Lady Gaga is without a doubt one of the most influential and recognizable faces in the music industry. She is particularly known for her penchant for the shocking. From provocative song lyrics to crazy costumes to over-the-top music videos, Gaga has done everything. She calls herself an activist and is outspoken in her support for progressive ideals such as LGBTQ rights and feminism, which she tries to convey through her work. While she has certainly succeeded in capturing people’s attention, some criticize the “extremity” of her antics and as a result can be deterred from the messages she tries to get across.
One highlighted event is when Lady Gaga wore the infamous “meat dress”. Wile many found her attire to be over-the-top and extreme, she continued to push for advocacy. In an interview in 2011, Lady Gaga stated that she wore the dress to advocate for the protest if the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the United States military.
Gaga is also known to be a feminist. In her early song “The Fame”, Gaga talks about the superficiality of a life of glamour and material wealth. Particularly, she makes a commentary on society’s view of beauty in women. In the song Gaga sings:
All we care about is pornographic girls on film and body plastic
Give me something
I wanna see television, and hot blondes in odd positions
Here again we see Gaga’s strong choice of wording as she bluntly points out that all society wants to see and all media wants to show is “hot” women being sexualized. Critics of her, however, may say that her music videos often portray women in a sexual way. Janell Hobson mentions in her article on Beyonce that some people criticize Beyonce as being too sexual and detrimental to the cause of feminism. Feminist bell hooks went as far as to say call her a “a terrorist especially in terms of the impact on young girls.” They would certainly say the same about Lady Gaga who is arguably much more extreme than Beyonce is.
One song that really turned heads, however, is Gaga’s “Judas”, inspired by the Biblical Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. The song is about forgiveness and betrayal, but more specifically, it can be read as a criticism against infidelity in men. In the song Gaga sings:
I’m just a Holy Fool, oh baby
It’s so cruel, but I’m still in love with Judas, baby
Woah woah woah woah woah
I’m in love with Judas, Judas
In this song Judas is a metaphor for Gaga’s ex and the song symbolizes how Gaga keeps going back to her ex despite all the times he hurt her and cheated on her.
Just as heard turning, if not more so, is the accompanying music video for the song. The video plays out as a modern-day reimagining of the story of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, in which Gaga plays Mary Magdalene.
There are many rather interesting aspects of the video. One is Gaga’s “touchiness” and fondness for Jesus, which would imply some sort or romance between Mary and Jesus, a suggestion that certainly would not sit well with Christians. Another is the apparent romantic tension that goes on between Gaga and Judas (played by Norman Reedus); eventually Gaga is shown washing the feet of both Jesus and Judas, which could imply a romance between Mary and both Jesus and Judas.
The video ends with not Jesus being killed but Mary, suggesting that, in light of the song’s theme of betrayal, she was betrayed by both Jesus and Judas.
Gaga is speaking out against men’s infidelity and telling women that they don’t need to go back to such men, but many Christians criticized her method of getting that message across, including the Catholic League who condemned her use of Christian imagery and the implications made from that imagery.
Overall, Lady Gaga is an outspoken individual who will continue to speak out for topics that she believes is important. One main theme that she highlights throughout here work is the freedom and choice of expression that people should have. While many people may not be a fan of the way she gets her messages across, there is no doubt that she continues to shock the world with her methods of advocacy.
Banet-Weiser, S. (2018). Postfeminism and Popular Feminism. Feminist Media Histories, 4(2), 152-155. doi:https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2018.4.2.152
Hobson, J. (2013). Beyonce’s Fierce Feminism. Ms. Magazine, 23(2)
Williams, J. (2014). ‘Same DNA, but Born this Way’: Lady Gaga and the Possibilities of Postessentialist Feminisms. Journal Of Popular Music Studies, 26(1), 28-46. doi:10.1111/jpms.12058