as the church should realize, this can have incredibly terrible consequences. Some have even speculated that the bed scenes represent the recent sex scandals within the Catholic church.

Moreover, the system of Catholicism is one based on the elevation of men and is largely misogynistic. The vast majority of individuals in power within the Catholic church are men.

In general, the church, like the military, is also incredibly restricting on the individual. Beyond just the suppression of homosexuals by the church, religious authorities expect all of their followers to “go with the herd” and “follow their leader.” Anything less is heresy. Potentially great minds and innovators have been intimidated by this structure into complete submission. A visual representation of this is found when the men are held up by puppet strings.

To transcend this problem and still remain spiritual, Gaga, as one YouTube commenter put it, “internalizes” her religion by swallowing the rosary. This symbolizes her individual relationship with God and her rejection of the “herd mentality” found in the traditional organized religion which tends to harbor bigoted belief systems.

Director Steven Klein said the religious symbolism “represents the character’s battle between the dark forces of this world and the spiritual salvation of the Soul,” and at the end, “the reason her mouth and eyes disappear is because she is withdrawing her senses from the world of evil and going inward towards prayer and contemplation.”

One commentator went so far as to say Alejandro, Roberto and Fernando represent the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost and that Gaga is choosing to leave all three. In the video Gaga sheds the sexual restraint from the church by removing her nun outfit when she is “with” the men on the bed.

On “King” Gaga acknowledged she is indeed very religious but still incredibly “confused.”

Gaga also heavily references Madonna in the video. This is incredibly suiting considering Madonna’s persona of a female in power and as a prominent figure in the gay community. Most noticeably is the gun-toting bra Gaga wears as an homage to Madonna’s “Vogue” video.

There is an abundance of references to Gaga’s own sexual ambiguity throughout the video. Gaga has stated that she is sexually interested in males and females. Her bisexuality is best represented in the men she is pursuing. These men are essentially the manifestation of Gaga’s dual desire for both men and women as they exhibit what are considered both male and female characteristics.

In fact in reality, Gaga has an infatuation with the gay culture. She has said, “In the video I’m pining for the love of my gay friends—but they just don’t want me to be with them.” Some commentators have suggested Gaga is expressing her unrequited love for homosexuals. This is a distinct possibility considering she has said “envious” of a purity she finds in her gay friends that she can not obtain in a heterosexual relationship. At the end of the video, one interpretation is that Gaga’s “unrequited desire [for homosexuals] eats her alive,” when the film breaks off into whiteness.

Klein recently said that the video is about, “The pain of living without your true love,” which only furthers the assertion that has been made about Gaga’s love for homosexuals. This shows the ironic conclusion and contradiction within Gaga’s heart: “men are men, are men.” While she is criticizing the violence and exclusion wrought by masculine men, even the effeminate men who fully embrace her still create a perception for Gaga that she will be ultimately excluded by them. It is something so close to her that she will never be able to fully grasp.

Several times in the video, Gaga tears down the norms of sexuality. As noted, she seeks to be with these effeminate men, but more notably, she is constantly switching the generally accepted roles for the sexes. For much of the video she presents herself as frail and what many would consider “ugly.” This is her answer to men who require women be constantly presentable. Also, at one point she is on top of another man in a sexual manner while other times she is being dominated. At another point, she takes on the “father” figure when she is overseeing the men dance below her.

Not only does Gaga bend the standard sexual rules, but so do the gay men who are shown as powerful and put in positions only “real” men are allowed (i.e. the military). Furthermore, these effeminate men are sexually involved with a woman, which is also outside of how society believes these individuals will act.

As one person put it, “Gaga is showcasing male-only worlds — the military, Catholicism, gay men — that she will always be excluded from, or at least never fully a part of, never fully accepted in, or never fully loved or completed in…Hence her extended fantasy of having a male body…which allows these men to accept her.”

What this person pointed out is exactly what Gaga is attempting to change. These worlds are not and should not be so rigid. By infiltrating the mainstream with her music and videos, Gaga is breaking down these walls built up by society to separate individuals into conforming groups.

Gaga ties the video together in the death of bigotry. All of the images of oppression (the Nazis, religion, war) put forth in the video culminates in the “death” of these oppressive aspects of society shown toward the beginning when the men carry the coffin to lay these ideas “to rest.”

Walking in front of the coffin, Gaga presents the alternative to bigotry; an open heart. Ironically, even though Gaga presents an open heart, it is still wrapped in chains (in the shape of an ‘A’, possibly to represent Alejandro and the oppression by man) and seemingly tormented by a love she can never have.

It would seem that the coffin serves a dual and contradictory purpose to also represent the death of individuality caused by these oppressive power structures.

In fact, multiple aspects of the video, as noted, are contradictory. This is because those who are unbound from society’s standards often employ what society deems as contradictory characteristics. Gaga herself exemplifies the ideal of uncompromising dynamic character in her transformation throughout the video into multiple seemingly contradictory roles (the nun, military leader, dominator, dominated, good, evil etc.)

Finally, notice how the entire video seems subdued and dreary. One example is at the climax of the music towards the beginning when the camera remains focused on Gaga’s face. Generally at this point a music video would  immediately cut to a dance number. This style throughout the video is yet another way in which Klein presents the subjugation of the individual.

The video ties in succinctly with its musical counterpart. In “Alejandro” Gaga seems to be portraying her confusion with her sexual state and her dissatisfaction with the patriarchal society as well.

Several lines in the song corroborate this idea. First, her recognition of a “father” figure in the line, “but her boyfriends like her dad, just like a dad,” is the most obvious. Gaga shows how the man takes on a controlling and domineering status in the relationship.

The opening line, “I know that we are young and I know that you may love me, but I just can’t be with you like this anymore,” describes a woman who is confused sexually and is dissatisfied with her treatment by men, Alejandro in particular. Moreover, lines like “don’t bother me,” and “Stop, please. Just let me go,” or even “I’m not your babe,” convey almost an abusive relationship between Gaga and Alejandro. But it goes beyond Alejandro, with other men joining in the abuse against Gaga, which illustrates the pervasiveness of this problem in society.

This exhibits Gaga’s “Fear of Sex Monster.” She is frightened by these men when they begin to dominate her, which is seen within the video as well. Essentially, this is the fear based society that exerts control upon women and other “weak” individuals.

Gaga’s confusion in her sexuality is further exposed in the music video but can be found within the song as well. She says “at this point I’ve gotta choose,” almost as if she is being forced to choose a rigid sexuality. Near the beginning, Gaga claims to love the “boy” but as the song plays out, she becomes more convinced her “choice” is outside of the options given to her.

In the end, Gaga explores what she feels is right, not what men or society says is right. Her true love that she had previously kept hidden is now out for the world to see. And in turn, Gaga questions the existing order of pure male dominance and its rigid sexuality. Everyone would be wise to take Gaga’s lead and allow their individuality to emanate from within them because when “men” in power give others certain parameters in how they can act it keeps everyone marching to the status quo.

Thanks to John Bergen and Emily Runge for helping me find the true meaning of Alejandro.

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  • The Law, Frederic Bastiat

    Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.