WEEKEND ARTS SECTION: Nothing That Happened This Week Was Ever Going To Be As Important As The “Telephone” Video

It’s true. Like: do you remember when Michael Jackson died, and folks were lamenting the death of “monoculture?” They thought there would never again be the experience of knowing that everyone you met had seen the same music video that you had. This same thing happened when John Updike died, as I recall — like, it was thought that never again would there be a writer that everyone recognized as important, except for Phillip Roth, who is very old. The Internet was blamed a lot, in these discussions: it fragments our national discourse, it allows everyone to attend to their own little interests instead of allowing us all to have one big compulsory interest, it dissolves the human community and creates “communities” instead, etc. People talk about the Internet the same way they talk about the “divisiveness” of left-wing politics, sometimes, have you noticed that? Often on the very Internet itself, they do this! But also, these people seem to know very little about the Internet, or how the culture is going, because all Lady Gaga needs to do is show you her vagina in a YouTube video and the whole world stops to talk about it. It doesn’t even matter if they like Lady Gaga! Or if they listen to Lady Gaga! Some people will just post to be like, “so I don’t want everybody to keep talking about Lady Gaga!” BUT THEN THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT HER. That, my friends, is how the Internet creates “monoculture.” I have dropped a little science for you, this evening, it would appear.

So, the “Telephone” video! Have you perhaps… READ ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET SOMEWHERE???? Or… SEEN IT ON THE INTERNET??????? Perhaps you have…. COMMENTED ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET, ON THE POST IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THIS ONE, PERHAPS?????????????? Well, too bad. This is YOUR Arts Section, Internet, and this week The Arts are pretty much the “Telephone” video. Let’s go, scene by scene, through The Most Important Film of the Year or Perhaps of All Time (Until Next Week Starts, Which Is Tomorrow).

The – N! S! F! W! – video is below the cut. Watch with caution.

1) Lady Gaga is being escorted to the “Prison for Bitches.” Man, I bet the lunch time cafeteria conversations at that prison are REALLY SUPER UNPLEASANT! At the Prison for Bitches, the Prison Guards for Bitches strip Lady Gaga down to, like, fishnets, and also heels, which outfit would seem a little too Agent Provocateur for a day at Bitch Prison, but whatever.

2) Hey, there’s Lady Gaga’s vagina. There is also a joke (“I told you she didn’t have a dick,” in a very deep voice which I suppose we are meant to hear as belonging to a trans lady) which strikes me as transphobic (I’m not liking how aggressively, I guess, “masculine” the trans ladies’ voices are presented as being — of course trans ladies all have different voices because HEY STEREOTYPES SUCK AT PREDICTING THINGS DON’T THEY, but one thing I will tell you is that I, a cis lady, have a deeper voice than like 4/5ths of the trans ladies I’ve ever hung out with, just as I have a deeper voice than most of my lady friends period, because I smoke and I drink bourbon basically; look, this is a long story, this thing where I explain my troubled reaction to Lady Gaga’s vagina reveal, but the point is that this stereotype is particularly offensive and unrealistic) and also part of Gaga’s ongoing project to own the transphobic shit said about her, and to reiterate it, in the form of defiant jokes. I mean, I like that project! But if she were just posing with enormous strap-ons and flashing her Good Stuff all over the place as if to say, “screw it, if you were ever wanting to see my Good Stuff for shitty transphobic and sexist reasons, I am now going to ensure that you see NOTHING BUT MY OWN PERSONAL GOOD STUFF ALL THE TIME UNTIL YOU ARE FRANKLY SICK OF IT,” I would be a lot more sympathetic. This is where you cross the line from talking about your own oppression to being unnecessarily invasive and clueless re: the oppression of others, Gaga. Just a warning.

3) Anyway, Lady Gaga’s vagina. There it is. Also of note is the fact that Gaga considerately put tape over her nipples, because I guess she knew they were going to strip her at Bitch Prison, but she FORGOT TO BRING UNDERWEAR??? Lady Gaga, you are not the world’s best at planning these things!

4) And now Lady Gaga is in the exercise yard. Also in the exercise yard: A really smoking-hot butch lady. The smoking-hot lady, or SHL as I guess we will be calling her, is also apparently very friendly. VFSHL introduces herself to Gaga by making out with her, and they have a little third-base over-the-pants action happening, and by this point another lady is being friendly to Gaga too. I thought this was a prison for bitches!

5) But also: I don’t want to be a straightsplainer here, but the fact is that special makeout times Between the Ladies almost always happen, in pop culture, between two very femme-looking individuals. So, like, how great is it that Gaga is putting the butch/femme dynamic out there, and saying that THIS is sexy ALSO? It gets a lot less performing-for-the-straight-male-gaze, a lot less “oh, honey, those are my special men’s magazines, for men’s interests, such as perhaps golfing,” and a lot more “hey, actual queer experiences exist and are hot for actual queer people,” at that point.

6) Also smoking: the lit cigarettes Gaga has just gone ahead and taped to her sunglasses. That is how you can tell these two ladies are so friendly: they are just grabbing Gaga’s junk and sticking their faces within kissing range of her face that has like 1.5 packs of lit cigarettes on it, despite the fact that they could probably receive serious burns from doing so, and also I bet her hair smells like ASS.

7) There is some wrestling, but by this point Beyonce has called Lady Gaga like 50 TIMES, and she STILL has not answered. Jesus! Pick up your damn phone! It’s not like you have a good reason to ignore all your friends’ calls and IMs and e-mails make them mad at you. It’s not like, for example, you are writing a BLOG POST ABOUT A LADY GAGA VIDEO for Feministe.

8) And now, Lady Gaga FINALLY opens her mouth to sing, and what she sings? Is the most ridiculous opening line for a song of all time. Of all time! It is this: “Hello hello baby you called? I can’t hear a thing. I have got no service in the club you see see!” I have got no service in the club? This is what we’re singing about now? How your phone service plan could be improved by switching to Verizon? Step outside the damn club, Lady Gaga! Go talk on the sidewalk! Did they not stamp your hand so you could get back in? I am just so infuriated by Lady Gaga’s bad phone manners at this point.

9) It goes on like this! Like the most tedious phone conversation ever, basically. But with Lady Gaga singing her end of it. “What what what did you say are you breaking up on me? Sorry I can’t hear you…” OH MY GOD JUST SWITCH TO GCHAT.

10) And now it’s just an underpants dance party with a bunch of girls. So: Here’s where we talk about, I guess, Queering the Text, or Queer Texts, in the example of the “Telephone” video. We have some time: these ladies will be dancing for a while, is my understanding. A lot of what is going on in this video, which some might perceive as “offensive” or “exploitative,” seems to me like a series of gestures about reclaiming. Lady Gaga gets to do the “Prison for Bitches” thing because she’s a girl; she owns that. Lady Gaga also identifies as queer, located in the B section of LGBTQI, and she has made a very girls-who-kiss-girls-centric video here. (It’s kind of the flip side of “Bad Romance,” which would seem to be her official girls-who-kiss-boys video. There’s a deep pessimism and fear regarding inequalities of power, in that video, and there is a presentation of her body as essentially monstrous, which: what girl does not get that metaphor, really? But then there is also a celebration of her body, and its power, and it gets violent but I guess if there is a War Between the Sexes, (a) they started it and (b) someone’s got to lose. I’m a pacifist, when it comes to that war, personally, but that’s not to say I didn’t find the “Bad Romance” video thrilling. A friend was talking to me, and she was like, “I can’t figure out why that video makes me so happy.” And I was like, “because it sets you up to see Gaga’s sexuality as a way that she can be oppressed or hurt, and then it tells you to see her sexuality as a way for her to be powerful and victorious, and the transition from one way of seeing to the other is really great.” And she was like “yes, probably, but also I think I like the outfits and dancing!” And that is why people make fun of me when I talk about Lady Gaga. But, let’s be honest: We can poke fun at Gaga, and her self-seriousness, and we can disagree with her feminist statements or her statements about sexuality, or say that they don’t quite work — I think the “Telephone” video does not quite work, personally — but we can’t say she’s not making statements. She is. And they tend to be, as statements by pop stars go, more interesting and smart and provocative than those of her peers.) So anyway, we could regard “Telephone” as the logical next step from the “Bad Romance” video, I suppose: there’s a mean boy, and a girl getting her revenge on him, and also some really ridonkulous revenge dancing, but this time, instead of one girl getting revenge all by herself, there are just so many women interacting with each other in so many ways — fighting, yes, and hurting each other, but also kissing and talking and making friends and touching each others’ crotches in a helpful manner and providing support. This video presents community between women as this very powerful, dangerous, thrilling space. And sex is included in that, as one of the ways women connect with each other; the connection is invariably eroticized, pretty strongly. Female space is also presented as something you can escape into and find strength from, specifically strength to resist dudes who treat you crapfully, and that strength to resist dudes (who you might also have sex with, it is implied) is tied to the eroticization of women, throughout. It’s all a little like that Adrienne Rich essay, which I do have some small problems with on the levels of essentialism and reliance on some not-so-great sources, but which is nevertheless really good. My point is, when was the last time you thought to describe a pop star’s music video with, “this reminds me of that Adrienne Rich essay?” Yeah. Stop trying to deny Gaga. Even when her videos are not that good — this one, for example, is not! — you cannot simply scoot her out of the discussion.

11) They’re still having the Underpants Dance Party! UNDERPANTS DANCE PARTY WOOOO.

12) Okay, so Gaga has served her prison sentence (“LADY GAGA, I SENTENCE YOU TO FIVE MINUTES OF HARD DANCING”) and she’s leaving, and Beyonce picks her up. Did you ever see Obsessed? I totally did. I saw Obsessed. In the theater! One of the things I learned from Obsessed was that Beyonce is seriously just not an actress. That is on display here also, as she informs Lady Gaga that she has been a “very bad girl.” Then Lady Gaga leans over and seductively eats Beyonce’s sandwich, in the manner of someone administering Oral Attentions to An Erect Member. I’m totally going to try that one on my next date. Just lean over and chomp into his food. (“And then he just stood up and LEFT! And his BLT wasn’t even that good EITHER. The lettuce was soggy.”) Then they drive away in a Tarantino reference, and that scene’s over.

13) Oh, no it’s not. They’re still talking. “Once you kill a cow, you’ve got to make a burger.” YOU GUYS! The song is not called “Various Kinds of Sandwiches!” It is called “TELEPHONE.” Should you maybe have worked harder to incorporate references to… telephones, perhaps????

14) And was it really necessary to subtitle the Asian woman’s thoughts in a different language than everybody else’s? No. No, it was not! I am not so cool with the ways that this video deals with race, I think. I mean, Beyonce’s there, and presented as an equal and partner. Sure. But I am thinking like, this Asian girl and her special “hey, have you noticed this chick’s Asian? Just thought I’d point that one out to you” subtitle, or the way the women of color in the prison are filmed. It makes me uncomfortable in the nebulous, tricky-to-pin-down way that Quentin Tarantino movies do — and, considering that this entire video is basically meant to be a Tarantino movie, that was kind of unavoidable, I suppose. Like: Okay, great, your video has some people of color in it. At least it’s not like you are pretending that those people aren’t on the planet, which is a creepy thing that white people do sometimes with their movies. However, I keep getting the sense that we are heading toward some (oy) “postmodern” treatment of race here, where race is just a toy or a text or a trope like everything else, that you get to play around with from your own privileged position, including and incorporating the stereotypes as it suits you because your IRONIC DISTANCE is just that powerful. It’s probably meant to demonstrate how smart you are about race, but it comes across as exoticizing and fetishizing, and thereby falls into the same pit as most “postracial” discourse, where by pretending to be above or beyond racism you really just wind up playing into it. “Postracial” is the new “colorblind,” basically: Like, if we just don’t talk about it, if we just ignore it, then of course racism it will get better on its own! Not ignoring the existence of racism makes YOU the Real Racist! And what ongoing problem is not improved when people go around consciously giving themselves permission not to think about or deal with it??? Oh: Pretty much all of them. Pretty much all problems are not improved by that course of action. Right.

15) Okay. We had like five seconds of actual telephoning in the “Telephone” video, and now…

I’M TELLING YOU. THEY WILL NOT LET GO OF THE SANDWICH THEME. Was everybody on the set for this video just really hungry? Or what?

16) Beyonce’s asshole boyfriend did not order a sandwich. He ordered eggs. And now he is dead. This message has been brought to you by the Sandwich Council. Sandwiches: Eat them, because everything else is poison!

17) Another lesson we can gain from the “Telephone” video: Do not take food away from Beyonce. It has happened like several times in this video and on each occasion she unleashes TERRIBLE RAGE upon the culprit. You take Beyonce’s food — let ALONE her favorite variety of condiment — and she kills a diner full of people. That is just how it goes. Beyonce does not fuck around.

18) The thing is, we can talk about how trans stuff is handled in this video (badly), and how race stuff is handled in this video (also badly), and we can talk about how Lady Gaga’s ongoing project of unpacking female sexuality like it is a suitcase the size of a train station is handled in this video (occasionally well??) but one thing we HAVE to talk about is how VERY INTERNET this video happens to be. You seriously cannot show this video on television! It was not designed to be shown on television, ever! It is ten minutes long, and it has more dialogue than music, and it has the “fuck” word and naked breasts and vaginas and girl-on-girl action and basically everybody gets murdered. At no point did anyone making this video think, “I’m still pretty sure we could get this on television, though.” No. It was made to be on the Internet. And you can tell because this affects the form itself, like the actual decisions of how to shoot and edit the damn thing. You can tell this video was meant to be turned into nine million animated GIFs, for example, because there are several parts of it that are shot to look like animated GIFs: you know that thing where there’s like two seconds of movement that loops back around on itself in a weird, jerky, headache-inducing way? That’s what this video looks like, a lot of the time. Gaga has now apparently incorporated not just an analysis of gender and sexuality into her work, she has apparently decided to take on the issue of new media. If her next video is about string theory, at this point, you just should not be surprised.

19) And now Lady Gaga is just dancing around looking like Brett Michaels. Beyonce looks like Wonder Woman. That’s why she is Beyonce: you can put the stupidest shit on that woman’s body, and people are suddenly like, “my, that bustier made entirely of ham is STUNNING!” It doesn’t even matter that she’s a bad actress. You point that out to people and they’re like, “fuck good acting! I never realized how much I hated good acting until this moment! I want what Beyonce’s doing!” Kanye West is a victim of many things, but one of the chief things he is a victim of is just saying what everybody is always already thinking about Beyonce. He succumbed to her power! As we all have! We cannot blame Kanye, just as we cannot blame a moth who draws too close to the candle flame and is burnt. Nor can we blame the candle, for burning! PS the flame is Beyonce. THE FLAME IS BEYONCE! And with that, I leave you.

109 comments for “WEEKEND ARTS SECTION: Nothing That Happened This Week Was Ever Going To Be As Important As The “Telephone” Video

  1. Lurkin Merkin
    March 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    I plan on never watching this video. Still commenting on it, I suppose, but not watching it. Instead I will shake my head sadly knowing that somewhere out there Lady Gaga exists.

  2. Miles
    March 13, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    This is the best post ever.

  3. March 13, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    I like Lady Gaga. I’ll get that out of the way first, although I am very late–like I only got around to downloading some of her stuff last week–to the party.

    And I like the video for “Bad Romance” for the reasons Sady talked about above, plus a few of my own (shout-outs to German expressionism and the New Wave! And Bauhaus–the architecture style, and, quite possibly, the band!)

    But. I’m not so sure about this. And it’s not just because there’s some deep* trans fail going on here. Watching the video, my thoughts sorta fell like this:

    –Why do the uniforms of the prison guards and inmates in a video by the supposedly feminstically self-actualized Lady GG look pretty much exactly like the “Sexy Cop” and “Sexy Prisoner” costumes you see every Halloween? I mean I grok about GaGa as a mad conceptual artist and I’m totally onboard with her reclaiming female sexuality…but really? It’s kinda…exploitative.

    –Of course, it is set in a prison. And there’s lots of things to say about exploitativeness in a prison setting! Especially of female, and hell, especially of trans female, people! But we don’t get that. We get catfights. And one glorious butch moment, which I agree was pretty cool.

    –Pussy wagon? Are you kidding me? The car owned by a rapist who rented out Uma Thurman to other rapists? I’m not really sure I can look at that with the proper irony. Damn me and my rooted-in-Romanticism and mired-in-modernity sensibilities.

    –I admit it. I don’t necessarily have any issues with the occasional revenge fantasy against abusive men. I just watched “Hard Candy” last night, and even though I was disturbed by the torture porn nature of the movie, it’s not like I didn’t also feel millennia of female rage being channeled through Ellen Page. So I’m cool with that. Killing everyone in the diner…I dunno. Something just feels…off.

    –Pussy wagon again! Aargh!

    Okay, the trans stuff. I’m not sure I go as far as goodbuytjane does–there’s a bit of “we liked her when we thought she was being victimized but we don’t care for how she responded to her victimization and now we totally don’t like her” going on in that piece. But that doesn’t mean the criticisms don’t have a point. And yeah, there is some pretty basic gender essentialism going on there with the vagina=woman undertext. Which, I should point out to you, gets really problematic given the prison setting, because trans women who end up in prison without having any surgery done are very often housed with men, where they are the victims of assault and rape. Which is not so cool. And sadly just makes a lot of the pretty exploitative nature of the whole prison setting leap out into the foreground, at least for me.

    aaand I could go on, but yanno? Maybe I’ll just blog something. I think you get my drift.

    C.L. Minou

    *it’s true, Sady’s voice is perhaps deeper than mine, at least before I have a few beers or get talking about Russian literary theory. That always does strange things to me.

  4. March 13, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    1. This seems like a continuation of the Paparazzi video more that Bad Romance. Paparazzi bridges the two.
    2. In order to question/be uncomfortable with the way Gaga treats Trans issues you have to question her right to comment on the LGBTQ community. Notice the butch, weight-lifting girls SMOKING HOT domino pumps?
    3. What I like about Gaga is she reminds me of Derrida’s “Plato’s Pharmacy.” The work of textual criticism is never finished – Gaga’s work gains new meaning through repeated decontextualization and repels attempts to reduce it to sexual pandering. Whatever she’s selling, it ain’t just sex.
    4. The words the Asian girl thinks aren’t simply in another language – they are pink. It is as if we are being shown the juxtaposition of the kawaii/over-fetishized Asian schoolgirl trope and the reality of an Asian girl dressed like she’s going to a barn raising. Maybe she’s commenting on the way white men tend to fetishize Asian women OR maybe she’s being SUPER RACIST and MISOGYNIST and asserting that every Asian woman is, at her core, a Sanrio Stereotype.
    5. The idea that anyone would eat food served to them by Lady Gaga is laughable.

  5. Lise
    March 13, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    No Sady, you missed the point where she says she can’t text because she has a drink in her hand (3:30ish). So see? It all makes sense now, regarding point 9.

  6. March 13, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    The problem with trying to channel Tarantino is that every Tarantino film is a trip directly into Tarantino’s spank bank. So, yeah. This ain’t camp.

    Less Tarantino more John Waters would have done the trick.

  7. March 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    I have tried several times to properly express how I feel about this post in realtion to its subject, and all I can come up with, after much philosophizing and gnashing of existentialist teeth, is this:



  8. March 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    VULVA! Vulva vulva vulva!

  9. Faunz™
    March 13, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Thank you, Lady Gaga and Beyonce for your ridiculous product placement and the idiotic, indirect references about manipulative women. Because, of course being a strong, independent woman is about seeking the revenge of abusive men and mirroring their actions, right? Hypocritical? Says who?

    Lady Gaga, you’re in need of some Feministic direction. Oh, and you looked like death herself in that video, please don’t go all Amy Winehouse on us!

    • March 14, 2010 at 12:39 am

      @Faunz: Okay, two questions. Who are you? And: Why are you acting like a jerk? CALM THE HECK DOWN, Person. There are legitimate points to be made about the failures of this video, but “idiotic, indirect references about manipulative women” (???) and “seeking the revenge of abusive men” pissing you off right before you basically launch into an “AND SHE’S NOT EVEN PRETTY” critique make you sound more like a men’s rights activist than a feminist blog commenter. Like, how dare women be angry at men sometimes and not (your idea of) hot?

      To address your points (are they “points?”), well, I mean: the entire video is structured, Tarantino-like, as a riff on women-in-prison movies and on female-revenge movies. So obviously there’s going to be ultraviolence and a sleazy, titillating presentation of womens’ bodies, and there’s gonna be a catfight, and there are gonna be girls making out in a Penthouse-letters sort of way, and there will be a sexually violent scene with a guard and a man who is presented as so over-the-top monstrous as to be cartoonish, and, and, and… A lot of the stuff people find offensive is taken directly from the source material the video is referencing. And at some points it’s referencing all of it third-hand, directly THROUGH Tarantino, too, so there’s that added on to it. I don’t know how well any of this WORKS, and maybe the choice of source material is questionable for any number of reasons, and there are good points to be made about all of that, but the other commenters are actually making them. You, unfortunately, are not.

  10. March 13, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    R.e. the prison outfits: I too find it very odd that what women, some of them queer, are wearing in an exclusively female space is pretty close to straight male fantasies. Why? I kind of expected more from Lady Gaga.

  11. Banisteriopsis
    March 13, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    I love her obvious product placement. It’s so honest in it’s shilling.

  12. Bushfire
    March 14, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Thanks for the analysis. I absolutely love this video. I know there’s things wrong with it, but I have so much fun watching it and laughing my head off that I just have to forgive her for its faults. I didn’t read the jail guards as trans, I just thought they were butch. Maybe that’s my cis privilege clouding my perception.

  13. March 14, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Lady Gaga, you’re in need of some Feministic direction. Oh, and you looked like death herself in that video, please don’t go all Amy Winehouse on us!

    Those two sentences are basically contradictory.

  14. oksrsly
    March 14, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Why are you immediately assumming the prison guards are trans? And then start talking about their deep voices? Then name drop your trans women friends? Doesn’t that reveal more about your own transphobia (note: transpohobia directed specifically at trans women is transMISOGYNY) than the video’s? No where in the video are the women’s trans identity invoked in any kind of way. That analysis is shoddy and flimsy at best.

    • March 14, 2010 at 1:09 am

      Oksrsly BUT: I am not the only person who read that moment in that way, or so I hear?

      And: I’m familiar with the uses of the words “transphobia” and “transmisogyny,” and it’s my understanding that “transphobia” is maybe more in line with the blatant ew-yuck-icky-a-lady-with-a-WEINER sentiment being evoked here, whereas transmisogyny is more in line (in my mind) with trans women being shamed specifically for their femininity. I could be wrong on this!

      AND I’m not “name dropping,” see for example: my not using names, but I AM trying to contrast a stereotype with lived experience, which meant that, yeah, my friendships or acquaintanceships or whatever with women who identified themselves to me as trans (and seriously: I am not “name dropping” my super fancy “trans women friends” when I am talking about having, yeah, a good IRL friend who’s a trans lady, but also referencing such super fancy BFFs as the IT girl at my college who I had to talk to a lot about my computer troubles, and like this girl I worked with once who seriously hated the crap out of me because during our first conversation I accidentally called her old and insulted her taste in music and then the awkwardness only intensified as I got more and more “please don’t hate me, I like you” about the whole deal and she thought I was being insincere and creepy, and my former boss, and this nice lady I talked to at a party recently about her son and how some ’70s feminism made it hard for feminists to raise sons and how much she hated Julie Bindel, and and and… like, yeah, if you are not an extremely sheltered person, or an asshole, chances are you will know some folks who identify as trans! Some of them will identify as such openly in your conversations, and some will keep that personal information private, in which case you will not know it! I’m not claiming special credit here, that is just HOW LIFE IS) simply ARE RELEVANT when talking about stereotypical conceptions of trans ladies vs, you know, the actual trans ladies you might work with or befriend or run into. Since I’m cis, I can’t compare stereotypes to lived experience when it comes to my own personal life and body, in the way a trans lady might, but I can talk, hopefully respectfully, about stereotype and reality in terms of my “relationships,” whether casual or close, with other people.

      And I said I THOUGHT WE WERE MEANT TO read that moment in that way. I never said there were no other readings. So there’s where the whole argument just comes apart.

  15. March 14, 2010 at 12:40 am

    The Japanese text says “dress” (literally “one-piece”). Since I am reasonably sure that calling someone who harasses you a “dress” is NOT some sort of bizarre slang, but rather the work of ignorant Japanophiles who think “That word looks COOL! Let’s use it! No one will know what it means anyway!*”, I would say that its insertion into the video is firmly in the “HELLO BLATANT RACISM” category.

    * Because, of course, there aren’t thousands of anime/manga fans out there who are capable of looking up a simple katakana word. And especially not any of us out there who are actually fluent in the language. *eyeroll*

  16. MsFeasance
    March 14, 2010 at 12:40 am

    The only explanation I can think of for the “Let’s Make a Sandwich” is that it’s a take on the “Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” meme, to which Gaga’s response is “Oh, I’ll make you a sandwich, all right. A SANDWICH THAT WILL KILL YOU.”

  17. Dawn
    March 14, 2010 at 1:34 am

    I kinda thought that the subtitles for the Asian woman was supposed to be that she thinks in Japanese… that she wouldn’t “think” in English because she does not speak it? I dunno could be totally off base and perhaps still racist or whatnot…

    I didn’t mind the video – I think a lot of it is tongue-in-cheek…

    I understand the issues with it – but Gaga is presenting something to discuss that isn’t the typical “omg Hip Hop is so bad for women! or look at what the PCD did now!” I understand there is still problems with the video and Gaga, but I like her – she’s something new in the media – something that you rarely see.

  18. March 14, 2010 at 1:41 am

    tekanji: This video took a mountain of planning. They had to juggle the schedule of Tyrese, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga. They put a lot of time and effort and money into it. Maybe the word was chosen for its visual appeal. Maybe it is one of the few words Gaga can speak of Japanese. Maybe it is a reference to Gaga’s obsession with fashion. This is all conjecture. But I contend it is much more of a stretch to jump to BLATANT RACISM. “Ignorant Japanophiles?” Because someone is in the nascent stage of the long journey every single one of us goes on to educate ourselves about the world, it is proof that that they hold the people of that culture in lower regard?

    Second of all, if we’re going to play Identity Politics, let’s be fair. Points are assigned based on your experience with a particular minority or social class, extra points being given (of course) if you belong to the group in question. No using a privilege card (masculine, cisgendered, white) more than two turns in a row. Queens are wild, especially this one.


  19. Jean
    March 14, 2010 at 1:45 am

    I translate the Japanese text as kuso piisu; piece of shit. I don’t know why they chose to put kuso in katakana, maybe an artistic choice, or someone who doesn’t know how the syllabaries are used, whatever the case, it definitely doesn’t say dress.

  20. Jean
    March 14, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Crap, ignore me, I did it wrong.

  21. Bonn
    March 14, 2010 at 4:25 am

    At least “wanpiisu” would make sense if the woman were wearing a dress … or something.

    I’m confused at all the transphobia comments. I mean, it’s really bugging me. Because people say nasty things about Lady Gaga having a dick, and then that’s transphobic, and then Gaga makes a joke about people making comments about her having a dick, and THAT’S transphobic too? So … is she just supposed to go, “Well, maybe I do have a dick and that’s okay!” or what? I guess I see no problem with her confronting the nasty comments about her supposed non-womanitude by being very up-front about it.

    I mean, she already wore a strap-on. But evidently that wasn’t good enough.

  22. Dr. Confused
    March 14, 2010 at 4:48 am

    I want to comment not on the video but on the lyrics.

    It’s a party song, the “Hey aren’t we having a good time dancing and shit” that’s been made a million times. Not serious, not new. But the story? Is totally feminist. The singer is out dancing with her female friends. Her boyfriend is calling her, like, every ten minutes because he is all controlling and shit and can’t handle her having a life without him. And she is blowing him off and telling him to stop being so controlling, stop harshing her mellow. She is standing up for herself in a very common situation, and once that is a warning sign for intimate abuse.

    And I like that. If we are going to assume that people are going to make and listen to disposable party songs, let’s have some of them have a feminist message, even if only a small one. There are enough of these throw-away party songs with misogynist messages, or with faux-feminist “girl power” themes (Spice Girls) that it is very nice and refreshing for one to come along with a message I don’t have any quibbles with at all.

  23. Bri
    March 14, 2010 at 4:57 am

    Hello…her vagina is not on display here… her VULVA is. If a feminist writer can’t even get that right what hope is there???

    • March 14, 2010 at 11:38 am

      Hello…her vagina is not on display here… her VULVA is. If a feminist writer can’t even get that right what hope is there???

      NONE. The end is nigh. My god, a feminist writer using the informal commonly-used meaning of a word instead of its biological definition… fire her.

  24. Still learning
    March 14, 2010 at 5:58 am

    About the Japanese line, the word ‘one piece’ in its meaning as ‘dress’ seemed so blatantly out of place, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was supposed to be a reference to the anime by the same name? Maybe Lady Gaga’s attempt to call out to anime fans?

    Of course, referencing an anime doesn’t have any relevance to the context of a woman being harrassed either, and the idea that any given Asian person has nothing better on their mind than to sit around thinking about children’s anime all day is pretty awful as well, but I did wonder if that was just a randomly-chosen word as tekanji suggested or if it was particularly chosen for anime fans.

  25. March 14, 2010 at 6:49 am

    @C.L. Minou If you have specific critiques of my piece, please feel free to comment at my blog or engage me directly. WRT your analysis of the piece my intention wasn’t to show I was a big supporter of her before – in fact, I think I’ve always been pretty publicly blase about Lady Gaga. I didn’t “like her” because she was victimized, I respected her right to not have her genitals become public discourse. When she entered that public discourse with transmisogynist comments like her offended vagina or this video, however, I was willing to discuss it. That isn’t about flip-flopping on some celebrity fame bandwagon.

    @Sady Transmisogyny refers to transphobia directed specifically against trans women. While this is often in reaction to the femininity of trans women, it includes all trans woman-specific bias or hate. In discussing transphobic behaviour directed towards trans women there’s nothing wrong with calling it transphobia, but I refer to it as transmisogyny, because I think it is important to highlight those issues specific to trans women (and historically queers and feminists have used inclusion of trans men to avoid acknowledging their exclusion of trans women).

    @oksrsly The context of the video, the history of this issue, and the fact the guards were used to deliver the dick line makes it pretty clear to me we are to read these characters as trans.

    @Bri That’s an incredible red herring. The underlying issues being discussed are the same, it doesn’t mean there’s “no hope” (a bit melodramatic that assertion, don’t you think?).

  26. Kasey
    March 14, 2010 at 6:49 am

    I think in general, the video pulled off what she wanted it to pull off. Some was entirely unsuccessful (obviously), some was fantastic (also obviously), but most of it just barely made it by the skin of its teeth. But I think it was still enjoyable.

    Also, I’m going to go ahead and steal the line, “LADY GAGA, I SENTENCE YOU TO FIVE MINUTES OF HARD DANCING” and use it at every opportunity. Because it is clearly awesome.

  27. March 14, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I’m going to say something really bitchy. This video is a piece of porn. The women look like skinny plucked chickens. But that’s what sells, it’s getting her lots of attention. Getting attention is her job and she’s doing it well.

  28. March 14, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Aw, man, I wanted to hear what you thought of the whole Lady-Power-Thelma-and-Louise type ending…

  29. March 14, 2010 at 9:32 am

    GardlandGrey, choosing a word in a foreign language for its “visual appeal” is racist. And if they have the time/money/energy to put together a video like this, I assume they have the time/money/energy to pick up a phone and ask someone for a good word/translation rather than just picking a word at random because it looks pretty.

  30. March 14, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I really like Lady Gaga (and Beyonce), and I love the post here! I agree that even among the issues raised she’s making interesting statements, at the very least.

    I didn’t get that the deep voice was meant to show that the guard was trans…I just thought they were supposed to be butch dykes (not that there can’t be problems with that too). Meanwhile, the inmates in the exercise yard are dolled up like male sexual fantasies, as someone else pointed out, but a lot of them are really, really butch, so I think it’s a play on that, in that they’re not your average male sexual fantasy at all.

    Here is another good analysis, although it doesn’t point out any problematic aspects as much: http://onlywordstoplaywith.blogspot.com/2010/03/lady-gagas-telephone-observations-and.html

    Also, post #13 took the words out of my mouth regarding the previous comment. Saying she’s being a bad feminist and then saying how ugly she is…come on, how can you miss the problem with that.

  31. Tia
    March 14, 2010 at 10:48 am

    you guys are too smart for me. When I saw the video, i just thought “here’s Gaga up to her weird crazy stuff. when’s she going to pull out her Kermit outfit?” I couldn’t even follow the plot, and missed all the trans, race, etc. issues.

    But also, yes, I just don’t understand what the song lyrics have to do with the video.

  32. jen
    March 14, 2010 at 10:49 am

    @Dr Confused – To me, the problem with the lyrics, and this whole genre of “stop trying to control me, boy” songs, is that in my mind, a real feminist, a truly confident woman, would not be dating someone who tried to control her in the first place. Or, if it was a man who seemed to genuinely respect her in other areas but had some jealousy issues (as many do – men and women), she would be mature enough to sit him down and try to explore why he’s feeling that way and work it out like adults. Rather than making a video that is all about violence, abuse and exploitation, the very things I thought we were criticizing men/patriarchy for in the first place!!

  33. William
    March 14, 2010 at 10:54 am

    The only explanation I can think of for the “Let’s Make a Sandwich” is that it’s a take on the “Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” meme, to which Gaga’s response is “Oh, I’ll make you a sandwich, all right. A SANDWICH THAT WILL KILL YOU.”

    I, for one, would pay good money to see Gaga and GWAR make a video for a song with that title.

  34. March 14, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I have to second the semiotic breakdown at Only Words to Play With wrt use of brand placement, technology, and the criminal female. It’s a nice companion piece to Sady’s here.

  35. KL
    March 14, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I found this statement to be interesting:

    “GardlandGrey, choosing a word in a foreign language for its “visual appeal” is racist.”

    How is it racist? I could see an argument made for cultural appropriation, but I don’t think its racism that compels someone to use a word from another language they believe is visually appealing. Especially if its a legitimate word from their language as opposed to the times ive listened to people “speak spanish” and all they do is make up words (like “mencho lasso tamale”) and try to affect some terrible version of a hispanic accent.

    • March 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm

      @KL: Okay. There is an Asian woman. You want to communicate that she is upset that someone has smacked her. You choose (a) a word that is in Japanese, because you NEED TO HIGHLIGHT THAT SHE IS ASIAN, THIS IS BASICALLY AS IMPORTANT AS ANYTHING SHE COULD POSSIBLY BE THINKING, WE REALLY NEED TO HIGHLIGHT THE HER-BEING-ASIAN ISSUE, although (b) basically a ton of the Asian people you run into (in America, where this video is set) are from Scranton or Pasadena or something and speak English like everyone else from Scranton or Pasadena, and (c) I’ve heard that not all Asian countries ARE Japan, in fact? There are like a ton of countries that are not Japan, I hear! But whatever, the point is, you’ve now played into several stereotypes regarding Asian folks: That they don’t speak English primarily or well, and that they’re all “from” somewhere else, and that all those “from” places are basically equivalent and identical. And you’ve taken what would be an upsetting interaction for any lady, and you’ve managed to give the fact that she’s Asian as much or more weight than the fact that she’s upset — her specific identity and inner life is erased, here, and replaced by a statement about her race. AND THEN, even while MAKING this decision, you betray the fact that you don’t know shit and are NOT WILLING TO FIND SHIT OUT by choosing a “random” Japanese word for its “visual appeal,” assuming that your viewers don’t speak any Japanese and therefore can’t actually interpret her thoughts (which you thought had to be specifically tailored to convey the fact that she’s Asian) anyway. So, like, here’s the cumulative effect of this chain of decisions: you’ve gone from “I want to show that a woman is upset,” to “I want to show that an Asian woman is upset, and Asian,” to “so I am going to employ some stereotypes here, to convey the Asian thing,” to “who the fuck cares what she’s thinking! Put some Asian shit up on screen! Because she is Asian! That is literally the most important thing that any person in the entire world needs to understand about this woman!”

      Yeah, that shit’s racist. And really, so much more complicated than just subtitling her thoughts “WTF” like a reasonable person would do.

      @Jen: “In my mind, a real feminist, a truly confident woman, would not be dating someone who tried to control her in the first place.” Yeah, dude, I KNOW! It’s so simple! Every time I watch the news, I wind up thinking, “well, a TRULY GREAT CASHIER would not be getting held up at gunpoint,” or, “a person who is TRULY against police brutality would not be going and getting themselves beat up by all those police officers,” or “but if you don’t WANT to be run over by a car WHY DID YOU LET THAT CAR SPEEDING THROUGH THE INTERSECTION ON A RED LIGHT KILL YOU??? Jeez!” And also, “what is the deal with all these unconfident, unfeminist women getting themselves raped and/or abused all the time?” If only we all understood that your human worth is defined by the way other people treat you, and that it is therefore your fault if they choose to treat you badly, the world would be such a better place, don’t you think?

  36. samanthab
    March 14, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Really, Jen? First of all, your complete lack of knowledge of the nature of abusive relationships is, to put it charitably, embarrassing. Secondly, yours is consummate victim blaming that you’ve somehow managed to place under the guise of feminism. And if “real” feminists must by necessity be truly self-confident, well, I know that leaves me out, and I suspect I’m not close to alone.

  37. ke
    March 14, 2010 at 11:53 am

    not on topic, but yeah, ive seen several male friends tuck away the obvious frontal exterior baggage and appear to have a vulva… leading you to believe a vagina would be inches away, (especially when they pop one hip out and bend a knee to accentuate curves as many women do whilst posing) instead of some stretched meat and potatoes.

    anyway. i like that shes saying ‘fuck you’ to your ideas and such… but really, shes like a little kid doing stupid shit purely for attention. ‘im a rebel. im edgy and sexy. i dont care what you think….. and ill keep acting out until you think im edgy and sexy and counter-culture…even though i dont care what you think…. but you like me, right?”.

    throwing shit back in peoples faces is one thing… bravo, but in reality, people like her (and beyonce) just seem to feed on attention, not actual art and depth. in actuality they are just feeding every (almost) stereotype created and, as usual, distracting you with shock and provocative women so that you dont see the truth. the truth being that she must not really even believe what shes saying. neither of them.

    …..but…. we are talking about it. and they, and their advertisers, all just sit back, egos growing cuz they are hot topics (today) and laugh while counting the money.

  38. March 14, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    You know, I think there might be something in the usage of the word “vagina” to examine from a feminist perspective: the demographics who use the word most often, afaict, are kids, poor folk, racial minorities, urban lower classes. We can talk about how it’s “inaccurate” or we can appreciate that people are asserting their rights to talk about body parts that are supposed to be kept hidden or private, and talking about them in terms that they like/that make sense to them.

    I have no idea where those thoughts ^^^ all came from because I usually prefer the word “vulva” myself, but other people prefer a different term and they know what it means so what’s wrong with it, really?

  39. March 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Cultural appropriation is by definition racist.

  40. CassieC
    March 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    More! More Sady reviews of Gaga videos! More comparative studies of Gaga videos, including references to Madonna and Cindy Lauper and Debbie Harry and Tank Girl and Joan Jett and Patti Smith!

    err, …, please?

  41. jen
    March 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Wow, okay I see people’s points and realize that what I wrote came off as victim-blaming, and apologize. What I meant to say (but obviously didn’t), is not that I think a feminist woman wouldn’t be in a controlling relationship, but rather that I think it would be more helpful if other feminists – in this case through song, as one medium – would focus more on helping the person LEAVE an abusive relationship, rather than encouraging them to reverse the situation and become abusive themselves (which, I’ll add, would be a totally fair reaction, considering what they are facing…I don’t mean to demean the frustration/desperation one might feel).

    But to be honest, when I think about it (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the lyrics of the song don’t sound like an abusive relationship – isn’t it just about her not wanting her boyfriend to call her at the club? (Which sounds more like a jealousy issue than emotional/physical abuse, although its quite possible they might be connected). Or is jealousy always abuse?

  42. samanthab
    March 14, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    @Jen, I think anytime phone calls to a partner are made every 15 minutes, by definition that constitutes a controlling relationship and so is a red flag for emotional and/or physical abuse. Jealousy doesn’t, of course, have to constitute abuse, but you can be jealous without needing to track one’s partner at 15 minute intervals, no?

  43. MsFeasance
    March 14, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Just as an added aside, one of the guards was portrayed by professional bodybuilder Jayne Trcka.

  44. March 14, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Wow, and I thought “Paparrazi” was bad with the whole appropriation thing (see the end of point #2). This is just…taking it to the next level, and that level is not good.

    Also, I love (by which I mean detest) the inclusion of the whole black-men-as-violent-and-promiscuous stereotype along with the other racist crap. Because that’s SO NEW AND INTERESTING! Just…ugh.

  45. March 14, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I’m in abusive relationships now — with my brother, my mother, and her mother. I’m also disabled, mentally ill, poor, about to be unemployed and probably unemployable, and I use a shitload of expensive medical care trying to stay alive and in a sort of tolerable amount of pain. The apartment (in a condo building) I live in is owned by one of my abusers who gives me a steep discount on the rent. She helped us get a car when my old one was dying and we owe her for that too. Well, help. It’s the other side of the abusive relationship, the part where the abuser works real hard to make you dependent upon them. They’re good at it.

    Getting on government assistance is going to be difficult — I am often finding figuring out how to eat food that someone else made too complicated — and not fast. Finding a place we can live that we can afford has not been easy. I’m married and trans* and have three cats; shelters and group homes are going to be problematic for us. Getting untangled from these people is really fucking hard. Maybe impossible to do entirely since I want to stay in touch with my father. At least my parents split up a while back and they don’t exactly talk and my other mom is awesome and I love her to pieces. But what do I tell my dad about my brother and why I don’t want to see or talk to him or hear about him or have any information about me get to him? “Hey dad? Your son’s kind of an emotionally abusive asshole and I’m kind of terrified by the idea he might have kids some day? Uh, yeah. Sorry about that.”

    What help d’you think a pop music video — any pop music video — is going to do me?

  46. SeanH
    March 14, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    WRT product placement: according to Jezebel, only Miracle Whip and “PlentyOfFish” (no, I didn’t think it was a real website either) actually paid to be in the video. All the other brands that appear are there because Gaga wanted them there.

  47. mercury
    March 14, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    I just wanted to pipe up and say that the first thing I thought of when I saw the “Let’s Make a Sandwhich” part of the video was this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zSA9Rm2PZA “The Semiotics of the Kitchen”, by Martha Rosler, made back in 1975. Kind of an awesome reference, if it was deliberate.

  48. emjaybee
    March 14, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    I loved this more than I should have. Which is how I feel about all her videos.

    I tend to think that if she was as “pure” in her critiques as we like, then she wouldn’t be able to get any play at all, and would be just another performance artist living with 8 roommates in Greenpoint. She gets attention because she’s an attractive, bizarrely-dressed, thin white woman who gets mostly naked a lot and makes danceable songs, like Madonna. Unlike Madonna, she pushes a lot harder and smarter against the boundaries of Pretty White Woman Who Sings. Maybe not hard enough. Obviously she lets too many stereotypes remain out of ignorance or as protective coloration.

    But I also kind of love that the role of Female Popstar has entered a genuine postmodern, Derrida-like phase…so much so that even Rihanna is doing some crazy stuff that reminds you of Grace Jones, and of course Beyonce is pushing boundaries herself with all this and…it’s really interesting to see what’s going to happen.

  49. Bushfire
    March 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm


    Wow, if that’s true I am amazed. I was convinced that Virgin Mobile’s marketing team were the ones who actually wrote the song and/or video.

  50. March 14, 2010 at 3:29 pm


    I guess I see no problem with her confronting the nasty comments about her supposed non-womanitude by being very up-front about it.

    This phrasing seems to buy into the idea that there is something wrong with a woman having a penis – or even (given the word “non-womanitude”) that a woman with a penis is not an actual woman, which is of course not the case, as many trans women both have penises and are women. “Problematic” is the nicest way of putting this.

    I have nothing really to add except that I am kind of burned out on Gaga, and yet I really enjoyed this piece, so well-done, Sady (and several commenters here, who have also been good reading).

  51. SereniT03
    March 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I thought there was something odd about killing off a restaurant that seems to be purposefully trying to look like a “cross section of america,” killing them all, and then then dancing around in Americana-styled outfits. I was hoping to hear a little discussion on the symbolism there. Any thoughts?

  52. W. Kiernan
    March 14, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    notemily: VULVA! Vulva vulva vulva!

    Yeah, fact is you can not actually see that other thing without a speculum.

    My biggest let down was where the songstress appeared in the dress made of translucent sheets of plastic. That’s because I had already seen a promo photo of her in, I think, the exact same dress, except that in that picture she had a silver lobster on her face.

    I had been pretty indifferent to Lady Gaga before I saw that photo, but it really won me over. “A silver lobster!,” I thought, “whoa, damn, that’s all right.” So when I saw the dress in the video, I declined to close the window but instead continued to sit through the entire ear-grinding video; but never, nowhere, did the silver lobster appear.

    So now, as a result of my disappointment, I’ve swung the other way; down with Lady Gaga! Down with you! I’ll never watch your sexy, sexy videos ever again, you jerk.

  53. March 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    @Bonn You can’t understand how someone’s response to a problematic issue can be problematic in and of itself? I really don’t think this needs to be explained again.

  54. March 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I thought this film clip was awesome. It’s very tongue’n’cheek and its got the entire Internet talking. I love Lady Gaga, because she is interesting. (Also, her music is catchy).

  55. amandar
    March 14, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I think the random “dress” katakana was hilarious…My husband is a tattoo artist and you would be surprised how many people go in and pick random kanji out of books because they like the way they look, as opposed to their meaning. Read them sometime…you’d be surprised what nonsense people sport. The “it’s cool because it’s foreign” idea is rampant and extremely mock-worthy, in my opinion.

  56. PrettyAmiable
    March 14, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Erm. Why does everyone assume that this song (the song, not video) is about a dating relationship? I get texted up a storm by fuck buddies, random boys who want to sleep with me, individuals who are trying to get in touch with me, etc.

    With regards to the song itself, I just think it’s a statement that there’s better shit to do sometimes than take a call (or 12) from a boy.

    Also, since we’ve already noted that the song and video don’t match up – Lady Gaga never genders the person; only Beyonce does.

  57. KL
    March 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Sady’s point I get, the one below it I don’t. Cultural appropriation can happen between members of the same race but different cultural backgrounds. I can appropriate from lots of cultures that their “race” would be considered the same as my own.

    To Sady’s point, I agree within the context of the video and that the word chosen was “dress’ (according to people who seem to know, I wouldn’t know what it meant otherwise). However, if perhaps the word or words chosen was appropriate to what her real reaction might have been, then I’m still not sure. I wholeheartedly agree we (by we, i mean white people) tend to assume anyone asian or even appearing asian to us is not from here. However, I believe there is a huge problem with Americans believing anyone worthy of notice or to even be considered intelligent would know how to speak english fluently (never mind most of us don’t speak english all that well). I have a friend (ah yes, the I’m not racist because of my friends! argument (joking)) who is fluent in english though her first language is german, and when she is upset or feeling any extreme emotion she does express herself in german. And I hate when she gets funny looks or snide remarks because she clearly must not be all that intelligent and how dare she come into our country and not speak english where the rest of us can understand her.

    However I am starting to derail, my only point(s) being, I completely concede that within the context of this video it was extremely innappropriate to have that word above her head. My second point, it could possibly be beneficial if celebrities and the entertainment industry in general exposed us to the reality that not everyone in the United States has english as a first language and it wouldn’t kill us to pick up on enough of other languages to make it easier for those who are learning english. A good percentage of other countries have to learn english and if I were to travel anywhere i could almost guarantee that english will be around somewhere to help me out, it wouldn’t hurt us as the “great melting pot” to have a little diversity in our languages either.

  58. KL
    March 14, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    ah, thats what i get for typing while tired and hungry, clearly the word didn’t appear above her head but below her, i tend to think of people’s thoughts as thought bubbles, my bad.

  59. bitBM
    March 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Will I be verbally lynched if I say I felt the video made me think about being entangled and strangled by straight male fantasy?

  60. Harriet
    March 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments so I apologise if this has been said but somewhere (I wish I could remember where) Lady Gaga said that it was actually about her artistic drive and ambition “calling” her all the time when sometimes she just wanted to let her hair down – it’s really an internal thing but the metaphor of the controlling boyfriend works pretty well and makes for a more accesible pop song.

  61. J.
    March 14, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Just FYI, Gaga does not eat Beyonce’s sandwich. It appears to be a Honey Bun. http://www.littledebbie.com/products/HoneyBuns.asp

  62. bellareve
    March 15, 2010 at 12:59 am

    I immediately read the prison guards as masculine cis lesbians or cis bodybuilders (it turns out at least one of them is). Interesting to see how people can interpret the same image differently. Are they visually coded as trans in a way I am not aware of?

    I was excited to see the variety of gender presentations in the video – high femme, androgynous, masculine – it did seem queer and transgressive to me, for a mainstream artist. I literally gasped when she was kissing the butch inmate. I found it riveting.

    Gaga uses makeup techniques not to look conventionally pretty, but to look intentionally strange and harsh and scary and angry. I don’t think her face has typical white features either; her Italian ethnicity is pronounced and she doesn’t try to play it down. (I say this as an ethnic person myself).

  63. March 15, 2010 at 1:17 am

    bitBM: No. You may well be shouted down for using “lynched” as a metaphor, though.

  64. March 15, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Good take-down of the video. I’d only heard the song, and only just now watched the video. It seems fairly random wrt the song lyrics. No real connection.

    Am I the only one who noticed that the film section included a very diverse representation of skin colours in the prison, but when the dance section starts only the thin white girls got to look pretty alongside Gaga? I found that a little too obvious.

    The women of colour are good enough to use as props and supporting cast as prison inmates – you know POC are always in prison anyway (harumph) – but dancing? Nah uh, only white girls do that. That bothered me. I would’ve liked to see the ladies of colour and the butch ladies as part of the little dance ensemble in the prison hallway, but nope. Only Gaga and the Gaga Clones were there.

  65. karak
    March 15, 2010 at 4:21 am

    I was sad Lady Gaga was dancing in a bikini, because I like her outfits. her body is a pretty conventionally pretty body, but I can see that anywhere. I want to see her AWESOME OUTFITS.

    And I thought the butch lesbian kiss in the prison yard was very hot.

    I’m looking forward to the next video.

    And I have some conflicted feelings about Gaga being “accused” either intersex or trans. There’s no real way to deny something like that without, on some level, coming off as an asshole. So no matter how she responds to the question, someone’s going to get after her, and I kind of feel that’s not fair.

  66. SeanH
    March 15, 2010 at 5:48 am

    For a bit of cognitive dissonance: Lady Gaga originally wrote this song for Britney Spears, but it didn’t make it onto Circus.

  67. March 15, 2010 at 7:06 am

    And I was like, “because it sets you up to see Gaga’s sexuality as a way that she can be oppressed or hurt, and then it tells you to see her sexuality as a way for her to be powerful and victorious, and the transition from one way of seeing to the other is really great.” And she was like “yes, probably, but also I think I like the outfits and dancing!” And that is why people make fun of me when I talk about Lady Gaga.


  68. Donna L.
    March 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I did not remotely read the two prison guards as trans (or interpret their voices as such); I read them as butch cis-lesbians portrayed in a way intended to satirize women’s prison movies. For a trans woman to read them as trans reflects (imo) an extremely narrow and self-referential perspective.

    To forestall any “how dare you comment” responses, yes, I am a trans woman, so I have every right to express my opinion on this subject. Hey, I’ve even met Sady in real life! And have worshipped at the feet of CL Minou!

    I agree with Sady that the butch woman in the yard was very hot, and that it was nice to see a scene in a relatively mainstream production portraying a butch woman as hot.

    As for the “she doesn’t have a dick” line, I feel as strongly as possible that this was not remotely a transphobic or even a problematic comment in and of itself (I’ll get to the context in a minute), rather than a comment on the speculation that’s been used to attack her for so long. I don’t buy, and never have, what I see as the rhetorical trick of condemning someone who responds to the comment “you are trans (or gay)” by saying that they are not trans (or gay). Of course there’s nothing wrong with being those things, but saying that you are not X does not mean you believe there’s something wrong with being X. If someone says that they think I’m really a gay man, and I say, no I’m not a gay man (or any kind of man), that doesn’t mean I think there’s something wrong with being a gay man. I see this as essentially the equivalent.

    I do, however, agree that the context is very problematic, given the prison setting, and given what happens so often to trans women in prisons. Do I think that LG is consciously aware of the issue of trans women in prisons? I doubt she is, and I doubt that she had any malicious intent. But that doesn’t vitiate the problematic nature of her decision to make the comment in that context.

  69. Donna L.
    March 15, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    PS: I also don’t read the comment as a reflection of gender essentialism. I don’t believe that she was saying “woman = vagina”; she was saying that *this* woman — she herself — has a vagina.

    That said, I thought the video as a whole was largely incoherent, and I wasn’t that impressed by it.

  70. March 15, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    @Donna L. And I’m a friend of Holly’s and Jack’s in “real life.” Seriously, what’s with the namedropping?

    By all means have your opinion, and disagree with my piece, but do that as a means of having your own voice, not apologizing for cis people, which is a large part of what you’re doing here. And before you deny that, go read your first two paragraphs again – you are positioning yourself to make a response for people you assume I won’t listen to.

  71. Donna L.
    March 15, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Mentioning the two names I did wasn’t namedropping, it was intended as a joke (and apparently failed as such) to comment on your previous accusation of namedropping to Sady. No offense to CL, but I don’t think she’s exactly famous enough yet in Trans World for mentioning her to constitute name dropping! Of course, in 10 years, I’ll be able to say that I knew her when.

    I’m not apologizing for cis people; I’m simply aware of the fact that unless someone makes their transness clear, they are at risk of being attacked by other trans people, based on an assumption that they are cis, when they express their opinions. (That happened to me once at Questioning Transphobia, when someone called me a cis idiot for expressing the opinion that a particular violent incident reported on the Internet last year was a hoax, which in fact it was. So I’m gunshy.)

  72. R.A.B.
    March 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I think it’s one thing to say: I get her message, but it could have been clearer if she’d steered clear of X and had done A instead of B. Instead, though, a lot of this commentary seems to be people projecting their own sensibilities onto Gaga because, vaguely, it seems to make sense that she’d agree with everything we’re saying here. Hence this perception that Gaga “misfired” re: the trans and racial politics of this video rather than accepting that, just maybe, we’re all grinding different axes.

  73. R.A.B.
    March 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I say that because we’re parsing dissertation footnotes from the music video of a woman whom, creatively, we know remarkably little about given her relatively recent ascent and limited discography.

  74. March 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    @Donna: I apologize if I sounded snark, over the past few days I’ve taken a lot of abuse for critiquing a cis pop singer (*this* is a civil discussion, if occasionally heated, elsewhere not so much). I am actually very interested in trans women’s analysis of the video, and do appreciate your comments on it.

  75. March 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    When I first listened to the song, I was so bored I didn’t even finish it. Then I watched this video. I was blown away. Even if she’s doing some things wrong, she’s doing a lot more right than I’ve ever seen. I hope to see her reach ever higher as her career develops.

  76. Icewyche
    March 15, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Best. Lady Gaga post. EVER.

  77. March 15, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    And I have some conflicted feelings about Gaga being “accused” either intersex or trans. There’s no real way to deny something like that without, on some level, coming off as an asshole. So no matter how she responds to the question, someone’s going to get after her, and I kind of feel that’s not fair.

    This is demonstrably false. I will demonstrate: “It would in fact be awesome if I were trans* and/or intersex as these are very fine things to be and I should like to point out to you and your [viewers | readers | listeners] they are not mutually exclusive identities in case you and they were not already aware. I would be proud to be helping make things better for other trans* and intersex folk and folk of every kind who are not well treated in the world and I hope that even though I personally am not trans* or intersex I am very much interested in making things better for those who are” might do very nicely. Hugh Jackman says stuff like this when interviewers ask about rumors that he’s gay. There’s a really gorgeous bit where he talks about being bullied by an older brother about wanting to take dance lessons. Older brother said people would think he was a poof so he quit. Mr. Jackman thought to himself over the next few days this actually a very shitty reason to quit doing something I really want to do and went back and studied dance for (I think?) seven years.

    It is not unfair to expect better than “I will show you the contents of my drawers. See? Vulva. No dick.” This is in fact extraordinarily fucking harmful for trans* people and intersex people and nongendered people and anyone who would prefer to not be pressured into dropping trou to address suspicions regarding their gender identity. What GaGa did in the video reinforces a precedent that is already very fucking well established thank you. (What she did in the magazine shoot where she went packing was much better.)

    We are painfully aware trans* gender identities are Other than less-than cis gender identities. We are aware ciscentric society encourages people to feel entitled to interrogate us regarding the status of our genitals. We know cisness (an analogue of whiteness) declares some genitals and some bodies to be female and some genitals and some bodies to be female and that those genitals and those bodies define gender. We know cisness considers our genitals to be inadequate facsimiles of cis people’s genitals when we have them revised and we know cisness considers our genitals to be of a different gender than we are even if we do not. A woman’s genitals are female genitals because she’s a woman and they’re hers: what the specific organs involved matter only to a few people.

    (It’s possible to use non-gendered language to talk about sexual characteristics: those characteristics have names including non-gendered generic names. Non-gendered language may seem awkward to those unused to it but it matters. When discussing access to abortion and prenatal and postnatal support and whatall in terms of women that discussion excludes everyone who isn’t a woman and can get pregnant and bear children. Inclusive would be discussing that in terms of people who can get pregnant and bear children.)

    We don’t need Lady GaGa or anyone else encouraging the idea that not wanting to show or discuss our genitals means we have something to hide. This can get dangerous.

    Okay? We all communicating?

  78. SA
    March 15, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    It is not unfair to expect better than “I will show you the contents of my drawers. See? Vulva. No dick.”

    Aren’t her, er, drawer contents… blurred out?

    I was kind of blown away by that choice because… well, Lesley says it better.

    “But the most sublime aspect of this presentation is the digital blurring. The image is a huge tease that ultimately tells us nothing. There could be a vag there, sure, or there could be the fabled “little bit of a penis”, or she could be smooth and slit-free as a Barbie doll. Gaga’s crotch shot says: is this what you want, a look around a woman’s body that is literally incarcerated, the freedom to explore her like she’s nothing more than a doll? Well, fuck you. Some information is still not public property. Some privates, it seems, are still private. Too bad.”

    And no one has mentioned the guards’ response, “Too bad.” Which could be read as trans-affirming.

  79. Bushfire
    March 15, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Great post, Kaninchenzero.

  80. March 15, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Thanks, Bushfire.

  81. March 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    samanthab @ 46; Alternately, there could have been a genuine emergency that she’s blowing off because she’s too self-absorbed and focused on having fun.

    Also, am I the only one who was disappointed to learn she _wasn’t_ trans? “Wow”, I thought, “Society has become tolerant enough that an openly transgendered person can become a Mainstream Rock Star!” Shoulda known better.

  82. March 16, 2010 at 11:19 am

    re: whether or not this is transmisogyny, I’m not sure where the confusion is. Questioning Gaga’s genitals was a clear show of misogyny, because no one can believe that a smart and successful woman can “really” be a woman. So they start asking whether she has a dick. Which of course, “makes her a man.” Which of course, is transphobic, because she clearly identifies as female, so calling her a man, or saying she’s “not really” a woman is discriminatory against trans people.

    I mean, not to ‘splain or anything, but… it’s just that it’s pretty clear. And people who don’t think the transphobia is apparent aren’t looking very closely.

  83. Donna L.
    March 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Nobody’s disputing that people questioning or speculating about Lady Gaga’s genitals is transphobic in general and transmisogynistic in particular. Everyone here agrees that it is. What’s being discussed here is whether her *answering* those questions and speculation, in the way she did in this video, is itself a manifestation of transphobia/transmisogyny. I’ve already stated my feelings on the subject. Which, obviously, are not shared by everyone.

  84. Per
    March 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    It seems like having the Asian woman say “dress,” in pink text, in Japanese, pretty much has to be conscious. To my mind, there’s just no way you could go that far without being aware of it. Right? I agree that what’s going on is, as Sady put it, “who the fuck cares what she’s thinking! Put some Asian shit up on screen! Because she is Asian! That is literally the most important thing that any person in the entire world needs to understand about this woman!”

    But the fact that she does that by having her say “dress,” in pink text, suggests to me that she has to be consciously/ironically trivializing the Asian woman by using the submissive-ultra-feminine-Asian-woman stereotype.

    If this was the word for, say, “train,” or if it was in the same color as the rest of the subtitles, I’d go for the “that’s just super racist” angle. But as it is, I think it has to be commenting on the way Asian women get marginalized through the stereotypes that (a) they probably don’t speak English, and (b) they’re probably just saying some cute girly shit, because all Asian women care about is cute girly shit.

    I’m not sure this is an effective or appropriate way of bringing this up — except maybe I am sure it is effective, because have you noticed we’re all talking about how this Asian woman was trivialized, despite the fact that it was like a second of a ten-minute video?

    But I’m still not sure it was appropriate.

  85. Samantha b.
    March 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    @Mike Crichton, well, that would kind of obviate the whole plot line of the video, if it were a matter of emergency.

  86. Chelsea
    March 16, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Sady! I love this article! I didn’t interpret the guards as being trans at all, but a lot of people clearly did. The thing I haven’t seen anyone talk about (and I only read about 3/4 of the comments, so who knows) is that after one guard says, “Told you she didn’t have a dick,” the other one says, “Too bad.” In my mind this meant that, while the guards weren’t trans (or not necessarily, anyway), one of them hoped Lady GaGa was because she (the guard) would have been interested in hooking up with her (GaGa) then. Did anyone else get this feeling??

  87. March 16, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    @Samantha b: The video has only the most tangential connection to the song’s lyrics, which don’t say anything at all about why the other person is calling her. In fact, they have her claiming not to hear a word the other person is saying.

  88. Samantha b.
    March 17, 2010 at 7:26 am

    @Mike Crichton, sure. If you read the header of this post, though, it seems to suggest that we are discussing the video of the song, no? The word “Video” seems central here.

  89. March 17, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Samantha b: The only person calling her in the video was Beyonce. I guess this could indicate an unhealthy relationship between the 2 of them, what with the mass murder and all. Maybe that’ll be her defense at the trial? Anyway, rereading the thread, you were responding to jen, who was responding to Dr Confused, who posted about the lyrics. Too late now to declare them irrelevant.

  90. LL
    March 17, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Beyonce had a honey bun, not a sandwich..

  91. Azalea
    March 18, 2010 at 4:36 am

    @ Chelsea (90) I caught that too and thought thats what the implication was. That having a penis was NOT a bad thing, she just happens not to have one.

  92. March 18, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Azalea and Chelsea. If the “Too bad” is to be analyzed like that, it could also be a portrait of trans chasers and fetichists who seek to date trans people simply because they’re trans and not because they’re, you know, people they might actually like, with personalities they may really swing with. In which case, the two guards are the trans misogynists, thinking that Gaga would only be of interest were she trans, and then only because of being a fetish object. So uhm… you really wanna go there?

    I can take it further. Gaga demonstrates that she is not trans (subtext: trans is icky and/or bad, and she’s none of those!!11!!ONE!!!), the guards who are by far the most unappealing persons in the video are either just really brutal and insensitive, OR they’re really brutal, insensitive AND trans fetishists, who would’ve really liked it if Gaga had turned out to be a plaything for them (subtext: people who dig trans folk are icky and nasty and only dig them because they’re weird and like weird things – like trans folk, who are weird, and are things and not really people).

    So there’s the really awful analysis of that. Whatever this video was meant to say – aside from “I, Gaga, am not trans.” – it says really poorly. And manages to conflate too many unrelated things. I’m pretty sure the loving partners of trans folks would be pretty offended at being conflated with weird and fetishist trans chasers, who are icky, because that can easily be read into the guard’s “too bad”- comment, when you know how trans people are frequently treated by cis trans-fetishists who think having a trans fuck-buddy is just so awesome and edgy. It’s not exactly an uncommon thing for some individuals to objectify exactly the thing about a person that makes that person marginalised (skin colour/gender/overweight/sex worker/etc) , completely forgetting the actual person.

  93. Guinevere
    March 18, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    In Lady Gaga’s shoes, I’d think it would be really difficult to confront the whole “she’s got a penis!!” issue without seeming phobic, in any way, so she handled it with humor, which I thought was cool. It’s kind of like when everyone’s accusing Random Dude of being GAY and then he has the choice of screaming I’M NOT GAY or grabbing his nearest close guy friend for a little grabass to make fun of the accusation. These aren’t the only options but they seem to be the most common where I’m living, and although both can be seen as demeaning and phobic, one’s less irritating.

    I didn’t read the guards as trans and was kind of surprised anyone did? Their relative masculinity seemed very sexualized in the context. I really enjoyed it.

    It’s a honeybun! Hence Beyonce’s moniker “Honeybeeee”, which I thought was cute.

    Someone mentioned that ass-slapped-girl’s mental dialog was “Piece of Shit” but no one seemed to notice and assumed it was instead “Dress”, which makes far less sense? And I’d assume Gaga’s intent would be to mock the characterization of all east Asian females as super-cute submissive darlings of their “own” culture rather than throw up some Japanese shit because it looks interesting. Maybe just because I like her.

  94. Chelsea
    March 18, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Hey Jemima,

    I agree – if the implication was meant to be that the guard wanted Lady GaGa to be her plaything because the guard fetishized trans people then that is Entirely Fucked Up. I don’t even necessarily see it differently, but rather am not sure what we are supposed to gather from the guard wanting Lady GaGa to have a dick. It could simply be that the guard is sexually attracted to people who have dicks, and upon finding out Lady GaGa had one, wanted to get to know Lady GaGa better to see if there was chemistry there. (I know, this sounds like an incredibly naive interpretation. I’m just trying to speak to the spectrum of possibility.) Another possibility is, as you mentioned, that the guard fetishizes trans people – and this possibility (or really any of them) is worsened by the fact that the guard is in a position of power and may not be interested in acquiring GaGa’s consent in any sexual matters.

    But then maybe that was the point of the guard’s comment: to illustrate the danger of sexual violence against prison inmates.

    Anyway, those were some of my possible interpretations of the scene. Do you see any possible situation where the guard’s comment was not incredibly problematic (neither proclaiming trans people icky nor fetishizing them)? This may be a pointless question (since there are already so many problems with the scene) but I am curious about your thoughts since you brought up trans fetishization, which I think is a really important part of the discussion.

  95. Mish's biggest fan
    March 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    One word to describe this post: EPIC.

    I’m with Miles.

  96. fuzzytheory
    March 18, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    There are a number of things I think about this video and more about the commentary of the thread.

    First, it seems to me that the ambiguity about the guard’s gender identity among the commentators here, a group which is more likely aware of many identity issues than most, seems to actually show some point about the piece. Let us set aside authorial intent aside explicitly for a second (as many comments blur the lines between evaluating Lady Gaga for her intent and reading the text as if it were a piece divorced from the author). How is this work read–more specifically the guards in the beginning that frame the piece? In this thread and this community, it is read variously. The guards are trans, the guards are cis body builders, the guards are ambiguous. Showing her vagina–no! vulva–no! blurred out ambiguous genitalia–is/is not transphobic, with/out the context. The prison girls are… the dancing girls are… etc. etc. This video is a semiologist’s wet dream.

    I like the invocation of Derrida of comment #4. Deconstruction “is” the inherent iterability of texts–texts by their very nature have a multitude of interpretations embedded in them that change, are re-read, re-interpreted, simultaneously contested. It seems to me that this video is deconstruction. Like Derrida says America is deconstruction.

    Now to invoke Foucault, we can talk about the context of trans-, womens-, victims-, pocs- oppressions and how this video plays out regarding its semiological play with these oppressions. How does this video contribute to or resist discourses of oppression? In what context does the video fit along a geneological continuum? To my mind, this video, as are most attempts at resistance, is contested. The video is, in many ways, ONLY what its viewers/interpreters take it to be. This video is all of the above.

    Having said all of that, one contextual point that I think hasn’t been noted yet is Lady Gaga’s political support for the Queer community, and the support of a broad cross-section of the community’s support for her. If we add that context to the analysis of the video, what do we see? I have a couple thoughts:

    -Beyonce is dabbling in queer.
    -Lady Gaga is shouting out explicitly to the queer community with this video.
    -Responding to the transbaiting. Simultaneously. With her Q spread she said: “you want me to have a dick? ok… mine’s bigger than yours” and with this she said, “I have a fucking vagina/vulva/blur” you figure it out. I’ll be over here making out with a hot butch dyke.

    Other thoughts?
    -Beyonce was the one calling all the time while Gaga was in prison dancing it up and thus too busy to take the call. Or, I’m too busy in the prison of exploitation making out with chicks and watching catfights to take your call. It seems like this is also Gaga’s own version of the sexy in prison exploitation.
    -MY hindbrain processor, after watching this video and some of her other works wants to update Marshall McLuhan’s the media is the message. Somehow the semiology of her works and this video in particular evoked for me a response that felt like all semiological boundaries were being blurred/exploded and the distinction between media (phones, cameras, video cameras, music videos, exploitation flicks, popular culture, cooking shows, etc. etc.) and the message that each media sends is increasingly getting blurred as every interface is omni-compatible. All of our toys are starting to do the same things. All of our media is becoming one… does that mean the the “message is the media”?
    -I’m sorry. If nothing else, I congratulate her as an artist for inspiring that thought in me.


  97. miwome
    March 19, 2010 at 12:41 am

    I loved this post. LOVED IT. Also LOVED the butch/femme makeout. This is going to be a long-ass comment.

    Interestingly, though I have had one of these very same controlling, calls-every-five-minutes-especially-if-I’m-partying-without-him-because-what-might-I-do-if-drinking-without-him-I-should-really-just-leave-the-party-now boyfriends and had even associated the lyrics of the song with that experience, it didn’t occur to me to connect that association with the prison and then revenge dynamic of the video. However, I find that really interesting in the context of how much I loved the butch/femme makeout: part of why I loved it is that the butch woman was presented, genderwise, in much the way I like to present myself these days. To bring this back to the controlling boyfriend: that presentation started when I cut all my hair off after I broke up with said boyfriend, and he reacted to it by going “OOOOH I BET YOU’RE A LESBIAN.” I was at the time solidly straight, though I later found a bit of queerness in myself, but basically he was trying to use my escape from his control, as enacted in my choices about my hair, as a way to (in his mind) shame and other me, to put me on the defensive. I don’t know if all of that played into my reaction to the butch/femme makeout when I saw it (though of course now it does), but I think this little anecdote fits rather well into the ideas brought up here about feminine escape from men. (In case you wanted to know, he followed this up by implying that my new boyfriend was feminine and saying that if I next dated an Asian guy, he’d know for sure I was on my way to dating girls. Because Asian men are basically women, right? Asshole.)

    I actually also read the Asian woman’s Japanese subtitle as an ironic invocation of the racist uses of Japanese writing and the roles Asian women get in American media–submissive/girly, or dominant superhero (cf. Lucy Liu’s entire career). If I wanted to get really meta about it (oh, and I do), I’d say that since the video itself is sort of one huge Tarantino reference, this particular moment was referencing Tarantino’s own racist approach to Asian women in his movies, taken so far over the top that it no longer fit into the Tarantino-esque scene (diner as scene of violence, check). I think the way she was dressed, which seemed to me to avoid the ways Asian women are usually sexualized, added to the jarring impact of the subtitle. I know I was way surprised when it came up on the screen, as nothing had visually or dramatically set me up for it.

    Okay, I’m almost done with this here novel. What did confuse me was the shifting interlocutors throughout the video’s story. First Gaga and Beyonce are talking; then Beyonce seems to be talking to Tyreese with the same lyrics. Are Gaga and Beyonce speaking in code? As long as we’re talking about feminine spaces and relationships as escaping men’s sexual control, is it worth reading into Gaga’s saying she’s “in the club” while in prison for bitches? I’m also very interested, as someone mentioned, in the implications of the Americana-steeped diner + killing spree + dancing in American flag-themed bikinis. I have no theories about this except to connect dead people in diners with zombie movies, which is fun to think about but kind of a dead end. Also, why does Beyonce say “I knew you’d take all my honey” to Tyreese? Is it a comment on the way abusers can consume their victims, and that’s why she had to stop him (since her name is Honeybee)? The multiple honey references in the video are pretty sexualized (Lady Gaga ate Beyonce’s Honey Bun, yo!), but I’m not sure how that functions in this particular instance.

  98. miwome
    March 19, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Oh, man. So I went looking for the video on youtube to watch it again, and I did find this video on the making of the video. Some of the statements of people working on the video are really interesting, in my mind: Tyrese’s character’s name is Bobo, which is pretty interesting and unexpected from this angle; judging by the analysis here I’d argue that Lady Gaga herself could be described as Bobo, and they’ve chosen to tag the person who is deliberately and personally murdered as such. The prison guards make several suggestive jokes about Lady Gaga as their former prisoner; apparently the whole diner dies by accident, because the poison from Bobo’s plate accidentally “spread” to all the other plates in the diner. Thought some people might be interested.

  99. tinfoil hattie
    March 19, 2010 at 7:19 am

    @Jill and @amandaw:

    Yes, by all means, let’s not make a big deal out of using the correct terms for women’s anatomy. It’s all what makes one comfortable, isn’t it? I prefer pussy and cunt. Who cares what the real words are? I’m going to start calling breasts “nipples.” It’s close enough!

  100. logicandlove
    March 21, 2010 at 7:26 am

    i realize i’m late to the party and it’s possible no one will see this, but it was really bothering me that people were saying the Asian subtitle was in pink, when in fact it was the same as the rest of the text (yellow with a pink border). my evidence: http://i43.tinypic.com/x3sw2d.jpg.

  101. Vampireseal
    March 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I see many of you are discussing the subtitled word that the Japanese woman supposedly “thought”.

    It’s says One-Piece. Yes, it can mean dress. However, the much, much, more likely meaning is that it is referring to an extremely popular anime series easily found on Cartoon Network. Lady Gaga is a well-known Japanophile, both of Lolita fashion and anime.

    In the poison list generated when Gaga makes her poisoned food, the poisons are all referencing science fiction films, such as Star Wars and Dune.

    And of course, the entire video is an homage to Tarantino, and to his love of 70s B-movies. I rather liked Gaga’s video, being a fan of lampooning cinematic cheese, including the ridiculous “Caged Heat” films.

    If Gaga and Beyonce’s acting is bad, it’s supposed to be–they speak lines straight out of 70s grindhouse flix.

  102. March 22, 2010 at 1:25 am

    …and a little addendum to Vampireseal’s comment (cuz I was thinking almost exactly the same thing about the whole Asian girl mess) — not only is Tarantino a 70’s B movie buff, but he’s a huge Kung Fu-sploitation fan. To my mind, that little moment made the Asian girl a fashion-forward Yakuza or some shit. To go along with the Girl Gangsta theme.

    Carry on.

  103. Bleer
    April 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    someone probably already said this but it’s not a sandwich it is a honey bun

  104. Strawberry
    April 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Beyonce calls Lady Gaga (from what we can see) twice in the video-once when Gaga is making out in the prison courtyard (she’s busy!) and again in the holding cell (she’s busy!) Gaga answers Beyonce’s call and this is how the song starts…which is a song about being in a controlling, abusive relationship. How is it that not one comment (cept for this one) cannot even comprehend the fact that SAME SEX ABUSE BETWEEN WOMEN EXISTS!!!
    Not only is Beyonce and Gaga in a abusive relationship with their boyfriends but it’s obvious that gaga is in a abusive relationship with Beyonce. And Gaga is the abused. Grrrrl power? Really? Why is the issue of racism not addressed in queer relationships? Or how patriarchy plays a part? Or colonialism?
    This video is so Eurocentric, it’s not even funny.
    People who applaud this video without thinking about it are doing nothing more but contributing to the cycle.

  105. Rodrigo
    April 5, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    On a little tangent here, the butch woman at the prison uh… patio (grounds? sorry) kissing Gaga is pretty awesome, I read an interview she gave on the Internet to Somebody Online I Had Never Heard Of so I can’t provide the link but I know it was awesome, try to look it up.

    PS: I really would’ve liked the kiss better if Lady Gaga wasn’t set on her whole FAME-MADE-ME-AN-EMPTY-VESSEL routine. She doesn’t seem to be enjoying it at all, she just does it to steal the other chick’s phone which by the by, she never uses. But I do see your point on that scene and agree with it!

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