The Power of Gaga

In a world filled with countless celebrities, icons, and trendsetters, there is perhaps no one more polarizing than the music superstar Lady GaGa.  Since her debut back in 2008, the star has captivated the world with her art inspired performances, outrageous outfits, and visually stunning music videos.  While some pop culture aficionados will claim she creates such elaborate looks and music for the sole sake of seeking attention, others will say that there is heartfelt meaning and consideration behind every look or idea she has.  From my own experience, it seems as if the majority of people either love her or hate her.  No matter what your view on this woman may be, however, it’s hard to deny the fact that she uses her fame and power to express her most inner feelings and desires, as well as challenge societal norms and ideals.

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The main platform in which the superstar can be found expressing her thoughts and feelings is the social-media site, Twitter.  Although the third most followed person on the site, Lady GaGa doesn’t tweet as much as you’d think.  As a follower, I’ve noticed that over the course of the past year she would go days, and even weeks without tweeting.  Only recently, has she started producing a steady flow of tweets, as her new album is expected for release in just a week.  When she does take the time to tweet her content can range from lyrics from upcoming songs to personal anecdotes regarding her life and work.

In Marwick and Boyd’s article “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter,” the authors analyze celebrity performance on the social media site.  One of their main findings is the idea that “Celebrity practitioners reveal what appears to be personal information to create a sense of intimacy between participant and follower.”  In order to explain this more in depth, the authors delve into Erving Goffmans’ famous work titled “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.”  They convey “how people, like actors navigate ‘frontstage’ and ‘backstage’ areas in any given social situation,” depending on the context.  As seen on her Twitter account, Lady GaGa is quite the expert at navigating between these two stages, as one hour she’ll tweet information regarding her newest record, and the next, she’ll tweet something regarding her hip surgery.  One of the most recent examples of Gaga allowing fans into her ‘backstage’ realm is when she tweeted about the death of her 17 year old dog, Alice, who suffered from cancer.  By tweeting about such a painful and heartfelt experience, GaGa projected her raw emotions to millions of followers, who yearn for intimate details of her life, which will ultimately enrich her relationship with her most devoted fans, known as Little Monsters.

Although these kind of tweets may be common amongst celebrities, who look to appear authentic, GaGa’s tweets can push the envelope when it comes to projecting her ‘backstage’ thoughts.  Just last week, the star went on an emotionally charged rant, in which she defended herself against her detractors.  Throughout the years, certain publications and personalities, like Perez Hilton, have accused GaGa of flat-out copying other artists, such as Madonna and Bette Middler.  They’ve also harped on her weight issues, and addiction problems.  By tweeting excerpts from these tabloids, GaGa let her audience know that she could care less when it comes to what critics, like Perez Hilton, have to say.  She took the negative criticism and seemingly shoved it right back in their faces, which many public figures would likely hesitate doing, as this could start a major feud.  Whether this was a publicity stunt, or not, GaGa empowered her fans to stand up to haters (or trolls), and encouraged them to say what’s truly on their mind.  Through this rant, the star explicitly conveyed what’s actually on her mind, which is an ultimate representation of the ‘backstage’ realm.

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As seen above, Lady GaGa is not afraid to say what’s on her mind.  Well, she’s also not afraid to post how she looks.  Every so often, the star can be seen posting photos of herself, which are linked to her Instagram account.  In Amy Dobson’s work “The ‘grotesque body’ in young women’s self presentation on MySpace,” the author discusses body representation and its political and social implications.  According to Dobson, women typically fall into categories ranging from “hetero-sexiness” or “traditional femininity” to “grotesqueness.”  Dobson states how “hetero-sexy” and “traditional femininity” are often “aligned with a specific gendered and heterosexual aesthetic, derivative of both ‘traditional femininity (pink, delicate, cutesy, and so on) and mainstream heterosexual pornography (overly large artificial looking breasts, high heels, excessive make-up, revealing clothing or clothing which draws attention to sexual or erogenous zones).  As seen in the photos below, GaGa often plays into this idea of “traditional femininity” by emphasizing her skin tone, blonde hair, and delicate figure, through wearing fashionable dresses and jewelry.  She can also be seen playing up the “hetero-sexy” look, as other photos display greater amounts of skin and make-up.

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Although GaGa shares a fair amount of “hetero-sexy” photos on Twitter, she’s certainly not afraid to post what Dobson would call a “grotesque” image, every once in a while.  In her article, Dobson conveys how “grotesqueness” may be “aligned with a narrative of humiliation and degradation of the female object, producing for the viewer a sadistic kind of pleasure.”  She also states, however, how this sort of “un-feminine” representation “perhaps disrupts or subverts both gender stereotypes and the type of sadistic pleasure Mulvey associates with voyeuristic narratives.”  As displayed by her archive of posts, it seems as if Lady GaGa falls into the latter description of “grotesque” behavior.  While her photos often display open orifices, such as the  mouth, and seem “purposely comical and silly,” (exemplified by her rolling around in cake) many of her images simply challenge gender norms and expectations.  Examples of such photos include images of her unique haircut, in which the back part of her head is shaved, and images of her wearing a mustache, which, for many, is the exact opposite of “hetero-sexy.”  By posting both “hetero-sexy” and “grotesque” images on her Twitter account, GaGa indirectly conveys to girls everywhere that it’s okay to dress in every which way you desire.  By stimulating discussion around her images, she helps break down stereotypes which declare that women should try their best to look feminine, or that they do not have the right, or power, to experiment with their body and image.

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Marwick and Boyd state how “Twitter reveals how social media can be used to maintain celebrity status.” By posting attention grabbing content, the pop superstar surely knows how to maintain her celebrity status.  While her detractors may say she only posts such material in order to stay relevant, and whether or not this is true, there’s no denying that GaGa challenges the way in which public figures should act in the public eye.  Her content not only defies gender norms & societal ideals, but also pushes the boundaries when it comes to what celebrities can display publicly.

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