Deconstructing Gaga: Through the Lens of 100 Youth

Mar. 29, 2010 Whether you’re Gaga for Gaga or your emotions run toward dropping the last letter (ahem, cough) there’s no doubt her one billion online video views ascending her from bland to brand have given this top selling recording artist much to celebrate beyond LadyGaga’s 24th birthday yesterday.

Mea culpa on missing the mark for a full-fledged youth roundup of “lil’ monsters” weighing in with various levels of fandom and commentary on fame and flame factor via Facebook about her explicit new Telephone video and product placement buzz that’s been ringing off the hook (special thanks to reader @MissRachelHa for polling her pals). Stefani Germanotta (aka LadyGaga) received “126 wishes from around the world” in a “biggest fan-made video ever” yesterday (March 28, 2010) and uber fan Ryan James Yezak was rewarded by this sincere tweet from @LadyGaGa herself:

“I’ve never cried so hard in 24 years, from pure joy and unconditional love. Tears still streaming.” Awww. Sounds like a not-so-hardened ‘Fame Monster’ who genuinely craves caring and attention from these global youth voices, despite her reputation for seriousness, intensity and aspirations to be a ‘role model.’

So, rest assured Gaga gaggle, this is not a post “hatin’ on her” nor do I have analysis paralysis (believe me, my feedback is forthcoming) I just want to hear from kids themselves first, before I add my two cents regarding Gaga’s media and marketing influence on youth.

Here’s a sneak peek at the Facebook wall of youth Twitter gal pal Rachel Ha, (Grade 12, Vancouver) who did me a huge favor by posting this query for youth reaction to Gaga’s new (explicit/NSFW) Telephone video with Beyonce.

Rachel received upwards of 100 responses, some pithy and sardonic, some erudite and measured, and many just wild-n-wooly no holds barred weirdness, much like Gaga’s fans themselves!

Enjoy, youth anthropologists, I’m up next…

Rachel Ha (Grade 12) Posts Her Query On Facebook:

The New Telephone Video by Lady Gaga: What do YOU think?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 5:15pm

“Hello everyone! So I was looking through some YouTube videos with my friends the other day and the new Telephone video by Lady Gaga and Beyonce caught my eye. I heard it was really popular so I watched it. To be quite honest, I found the video distasteful and did not like it at all. However, I want to hear what all of YOU think. And also, if you could briefly answer the questions below, that would be awesome!

1. Did you like this video? Why or why not?
2. Based on the trend in many music videos today (more explicit content, language etc.), how do you think this video would influence youths?

But feel free to just ignore these questions and answer in any way you like! Just want to see how everyone feels about this vid… I must emphasize that I want your HONEST opinion.

We’re all different, and we all have different opinions. So as long as we’re respectful of other people’s opinions, feel free to express your thoughts! Thanks! Here’s the link to the video!
http://www.ladygaga.com/telephone/#
—Rachel Ha

Cross-selection of the roundup of responses: (unedited/grammar)

C.L. (male, 18): LOL! are you joking me! LMFAO. it was so goood! everything was so cool from the fashion to the dancing to the cheesy acting. it was so entertaining and theres never been a music video thats been so hyped up in a while. this was one of the best to come out lately and gaga is just adding to her collection of eye popping music videos. they both killed the dancing! its all entertainment. the concept was a continuation to her paparazzi video. she got arrested at the end of paparazzi and now shes in jail with beyonce breaking her out. the video makes a “thelma & louise” reference. and music videos doesn’t have to go exactly with the song. so many videos don’t and its just how they decide to interpret the song. the songs about her being in the club and not picking up her phone causes shes too busy getting her party on, but imagine if the video was a typical club/dance video. it would be so boring. so many videos exploit women and you’re putting all the blame on gaga! ya’ll keep hating, cause gaga and beyonce don’t know who you are. its simple, don’t watch it if you don’t like it. the video is what it is, lady gaga is lady gaga. you can’t tell her what type of artist she can or cannot be.

J.C. (male, 22): it was kind of a cheesy tarantino homage i thought.

i think gaga’s overt sexuality is far to vulgar to seriously be considered ‘sexy’, and is used more so as an avenue for artistic expression (think marilyn manson?)

in other words, they were going for more shock value than enticing people with sex, and i think that has a far different effect on the viewership. …

gaga is far past making a quick buck, and is now trying to cement her place in popular music history by creating an epic video catalogue.

it worked for Michael Jackson…

D.V. (male, 17): well it’s differnt, i thought the overall concept was kinda wierd: semi nude dancing, lesbanese jail, ciggerette glasses, killing tyrese, what does that have to do with telephones?

C.C. (male, 18): I think it sucks.

M.P. (female, 16): People always make things to be more abstract than they usually are. There’s not that much genius to the video. It’s sort of overly sexual too and does not depict women in a respectable manner. Also – it felt as if there was no purpose to this except for some ass-strutting and skin. But, Lady Gaga is avant-garde, but this is not music. Rap and R&B and this whole mainstream scene is mediocre now, I think that the good days have gone.

A.H. (female, 18): that’s some intense advertising

J.C. (male, 18): Some conspiracy nutjob had too much time on his hands. The lyrics are short and simple enough that practically anything could be made to fit into them.

For the video, well, I think it’s just another one of her over-sexual and weird videos..

S.C. (male, 18): wah wah nude this, wah wah exploit that.
none of you are important enough as woman to be complaining about how she portrays women and puts out a negative image on them as a whole. so quit crying.

A.S. (female, 16): Quite honestly, I was very disturbed when I first saw this video. Yes, there are many videos out there that is filled with female nudity; however, this one was overly sexual for me to handle!!!

I think that youths these days have just gotten too used to so much nudity, violence, and coarse language that their feelings have numbed down toward the subject. But really, it’s time for people to realize that it isn’t right to have so much of those vulgar aspects in one video!

U.A. (male, 19): I find it amusing how the concept of female objectification has become a cornerstone of the pseudo-intellectual debate this post has resulted into. I haven’t taken the time to watch the music video in its entirety, but from what I understand, the exploitation of women is in no way an issue in this music video. I can understand the instinctual tendency of misguided idealists and self proclaimed liberals and feminists to derive a meaning from media so irrelevant, to promote a socially accepted form of morality; but it really has no place here. Merely considering the clash between feminists themselves, one can argue that conceptually, a necessary form of female empowerment is based around acceptance of objectivity. As for the enlightened rhetoric on the incompetent action of scavenging for non existent meaning, I find it hard to not read on and not succumb to a feeling of disappointment and ever so slight amusement. If the use of metaphors has any place it is in media, particularly music. Merely stating that a verse is simplistic or short is not in any way a premise for the argument that a piece of writing has no deeper meaning. It is only through careful analysis that one understands the underlying meaning of any argument.

Metaphors are a way to show the simple and delicate meanings of concepts too daunting or otherwise uneasy to bring up by making connections with what appears to be irrelevant. I believe it would also be prudent to actually reflect on the symbolism used in this music video, and not just lyrics, otherwise it becomes quite difficult to make any intelligent statement about the nature and meaning it has; not that this deterrent is actually affective.

J.A. (female, 16): Two words: PUSSY WAGON.

J.M. (male, 17): Agreed as many have said: The advertising is insane and can be seen everywhere. The video didn’t make much sense but I enjoyed it due to it’s “fabulousness” if that can be used to describe something. Like, it was so over the top (As is everything GaGa) but it kind of sucks you in making you wonder wtf she’s gonna do next. Costumes were unique, and I quite enjoyed a few of them.

J.M. (male, 17 cont…) In terms of affect on children. It’s obviously not meant for a child to view it, but thanks to good old interwebs that’s not necessarily gonna’ cut it. Yes, there are some vulgar and sexual scenes but what people have to start getting is that THAT is GaGa’s art form. It’s her inspiration. Say what you want, GaGa IS an artist. Probably not a la mode, but she’s a visionary none the less.

T.M. (male, 15): haha i think its kinda to…explicit for youth, but if its not directed towards them and its trying to be ironic then its alright…i guess.
maybe make it less angry/dirty? you kno more SNSD style XD

P.D. (male, 17): ummmmi liked it cause it did what it was meant to do: get 18 million views within 1 week of it being posted. apffffffft all that illuminati stuff is crap she uses it cause it looks cool and it does.

and i think the video is supposed to also start up controversy
so congrat video, youve accomplished your job.

B.A. (male, 17): i loved it! once u kill a cow, u gotta make a burger….LMFAO

G.I. (male, 17): At first, I was like “wtf” when those security guards stripped her after they led her into her cell. The half-naked dancing was also quite strange. But after Beyonce came into the video, it became really entertaining and hilarious…I mean, “Let’s make a Sandwich”? Oh and I gotta love the end of the video where Beyonce does those repetitive actions.

I don’t think this video will have a bad influence on youth because its quite obvious that Lady Gaga is just known to be randomly entertaining. And its not like the scene where they poison everyone is something that will motivate others to do so…its pretty light hearted and funny.

Mind you, there’s not enough room to really get the gist of the nuance of the back and forth dialog among the youth on the Facebook wall, because the verbiage and variety alone is like an ethnographic snapshot of digital doings (dang, where’s Prof. Michael Wesch when I need him? 😉

When one person responds “it sucks”  the rapidfire reply is “hater”…then the dialog zings back and forth in various threads of coherence…

One guy poses that the video relates to mind control, a covert practice used by the military, the CIA, religious cults and the Illuminati elite, and proceeds to deep dive into some mental floss of his own…The next response was along the lines of,

“I didn’t say it doesn’t have meaning because it’s short and simplistic, I said it’s so easy to come up with a BS analysis because it’s so short and simplistic. And BS it is, believe me; Illuminati mind control? Spare me the conspiracy theories…” etc.

Another fascinating comment,

D.C. female “I really believe in the power of visuals and sometimes visions come to me and I know I have to do them. It doesn’t really matter if it makes sense or if it doesn’t make sense. By the end of the video, it became so much more as we explored each scene it became about transsexual women and it became about making fun of American hallmarks like soda cans and cigarettes and mayonnaise and bread.”

Hmn. Few more interesting ones recently added, like:

C.C. (female) “It didn’t make any sense! The lyrics talk about one thing, the video just speaks excuse to dress up and advertise a thousand different brands in one video while emphasizing the images of females in society today. And by emphasizing, I mean emphasizing the conformities in which society binds us by when judging a female…However, in the overall picture. It is entertainment and it did serve that purpose. What sells is not necessarily the most politically or morally correct, but it does work…My impression of the video is that it was a big advertising scheme. The video was the just the means by which they advertised (ie. virgin mobile paired up with the kiss, etc.)”

(Aha: someone is deconstructing with media literacy on product placement, wOOt! 🙂

Here’s another classic, a great big chain-pulling yank to others:

J.N. (male): “I think I liked C’s answer second best (cause mine was the best). The video had all the things I judge women on: Tits and ability to cook. 😀 Honestly, I think she’s just making money like every other a*****e. If I had tits and I could sing I’d be doing the exact same thing. Anyone (with half a brain) would.

For added benefits, act weird and hope people think it’s “artistic” or “inspiring”…Let’s be serious…Just how influential is Gaga’s video? She didn’t introduce me to vaginae ([email protected] vagina, ty spellcheck). I learned about those in like grade 4. I was shooting the s*** out of ducks in Duck Hunt when I was like 5, Gaga didn’t introduce me to killing. Any other issues are too insignificant to care about, if they come up I’ll talk about them. PS. The video was meh. The song is catchy as is to be expected with any song of hers.”

Ouch. This guy wields his wit like a saber…future as a blogger perhaps?

And finally, the piece de resistance, one of the last but not least posts by a male, C.C. who adds some synopsis-like flair in very visual tones that speak directly to media’s impact on youth:

C.C. male/college “Okay, personally, I like the melody of most of Lady Gaga’s music. But I am a little bit shocked by the fuzzed out vagina and the taped over nipples (can someone say strip club?).

I don’t normally consider myself conservative, but I don’t believe that this material should really be out and readily available for viewing by adolescents/teenagers & below.

Yes, Lady Gaga may have a smoking hot body, which by all means she can openly market… TO an appropriate market. It seems that in this age of new media, we’re breeding a population of very forward thinking, innovative, young individuals who are at the top of their game – the ones who can consume this media and place a critical eye, whether it be positive or negative. But from what I can see from teenagers these days, is that the fact that they continue to remain impressionable is as good as it is bad.

It seems a lot more popular these days to fake being drunk, actually be drunk and then broadcast it to the world the next day, and sport miniskirts and tube tops when they don’t even have breasts. Let’s face it, pop culture (read as “popular culture”) is a mess to their heads.

It seems that many adults can still consume pop culture, enjoy it, but still have a pragmatic and realistic outlook on how the world really runs, but artists like Lady Gaga are revolutionaries. Difference sells, and different is cool, and cool is very attractive adoptable.

So while Lady Gaga may not be the best influence for our children and does not effectively impress reality upon them, by living it out, young people are able to craft out new realities. What used to be realities are no more, just as another 20 years down the road reality will once again demonstrate its dynamism.

So the conclusion is yes, I enjoyed it. No, I am not into gay jail sex/rape (although I guess I look at it at the painful perspective of being in a male prison), murder, or wearing runway abstracts on the streets (though I think it’s neat and fearless)…it’s there, (some parts of) society has tolerated it. Go ahead – enjoying, and like it, but don’t let it get to your head, because the likely thing is that if you do, you’re going to wake up the next morning and look at the mirror and still not realize that you are still ugly, and that you got so wasted last night you left your starving child in his crib all day yesterday. He/she has now effectively soiled himself/herself, and you’re late for your job. Oh wait, you don’t have a job. Thank god for the child support and welfare cheques.”

Gawd, where can I get some of these teens as interns???

Related Resources

Growing Up Gaga (New York Magazine)

Shocking/Violent Images Impact Children Differently (WebMD)

PrimeTime Torture: Rising on TV/Copied in Field (HumanRights)

Gender, Race & Sexism Pop Culture Cues (Shaping Youth)

Who Paid and Who Didn’t? Prod Placement/Telephone (Newser)

Telephone: Best Video Parodies  (Gawker.tv)

What Can Pop Learn From Telephone? (Guardian, U.K.)

Product Placement in Lady Gaga’s Telephone (Crushable)

15 Insanely Popular Lady Gaga Videos on YouTube (Mashable)

Lady Gaga First Artist With One Billion Online Video Views

Lady Gaga Photo Gallery:  (montage credit)

Lady Gaga’s Disability Project (Sociological Images)

Final note: Rachel graciously added this post-polling follow-up candor:

“I really think this was an excellent issue to think about! Quite honestly, I thought the video was distasteful and vulgar towards women but after reading some great comments from everyone, I’m not sure anymore. I hope I’ve been of some help. Please keep all the interesting tweets coming! I’ll be glad to help you with anything else.”

Thank you SO much for sharing this window on your world, Rachel Ha…and for High school Senior Lilly over at Rachel Simmons blog for boldly doing the same…It’s important to hear all the various youth voices to add context to a complicated conversation that clearly hits various ages and stages at different levels….

…Which will be the segue to MY analysis (on product placement, under 16s, ambient raunch, and artsy symbolism that goes ‘whoosh’ over the heads of youngsters leaving nothing but imagery seared into the ol’ psyche. )

For your eyebrow raising/whiplash inducing entertainment, here’s Lady GaGa (aka Stefani Germanotta) prior to monster fame as an NYU student crooning on stage…Alas, easy to see ‘what sells’ in the marketplace today.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Gaga suddenly said, “Ladies & gentleman, now that I’ve got your attention…” and then reverted to her natural self like the video below?

Now THAT would be an authentic smack in the face statement about ‘killing the fame monster’ with one hearty blow that would inspire, uplift, and transcend.

THAT I would pay to see. The ultimate parody of pop absurdity. Do it Gaga. Do it! Slay the beast! 🙂

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Comments

  1. this article is so biased that it is ridiculous. it seems that throughout all of your responses only one with knowledge of hollywood and basic films has been chosen – your vast majority are conservative kids who shudder at the thought of artful nudity. snsd? isn’t that more pop, mainstream, mechanical and talentless than lady gaga by extreme measures? yeah, this is TOTALLY not a gaga bash… i am not an ardent lover of lady gaga, but this is simply a horrible article.

  2. Thx for the opinion on the kids’ words…and like I said in the beginning of the article this was ONE youth’s FB wall in Canada with about 100 responses, (which were varied and vast, and frankly read like a Gaga fan page at times!) and they were NOT meant to be speak for ‘youth in general’ across the board.

    Rachel (senior/high school/Canada) curated a cross-section assigning ages for context and I read ALL of them on her wall…they were NOT Gaga-bashing OR categorically ‘conservative’ (frankly, I have no knowledge of her political leanings, nor do I care, as this is a nonpartisan blog and org)

    As for film knowledge and Hollywood, I have tons of that in part two…so stay tuned. (and as a writer/producer myself I can certainly speak to same)

    That said, I’ll warn you that my focus will indeed be on how performance art lands sideways on the younger crowd and how the ‘artful nudity’ is being lost/translated much differently from a media intake/consumption level…so no doubt you’ll REALLY bristle at those findings.

    Thankfully you have the option to ‘stop reading’ whereas the saturation level of ambient noise is so heightened with the primary ed/grade school crowd that they’re having ‘acid thrown on their innocence’ (as Tom Harkin would say) whether they want it or not, and there’s no way to shut off the valve of the blasting media firehose so to speak (+this org is ANTI-censorship)

    The plethora of pundits and film/performance/reviewers with Gaga deconstruction that make her sound like a genius prodigy of worldchanging epic proportions are many; so let’s be clear on the balance of views…

    My purpose is the analysis of media/mktg’s impact on KIDS. Thus the forum. The title. The blog. The org.

    Thanks for stopping by and giving reasons for deeming it ‘horrible’ rather than just an anonymous troll slam. That is SO refreshing, and I welcome you back any time to add points/counter-points to the convos (THAT is the beauty of discourse & Web2.0 —Respect for all thought)

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