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Gaga for Gaga

To speak is always to say too much. Please allow me to say too much about Lady Gaga and her new clip “Bad Romance.”


Feminism appears in Lady Gaga only as another vocabulary to subsume, to activate in the service of her sale. She celebrates not simply through ironic distance but through celebrating. Her manipulation by handlers is a gesture towards subsumed models utilized ultimately to only underscore Gaga’s own power. She beats the Russians at their own game — our game, that is — capitalism. But then the brilliance of Gaga sits in her recognition that it is no one’s game: The circulation of capital takes all players, all performers. Show your hand, show your poker face, and you’re in. Or more accurately, you’re already in. Just dance.


“Nothing is less certain today than sex, behind the liberation of its discourse. And nothing today is less certain than desire, behind the proliferation of its images.” Baudrillard first made these observations in 1979. Lady Gaga lives them in 2009.

Gaga is obsessed with reinvention, self-production, transformation, within the singular video and across all her work. Her displays of rapture are calculated to stun and predicated on erasure of the previous. As an astute participant in the circulation of capital, she knows the only constant is change. Teacups to polar bear trains, all is a bad romance and it’s so stunning when it goes up in flames.


She is outrageous, yes, but always on the terms of capital. “You’re a criminal as long as you’re mine.” No sense reiterating the society of the spectacle, unless perhaps to assert Gaga’s full knowledge of those terms of critique. This is more than simply immersion in the spectacle. As usual, it is familiar gestures of narrative and lyric. What is Lady Gaga’s contribution? Her feminism is a gesture for sale. “I’m a freak bitch, baby.”


To speak of Lady Gaga in terms of spectacle cheapens her work. I mean this literally. She works in terms of expense, wager. She is a conduit, a circuit. She is a relay point between pixels and credit. And we can never give her too much credit. She is a point of purchase of our projected fantasies. She does not submerge the processes of her performances — we are not alienated from the production of the “Haus of Gaga.” Forget the T-shirts, $100 Heartbeats Headphones, or her $12.99 Back to School Bundle — Lady Gaga’s accomplishment is her construction of a closed loop of exchange. Her videos are the closest she will come to material substantiation of her enterprise. Her existence is predicated on the illusion of utter divulgement, an illusion that hides the fact that we are alienated from our own sex.


Gaga’s tearful, relatively unaltered face pleading in direct camera address is, in truth, the most artificial image in the video. Lady Gaga performs the illusion of distress. She is hardly in danger; she appeals to our will to domination and our fantasy of possessing the power to aid this supposedly fragile, manipulated waif. It is our hubris she courts. Our position of control is the fantastical component, the most expensive production value. Our belief in personal agency slides into Gaga’s dominant positions in the following images: We relish her strut and regimented display still from the illusion that it is all for us. But it is we who perform for her: Posting her video on Facebook profiles, transmitting her rhetoric of calculated controversy across email, Twitter, YouTube response videos and make-up tutorials. We believe that by association we may somehow share the warmth of her Bath Haus pod. Maybe she will fondle our disco stick, now vertigo stick.


It is simply a continuation of the product placement Lady Gaga generates in her videos. We are eager to find correlation to our desires: Archetypes; Russian gangsters, the bath house, high-end fashion and costumes and Alexander McQueen shoes, her aforementioned line of ear-buds (at $99.95). It is the simulation of fantasy. It is an illusion that our computer screens deliver anything but emulation of fantasy. It is a fantasy of information, a fantasy of pleasure. Lady Gaga does not inhabit a world. We inhabit hers.


She manufactures the appearance of fantasy. She looks like what we should want. Is it so surprising that Gaga’s first recognizable appearance (sunglasses $10 on her Web site) is in a mirror, probably positioned on the same wall as her flaming consummation at the end of the video? Baudrillard recognizes the similarity between the feminine and simulacrum. Seduction is their common term. Lady Gaga seduces us to re-cognize her simulation: Look. Then look again.


Consider Lady Gaga’s gyroscopic costume. She is poised and centered in the clean room/light box non-place of “Bath Haus of Gaga.” Her body is the axis of its revolutions. Lady Gaga is at the center of a constellation of market forces. We are caught in her orbit. Her diamond set piece further confirms this.


We go gaga for Gaga. She is not a fame monster. We are the fame monsters, hungry for her production values to rub off onto us. She is the center of capital, the center of an exchange of the lowest possible production for maximum profit. We pay attention. There is always more. She is sold for twenty-eight million YouTube views, and counting.

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  1. orbit exchange on Monday, June 14, 2021 at 2:34 am

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    Gaga for Gaga | Trumbull Island…