Queer This: Lady Gaga's Paparazzi


Yesterday in class, I mentioned this Lady Gaga video. Is this video an example of excessive, parodic resistance? What does that mean? Or, is it purely a spectacle that faithfully repeats (and is easily co-opted by) dominant ideologies? How do non-normative bodies and sexualities get (hyperbolically) represented in this video? [Note: This is the extended version of the video. The "actual" music video starts at 3 minutes in.


I love this Lady Gaga Clip. I also found your blog very useful. Taking your RSS too. Cheers.

Even after chatting a little about this video in class, I am still totally mystified as to what the intentions of the video are. Although one thing that I found was the representation of Lady Gaga trying to get out of the wheelchair after the accident, using crutches and falling down, was a really strange combination of sexiness/dancing and physical handicaps. I am really wondering if this was intentionally put in the video to push the limits of what mainstream culture defines as sexy or to introduce a discourse surrounding marginalized bodies and sex?

I have the same question as Rachel about what are the implications of the combination of dance and disability represented in the part where she uses crutches. I think it does reveal and question the role of "abnormal" bodily behavior in provoking theatrical fascination, probably seen in any kind of performance where the human body is involved, because the scene sort of makes the viewer wonder, "is this part of choreography or it's just a representation of unstable gait?"

Anyhow, I think the video for the most part questions the norms about the female body and represents, rather than the body itself, its social constructedness. But there are two things that I do not agree with. Firstly, I think it is problematic to put the female body in such an unstable status in which it can be anything from a realistic human body to a half-machine being, from a severely injured (almost corpse-like) body to a dancer, which means the female body has no base but it floats over different images. And, secondly, while the female is portrayed as something unreal, baseless, or queer if you will, the masculine is not "queered" at all. See the male character in the video and you'll find almost nothing queer or unnatural or fake or postmodern. So I think, quite ironically, the video nevertheless reinforces the assumption that the white heterosexual male is the most natural (and thus mortal) way of being.

I watched this video some time ago (though it's no longer available), and I've got to say, I don't think it's necessarily excessive, parodic resistance OR upholding dominant ideologies (though I do recognize Chico's points); it's something entirely different that I can't quite put my finger on. Nonetheless, I feel like this video is pure subversion (for lack of a better term coming to mind) in the sense that it forces the viewer to either engage with it critically or turn it off--nearly everything else that comes out in this nature you can easily tune out of these days. I'll be honest; watching it the first two or three times really made me uncomfortable. Not in a bad way, just in a way that I couldn't articulate, and had I not wanted to engage with it and understand what it was about the video that made me feel that way, I would've just closed the window.

The hyperbolic representation of disabled bodies really struck me; as a viewer, in that place of discomfort you're brought to by her performance (which is, in a way that I have yet to be able to describe, just unsettling), you're forced to realize that because she's definitely upholding the arbitrary standards of beauty, it's got to be the disability, pure and straight, that's bothering you, and that brings you to a place that we really try to denounce as a society--we always put forth the notion of inclusion when really we're just putting our blinders on to make ourselves more comfortable.

I agree with a lot of what Keagan has to say about the psychological realism (psychological in that it DOES, as he says, force you to engage or shut it off) in this (music) video. I'm really interested right now in questions of, for lack of better terms, (hold on for inundation of film theory terminology) distinguishing between the differing effects of realism in classical (or "seamless" in terms of continuity editing, etc.-- think Classic Hollywood Cinema) styles vs. "subversive" (or "aesthetically motivated" in terms of perhaps rapid editing, jump cuts, or "breaking" of other classic rules, etc.-- think Soviet Montage or other montage work as in Requiem for a Dream) styles of cinema. Again, we find ourselves with questions of what subversion is/does. The distinction that is drawn by film theorists from Hayward, to Bazin, to MacCabe usually relies on what Keagan has suggested the Lady Gaga video does-- it alienates, confuses, disorients, all sorts of words that connote a sort of "getting lost" or getting out of the experience. And that exactly what it is: an experience. In this Bazinian territory, intent matters not at all (or at most, very little). The realism here is, as I've suggested, always an effect, an event of discomfort, in relation to the Real-- but also a condition of the Imaginary, right? This might be taking a little much away from very basic readings of Lacan (and I don't know how much Psychology at the U of M or other folks in our class with various majors have slash want to deal with Lacan), but this experience (often finding a sort of "root" in what Roland Barthes deems in photography a "punctum" or point/prick/puncture), in the moment of calling into question one's very subjectivity in its relation to film/video produces what these same theorists deem realism from a posing of Imaginary vs. Real. So what we, and a lot of these film theorists (especially Hayward) deem "subversive" in the case of film/video is revealed to be that which causes discomfort instead of comfort. What's really intriguing after this stream of consciousness is that what causes discomfort is, of course, an arguably subjective experience/event-- but perhaps, at least for Lady Gaga but perhaps for others, who may very well view this music video as subversive, the labeling of its subversion wouldn't be tied to their subjective experience of discomfort. Is it the anticipation of another's discomfort, then? I'm not too sure about that either, because I'm staying firm on the relative unimportance of authorial intent. So can we describe film/video "subversion" more succinctly than "discomfort" (and always on whose part)? Coincidentally, these are the same questions we get stuck on in examining the ways we describe gender trouble/subversion and dis/interrupting space. I believe this means looking through and beyond what the event of subversion is and how it "feels" (uncomfortable) to what it does beyond folded experiences of subject and text.

That all said, I kind of like Lady Gaga and my new roommate who listens to her. I think there's something a little queer about all of Lady Gaga's fans-- kind of like all of Old Greg's fans-- and their somewhat (hetero)normatively positioned celebration of "subversion." That's kind of beautiful.

There is a lot happening in this video that is unsettling in some ways, the vouyerism, the glamorization of injury and disability that doesn't resonant with the reality of material bodily experiences. The most interesting scene for our purposes seems to be the crutches dance number, which I kind of love. If we look at it as a sort of assemblage, a queer mixing of the organic body with the inorganic metal structures operating, if only fashionably, as limbs. Given the title of the song I think Lady Gaga is trying to address the constructed, and fakeness of fame and the assemblage of female bodies with deadly plastics as common practice in the extra glossy entertainment industry. With all the super hot bondage imagry though I have to say that I too think there is something delightfully queer about her.