The genius behind an icon
Lady Gaga’s bold and genuine style has had a tremendous effect on the fashion industry, but the statement behind her extravagance runs a lot deeper than a mere excess of makeup and lack of pants.
Channeling a similar persona to ‘80s icon Madonna through both style and message, Gaga is often regarded as a comparison to the legacy before her.
But this revolutionary artist stands apart from her predecessor in ways that cannot be fully understood in the standardized scene of stardom.
“The kinds of imagery that she draws on are a lot more nuanced and a lot more complicated than the kinds of imagery that Cher and Madonna are drawing on,” said Laurier sociology professor Morgan Holmes. “What does Madonna draw on? Girly magazines and Marilyn Monroe and that’s kind of it. But what’s Gaga drawing on? German expressionism and early silent film and Marxist critiques of capitalism and industrialisation and disability studies … and then she mixes it up with pop culture.”
In this sense, Gaga is “a true postmodernist,” stated Morgan. She is drawing from several different cultural forms and re-appraising modern conventions. Even her name is derived from Queen’s popular song “Radio Gaga.”
Trevor Holmes, from the cultural studies department, agreed and offers a further analysis.
“I think that the way that she pulls together different strands of different art and replays them for political reasons makes her a political postmodernist rather than just a surface, pastiche postmodernist.”
Gaga is not just referencing through her work but commenting. Trevor suggested that “she has a kind of gothic valance … I find that really compelling as a way of looking at the good and evil in culture.”
Through this artistic significance of style, Lady Gaga is certainly not your average celebrity.
Even so, the media seems to insist upon fitting her into a common iconic archetype.
“They think she’s just another in a long line of young women stars that are bad for girls because of the way that they portray their bodies,” said Trevor. “But I would like to propose, and I’m not alone in this, that Lady Gaga is connecting to a rich tradition of arts and representation … I don’t think she’s being played by ideology — she’s playing it.”
She may parade around half naked on a regular basis, but that doesn’t portray the same sort of message that consumers have been conditioned to assume.
Instead, “the unifying idea for me is that the body isn’t a prison,” stated Morgan. Lady Gaga’s body is actually an art piece. She is making a specific statement though her style.
“Her shoes are outlandish, sure, but she has people who pick her up and carry her around so it doesn’t really matter if she can’t walk ten feet in them,” joked Morgan, who continued that Lady Gaga is “definitely situating herself not just inside of pop music but in performance art and in, very specifically, feminist performance art that’s really grotesque and highly sexualized.”
In just a few short years in the limelight, Lady Gaga has been included in Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world and placed seventh on Forbes’ annual list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.
As a former New York University student, there is a highly educated motive behind the nature of her style.
“This is why there are courses on her beginning to emerge in the academy and academic blogs devoted to analyzing every video she comes out with,” remarks Trevor.
Each step Lady Gaga takes is a calculated one. There is no denying that she knows exactly what she is doing when she gets up on stage or films a music video.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Gaga clarified, “There’s nothing that I’ve ever put on my body that I didn’t understand where it came from, the reference of it, who inspired it. There’s always some sort of a story or concept that I’m telling.”