thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Google Gaga for Glory

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Two years ago, I became madly obsessed with Gaga’s “Telephone” video, as everyone should be.  While many of my friends said that what they really wished for was a video of her and Beyonce getting down like crazy in a club, I was thoroughly won over by the strange mash-up of pop culture references, strange prison-break narrative, poison recipes, and Wonder Woman inspired costumes.  I couldn’t stop watching it.  And I decided that Lady Gaga was making some of the most interesting music videos around right now.  They told stories, but semi-incomprehensible ones that had you scrambling for meaning like a T.S. Eliot poem.  What did they mean?  They seemed to say something about bodies and ability and gender and dancing and fun and art and costumes and…what?  Let’s watch it again!  I started to live in a universe of Lady Gaga videos:  “Paparazzi”, “Bad Romance”, “Alejandro”, “Video Phone” (with Beyonce) – whether I loved or hated her videos, they were never, ever dull.  And if you had asked me if I expected to be bored by a Gaga video, I would have laughed incredulously.

I mean, just look at all these wacky looks – from two videos!

Sexy space halo sunglasses blesses you!

Fruit baskets never looked so sexy on mail order brides with crazy claw dance!

Chicago meets Harley-Davidson for awesome studded bras and prison bar dances!

Angry wonder women will kill you to get better boyfriends!

The sheer lack of dullness is why I am entranced by Lady Gaga.  I think her self-reflective, over-the-top, am-I-serious-or-not antics are amazing and hilarious.  I find every interview with her more fascinating than the last – even when she’s comes across as pretentious, or sanctimonious, or weirdly proselytizing.  Plenty has been written on her taking pop culture’s star obsession to the max, deconstructing art, all that – so I don’t know that I have anything new to say besides “Yes.”  Pop culture is about flash and bling and entertainment, and Lady Gaga gave us that in one big package of weird.  And we love her for it.  I love her for it.

But her videos seemed to get less and less exciting to me during the past year.  And now…I think that the video for “Edge of Glory” is…dull.  It’s pretty much 5 minutes of Lady Gaga in a semi-weird costume lounging about an urban setting full of mist with occasional appearance of the SaxMan (yes, Clarence Clemons, you are cool, but not that visually exciting).

I mean, where is the semi-Biblical biker gang?  Where is the Nazi S&M fest?  Where are the dead women hanging from the ceiling while you dance in a blinged-out wheelchair?  Where are the men with blue eyeshadow doing poison flourishes in the background?  Okay, the Egyptian makeup and leather outfit is a little weird, but it is not as weird as you are, Gaga.  You’ve set yourself up, with fruit baskets and Kermits and lobster hats and big odd googly eyes.  You have to do something weirder to keep my attention.

Fascinatingly, what’s not boring is the recent Google chrome commercial featuring “Edge of Glory.”  I first heard the song on that commercial, and found myself strangely moved.  I normally hate things that deliberately pull on my heartstrings, but the Google Chrome commercials are just killing me.  They’re so moving!  Why?  There’s some way they fulfill our fantasy desires for what art and technology could give us: community; self-empowerment; a moment of feeling really on the edge of glory:

It seems to me that what this video incorporates, and what so many of Gaga’s videos do incorporate, is the sense of the artist being part of a larger community.  Here, it’s literal.  The commercial very movingly depicts the way Gaga has interacted with her fans, inspiring them to be creative in their own ways.  The vision of her running across the bridge has a scrappy, epic feel to it (which I especially like given her recent interview in Rolling Stone, where she talks about her love of Rocky).  We get the sense of an underdog fighting the odds, whose weirdness inspires the weirdness of the world around her and creates this new, weird, wonderful community.  All her videos have been about a weird, weird person dancing in a weird world with other weird people – and this commercial takes all that weird appeal and literalizes it.  Gaga is dancing her weird dance in the world, and others are drawn in through the process.  That possible moment – that moment of feeling  as though one is participating in something large and grand and awesome –  is the real epic appeal behind songs like “Edge of Glory.”  In her recent post on Nicki Minaj, Sarah quoted Sunny Biswas, who claimed, “making people feel like superheroes for three to five minutes at a time is one of the greatest things that pop music does.”   This song definitely does this – and what the Google commercial oddly captures (and the music video doesn’t) is that expansive, elated feeling – the superhero moment of connection and possibility and exciting, exciting strangeness.

  1. Love this post! Do not love this video, but am totally loving the song (which is on the radio every time i get in my car)!

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