By Andrew Wailes
And it doesn't stop! The dancers (who I am from now on going to refer to as "Gaga's gays" as that is clearly the intention) are seen marching in sexualized military garb. And with all the present efforts to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, a goal of political relevance is certainly achieved.
And then our lady appears -- looking icy hot in a binocular head piece and a custom Alexander McQueen black cape. She sits on her thrown overlooking her gays. Though she told Larry King that she doesn't yet consider herself an icon, her longing for the title is apparent. And though some would lament her status as such, the attention she's giving to and receiving from our community is astronomical. Even in looking at Popnography alone -- what posts get more comments (either positive or negative) than the ones about Lady Gaga?
Gaga looks down longingly at her gays lusting for the love they have, a sentiment reflected in the song's lyrics. Although this video doesn't necessarily have a driving plot as many of her previous videos have had, it certainly embraces the lyrics of the song and the very specific message she would like them to represent. Sure there isn't a girl with "both hands in her pockets," but strict adherence would be pretty silly, yeah? I mean did you criticizers honestly expect her to come out in a sombrero?
Before Gaga comes down to join her gays, choreographer Laurie-Ann Gibson treats us to an intense and passionate dance sequence. Gaga's message of admiration for the courage of homosexual love and the intense passion that results from it is certainly reflected -- and to great effect.
And then comes the S&M in a scene that required a friend of mine to exercise a great deal of self-control while watching this vid at work. Gaga has descended from her position as ruler in search of the love she so pines for, but even a scene with as much sexiness as this one does not bring resolution. As she is a woman, the gay men do not want her.
But as a representation of the church? Now things get interesting. When Gaga reappears, an embodiment of the church in a cross-laden rubber outfit, the gays are all of a sudden on the floor. Here is the church as oppressor, the (as Gaga calls it) "bogus" institution. The gays rise from their lowered positions not because they want her sexually but because they want to ravish her and destroy the very oppression she now symbolizes. Oh yea, and she swallows rosary beads somewhere in there. Hooray controversy!
And now onto that awful vest and pant combo that so terrified me when the teaser for this video was released. Yes the whole video has a distinctly Madonna feel to it, but this scene was a little too "Vogue" for comfort and frankly just didn't seem to make much sense. But now I feel like I finally understand what she's trying to do. New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica told MTV that Gaga seems to be saying "This is mine" to Madonna, and no where in this video is it more apparent than in this scene. The music is muted, the fashion is understated, and the colors are reduced to black and white. This is Gaga as Madonna in her attempt to upstage her. As soon as the music picks back up, the colors return and the lady is back full-force in an outfit evidently inspired by but meant to surpass Madonna's iconic cone bra from her Blonde Ambition Tour. Gaga is declaring herself the ruler in chief, her gays in tow.
From one icon to another, Gaga now appears dressed as Bono, singing in front of crosses, with interspersed images of flames and warfare. Well I'm certainly glad I took a week to tackle this project. It seems she is trying to make a statement about the power of performance. Bono, with his religious and political lyrics and hugely respectable philanthropy work, epitomizes the power a rock star can have to positively effect the world. Gaga seems to be paying tribute to that, reiterating what she has said all along about the power of performance to inspire change. But how? This doesn't seem to be very clearly explained. For the purposes of this video it doesn't need to be, but I am curious as to her intentions. Or is it all just for show?
Perhaps it is, for we quickly return to a different type of violence in the form of a mock rape scene. Gaga is back in her rubber cross outfit as the gays literally tear it off her body in a completion of the ravishment they started before.
We end with Gaga-as-nun lying in a bed next to a (gorgeous) man holding a pistol. They are both attached to strings as if marionettes. Even the gun has a string. To me, this final moment is saying that nothing is really up to us as individuals. (This goes with the theme of mind-control referenced in the "Telephone" video.) The gays are inevitably going to rise up and defeat the oppression of the "bogus" institution, which -- as we see as the video ends -- is nothing more than a monster.
Overall impressions? Gorgeous cinematography, gorgeous clothes, gorgeous men. Gorgeous video. The countless Madonna similarities didn't bother me per se, although I did find the purposeful jab (if that is indeed what it was) a bit premature this early in Gaga's career. I do consider Gaga my gay icon of this generation, but I am a little concerned if my reading of this video is in fact correct. We don't need our icons battling it out! You're both fabulous!