Lady Gaga, Embodiment of the Internet Age
By Daniel Tehrani
2012 has been a good year for Mother Monster. She's on her third world tour, graced the cover of Vogue's September issue, and her debut fragrance has flown off the shelves. That's a great platform for her next album, ArtPop, set to be released next year. And yet, since the beginning of her career, Lady Gaga has been plagued by claims that she has plagiarized the personas of other pop-stars.
Madonna has addressed this head on, mixing "Born This Way" into "Express Yourself" in performances of her MDNA tour, followed by a few lines of the song "She's Not Me". The message of the feud is clear, but could Madonna and other Gaga-disenters be mistaken? Feminist filmmaker and writer Gillian Schutte finds that mashing up the looks and identities of past icons is essential to Gaga's role as the physical, pop-goddess embodiment of a Google search bar.
Post-modernism revels in life's meaninglessness and Gaga's undefinable, ever-changing amalgamation of personas exemplifies that. In the article for HuffPo, Schutte finds that, "Like a computer-generated avatar she changes her art, her definition, her outfits, her politics as if it is the collective imagination controlling her and not herself." Schutte goes on to explain how Gaga "carries this fragmented worldview on her small frame like a slippery skin. She is both celebratory and cerebral, both computerized and human, both compassionate and inhumane. She is everyone and no one. Her appeal relies on both her presence and her evanescence. Perhaps then, she is actually a post postmodern digital icon that heralds a future that those of us born in the 20th Century simply cannot grasp in full."
Schutte notes Gaga's self-awareness and the "massively electronic and impersonal" nature of her stage appearances, paving the way for others to follow suit. In this day and age it seems impossible to be a pop-star without being in some way a self-aware parody of one, more spectacle then substance - think of Katy Perry's pinup-girl/Gwen Stefani-on-acid or Nicki Minaj's rap-girl/Lil Kim-also-on-acid.
Since Gaga hit the scene, a bevy of stars have taken on internet-inspired personas as well. Lana Del Rey is the incarnation of a teenage girl's Tumblr dreams, as GQ UK put it in its "Men of the Year" issue in October, Lana Del Rey is "beauty, Instagrammed." Azealia Banks, female rapper du jour, has also followed suit, joining Rihanna in taking inspiration from the internet-art movement Sea-Punk and getting flack for it.
But Gaga has been making a dotcom-era statement from the beginning of her career, before her fellow pop-tarts were ever tuned in. If Gaga is indeed the avatar of the Internet-age, this has been her agenda from the start, making a commentary on it since the debut of her aptly named first album, 2008's The Fame. The robotic, icy-cold and unfeeling nature of a sexual encounter told in "Poker Face" is incredibly foretelling of her future as an "impersonal" star, as is "Paparazzi," which in sharp contrast to "Poker Face," tells of society's intense and rather violent obsession with celebrity, an obsession now locked in on her.
But those songs say as much about Gaga as they do about society - could Poker Face be a metaphor for a Grindr hookup or Facebook friendships? Could "Paparazzi" detail our inner monologues as we follow Lindsay Lohan's every move on Perez or spritz ourselves silly with another celebrity endorsed fragrance? If the internet has sucked the meaning out of the 21st Century and submerged it into shallowness, then Gaga absolutely revels in it, as if to say "life has no meaning, lets party!"
We've been privy to the fact that the Internet is our future for quite some time, but since her debut, Gaga's been pulling the strings, making a Warholian commentary, knowing all the time that the future of art lies in celebrating the meaninglessness of our media-overwhelmed, iPhone-addicted lives. Tumblr-Celebrities, Twitter Whores, and Facebook Stalkers should bow down before your queen.