SICK SAD WORLD

Why Gaga’s ugly sells

Posted in Uncategorized by Nancy on May 30, 2010


the ability to be ~transgressive or subversive or creative or outside-the-box is a privilege because it assumes you aren’t already viewed that way

– quoted from a comment somewhere here

There is, unquestionably, something to admire about Lady Gaga. Her refusal to bend to sexualised feminine ideals, to take pop music in a new direction and play with the possibilities of different mediums is to be commended. She works hard and, from what I can glean from interviews, she has a good, working brain under all that gear.
But it’s worth looking deeper into why Gaga’s ‘subversiveness’ has become so successful, and saleable, for mainstream audiences. Why does a ‘genderbending’ artist, who once may only have made it as an ‘alternative’ cult figure, suddenly find such acceptance in a Western society that has narrow ideas bout gender conduct? How did young female
audiences go from lapping up coquettish Britney Spears-esque hyper-girly sexuality to Gaga’s transgressive, foul-mouthed and ‘bent’ sexuality?
Like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper before her, Gaga has risen to fill the need for something ‘new’ and controversial in the arena of blonde pop sensibility. But, like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, Gaga has the privileged starting point of whiteness from which she can deviate. Like the white, blonde pop divas before her, Gaga has the opportunity to deviate from her ‘clean’ image. Her natural appearance represents a ‘pure’ starting point to subvert.
Designer Gary Card unwittingly illustrates this in this comment:
“She’s brave enough to let herself be a canvas for a designer to go and really express themselves. Nothing is off limits! 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.”
Rihanna and Beyonce are interesting comparisons. Why not Taylor Swift or Katy Perry? Rihanna and Beyonce are already othered by the colour of their skin. They cannot be ‘art’, but sexualised identities, as attractive black women so often are (whether as ‘video hoes’, hypersexualised rappers or ‘sexy divas’ such as Tyra and Beyonce).
When was the last time you saw a photographer’s ‘whimsical’ image featuring anyone other than small, cutesy, white, size 8 females with typical haunted/coquettish/awkward expressions and poses? When was the last time you saw a fat girl, or a black, brown or Asian girl, posing in some hipster photographer’s shoot? Indians, blacks, latinas are all denied the possibility of subversion, because their very existence subverts what the music industry (and fashion and news industry) sells to us as ‘normal’/the starting point.
look how white and twee we are!
Gaga, as a cute, small white girl, has the choice to be ‘grotesque’. Take a look at Beth Ditto. Why is she not as widely praised as a ‘subversive’ figure? Because her body and identity already subvert the image required for a successful female musician. Her subversion is not a choice. But Ditto doesn’t get praise and worship for her refusal to be invisible (although fatphobes wish she would be) – she gets slammed for not conforming to the feminine model of beauty.
kiss her fat ass, haters.
At first, I was angry at Gaga for receiving the kind of props other artists will never receive because of their appearance (especially women such as Grace Jones, one of Gaga’s direct influences and inspirations),  but she can’t help her privilege. However, it is up to her fans to acknowledge that she is not ‘tearing down the system’, merely cashing in on it, although she may be exploring it in a more novel way. It’s worth remembering that privilege allows Gaga to be possible.
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