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Justify My GaGa

As mentioned (overly, pharmacy agonizingly) I am 40. And as far as I can see, treatment this age has little to recommend it. Of course, Craig’s List tells a different story. If its Casual Encounters pages are to be believed, there is a limitless supply of hard-bodied 18-year-olds who long for little else than the opportunity to jizz on my person.

But, save for a pride of hasty cubs eager to point their golden sex in my rough direction, there are only two things I can think of that might advocate 40.

These are (a) an increased supply of memories and (b) a decreased tendency toward passionate interest.

Now, of course, everybody goes on and on about the passions of youth. And I can certainly understand the case for youthful passion. But, as I age, I am quite taken with my lack of willingness to attach to things immediately. My new disinterest actually gives me a little more time for thought.

Except when it came to GaGa.

My enthusiasm for GaGa evolved, or rather didn’t, a little differently. That is, passion came first and rationale second. I am quite capable of developing new interests. Slowly. More recent interests include: the technological singularity, digital freedom and marinated anchovies. I would say that my interest here borders on passion. But, the passion was prompted only after discussion and thought.

GaGa happened without any thinking at all.

One day, I was at the gym on the elliptical trainer coaxing my body into a shape more suitable for receiving the jizz of hard-bodied 18-year-olds. Before me on the television screen was the promotional video for Poker Face. As I am very short-sighted with non-correctible vision, I might not have bothered moving up to the rowing machine for a second look at GaGa had it not been for her brickbat rip-off of Peaches, the rudest woman I’ve ever met, and references to Texas Holdem, the only game of skill in which I’ve ever enjoyed moderate success.

Anyhow. The GaGa Faithful, or the Little Monsters as LaGaGa prefers to know us, need no exegesis of this art. Needless to say, me and my short-sighted eyes were all immediately won.

In short, here was the most beautifully constructed bit of vision I’d seen since I Don’t Know When. I was particularly tickled to hear the phrase, “I’m Bluffin’ With My Muffin” and I was returned immediately to an extreme youth where I passionately wrote horrible essays at Sydney University about Madonna, performance and feminism. Or, “performativity” as we Judith Butler fans of the early 1990s liked to say.

For the first time in forever, I wished I was young again. I knew that if I was 18, I’d devote myself utterly to reading the “text” of Lady GaGa. How could a young feminist academic even begin to resist analysis of “bluffin’ with my muffin”? Here was a burlesque refugee using the (broadly disputed) “fact” of her genitals to bluff. GaGa’s clear lack of knowledge about the rules of No Limit Holdem aside, if I was 18 again, my head would have been reeling with the promise of cultural studies funding.

What the fuck, I asked myself, was not to love about Lady GaGa? She was transgressive, post-ironic and irrefutably, wonderfully Queer.

Anyhow. I went home and told S All About this New Artist. Of course, S, long a devotee of Leigh Bowery style performance and a former Club Kid, knew all about GaGa. This gave me the shits for a moment. Particularly given that S, my girlfriend, is also a bit younger than me.

I got over it and together we enjoyed regular GaGa worship for the next several months. This pleasure was, in fact, much more visceral than intellectual. We are both so identifiably Gen X; she a techno stalwart, me a 3rd wave feminist. So I think we were each too entranced by the way that GaGa seemed to embody the different promises of our youth, viz. the autonomy of dance and the unleashing of the feminine, that we never really discussed her more than to say, “wow”. We couldn’t.

And then. Telephone. Shit. I mean. Fuck.

By 2010, my girlfriend and I had each come to our individual, historical appreciation of Queer. So, we were beside ourselves last Friday when within the first thirty seconds of the video the rumor that Gaga has a penis was evoked. We delighted in a trans-gendered world penned, in equal parts by Tarantino, LaChapelle and Michael Jackson. And FUCK when she kissed that person, who turned out to be the rather remarkable performance artist, body builder and half-trans man-boi Heather Cassils!! Well, I very nearly wet myself.

You know, this shit makes Madonna’s Justify My Love look like a Jonas Brothers clip by contrast. Here, “other” sexuality is normalized to the degree that even the all-American Beyoncé agrees to set off into the sunset with Gaga.

What can I say? Nothing, mostly.

Even erstwhile “dissident” Camille Paglia was stuck for something to say when confronted by GaGa. The woman who was ALL OVER Justify My Love 20 years ago could only mumble some nonsense on the topic in salon.

Clearly, I am still prey for adolescent passion when the conditions are right. Clearly, I have barely begun to organize my thoughts about the spectacle of GaGa. (For, let it be said, who really cares about the music?)

Now, you can read my half-assed attempt to contextualize the power of GaGa in a newspaper of quality. A piece commissioned, as it happens, by a woman who inhabits my 40 year increased supply of memories as the former partner of a former room mate who once let me sleep on her sofa.

Despite the fact I came home at 8 in the morning reeking of the rough sex I’d had all night with someone called Wally on a pool table at a dirty house in Moonee Ponds.

The fictional suburban address, it should be noted, of Dame Edna Everage.

You see? Queer informs our every action. Lady GaGa knows that.
And that is why I love her with all my hard 18-year-old remaining parts.

24 Responses to “Justify My GaGa”

  1. Hirsty says:

    I’m in two minds about Lady Gaga. Whilst I love being in two minds, it confuses me. This is normal. Bankhead, Garbo, Madonna. Lady Gaga? More than likely.

  2. Pen says:


    thank you for this post. :)

    I think I need to get myself some gaga cultural studies funding.

    p.s. yay performativity.

  3. Ben Barren says:

    Steve Robbins used to spin circa 1989-1991 at Checkpoint Charlie (Prahran) Acid House, Hip House and Madonna; When Dancefloors had a mix of music types, gender, inclinations + preferences. Madonna’s songs weren’t just played on the Nova100 radio of the day; They were club hits. (Altho Liz Miller did play awesome set at 12am on RRR which i remembered TDK cassette recording each week)

    Just as Gaga got her cred via East Coast (drag n charlie) Clubs *so i read on blogs* Madonna’s Into the Groove, Boarderline, Justify My Love, Like a Prayer, Vogue – often a Remix or DJ Mix – were our Teenage Anthems: Even in Prahran at 5am. And UR spot on about Gaga. The similarity is spooky. Let’s hope she keep co-opting and riding off in2 the sunset with The Pussy Wagon + Beyonce. Madonna today, Warhol 2morro. With The Hon Julia Gillard MP as PM.

  4. helenrazer says:

    @Hirsty. Agreed. Between two minds is a pleasant enough site.
    @a lilley Lulz. The music is really neither here nor there, is it?
    @Pen Yay! Performativity!
    @Ben My partner talks about Razor et al with the same reverence. I am rarely regretful about the past but I will continue to curse myself for refusing techno/house in favour of shit grunge music that ultimately meant nothing.

  5. hughesy says:

    Only ten years to go my dear. At 50, you have enough memories to be able to say gawd, Lady GaGa is so thirty five years ago.

  6. YB says:

    I think one of the reasons that Gaga is ripping up the charts and news space is that she is interesting. So much bland rubbish is being produced, it’s refreshing to see something fun and different. Someone putting in an effort.

    “It’s just to be shocking” is a constant criticism. I say I haven’t been shocked in decades. I look at her and I say “She is having some big fun and wants everyone, yes EVERYONE to join in.”

  7. helenrazer says:

    Yes, YB. I too am prompted to holler, Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah! Roma-roma-mamaa! Ga-ga-ooh-la-la!

  8. ShaynnaB says:

    I think GaGa is a frigg’n nut but she is a frigg’n genius as the world is talking about her. Her latest clip is brilliant – as how often can you say you dont even notice Beyonce? But most of all I just love reading the ramblings of HelenRazer – our own little genius!

  9. Katey says:

    Oh! Oh! Oh! I heart Judith Butler. And Peaches (particularly for being the rudest woman you ever met – she is also a fine example a third wave feminist) and GaGa. I love the normalisation of queer, or the queering of normal. I forget which. Fantastic!

  10. helenrazer says:

    Peaches’ rudeness, for the record, was not of the insouciant sort. She was just ill-mannered. My gf was playing the same stage as her a few Big Days Out ago and stompy little Peaches stepped on her backstage. Not on purpose. Just as the by product of her self importance. Rude!

  11. Lawson says:

    Great post, and article in The Age – in response to the latter, and to Katey’s comment, I’d argue that you’re actually heading towards something like the ‘fourth wave’ – what exactly that is yet is exciting and interesting! And not just this plain refutation that ‘we need to get back to the hard issues of material conditions’.

  12. Katey says:

    It’s her self-importance that endears her to me, but… agree. Rude! Also, OMG – your gf played on the same stage as peaches!

  13. Yatima says:

    You have overlooked the massive cultural importance and exquisite hooks of “Bad Romance” and as such you must be FROWNED AT STERNLY!

    Glad I was here to help.

  14. helenrazer says:

    I really think Peaches should have been chuffed to be playing the same stage as her.
    Insouciance is one thing. Being a self-important cow is another. If you ever happen to see her being interviewed by the equally smug Henry Rollins on his unforgivable talk program, you will join me in Peaches disapproval.

  15. Katey says:

    without doubt, but (and I hasten to add, I have never met her nor had a similar experience, so it is difficult to me to judge her in the same capacity) as an observer it would seem to me that her self-importance is an essential component of her performance. Case in point, “Jesus walks on water, now Peaches walks on you!” rudeness aside, I don’t see this as being a necessarily negative role model – my kids could do FAR worse (eg Britney).
    Smugness is generally very, very unattractive. I’m loathe to watch the interview you speak of, because I want to continue liking Peaches (and Henry Rollins). Ha! First class denial! :)

  16. FSN says:

    Loved today’s Gaga article in Melbourne’s fading newspaper of note. Good to read something that’s original thought rather than reactionism. If that’s a word.

    Good on.

  17. Venise Alstergren says:

    By now, if the Herald Sun ever gets anything right, the women who took their kids to see Gaga are crying rape because she used a few sexual words. Typical Oz screams of outrage, and the wowsers are having a field day!

  18. screamish says:

    yeah- saw this video for the first time last week…kind of scared me. couldnt get past the diet coke cans and virgin mobile phone and the demented scene in the kitchen with rat poison. I think i stopped at that point, last thing I saw they were dancing in the diner with a load of dead bodies. if i were 67 and not 37 I’d probably take to the hills and put it down to the decline of civilization…as it is I just switched it off…I think its the total lack of innocence that depresses me. Madonna’s flexing and gyrating in Justify my Love had a sexy innocence to it that GaGa just doesnt have I reckon- it seems way to cynical for me…

  19. PaulRobert says:

    Melinda Tankard Reist wrote a rather old-school reactionary piece damning the “Telephone” clip. She sternly informs us that “Gaga is contributing to the distorted, one-dimensional cultural script about girls and women that is spread with zeal under a veneer of liberation.” So those of us who agree with your articles Helen, apparently we’re wrong.

  20. helenrazer says:

    Ugh, PaulRobert. I need some plucky, well-written text to flush away Melinda’s musty flavor. I do not now nor have I ever understood that one-size-fits-most bathrobe feminism that holds women to an impeccable standard and suggests that any engagement with the very idea of sex is somehow harmful. In this sort of argument, it suffices to say, “women are sexualized.” Like that’s a bad thing.
    What, I wonder, would a legitimate feminist sex look like for the prudes of the Old School? Must we all be over 40, just so as to guard against the “sexualization” of the young, wearing the uniform of Brown Owl and Making Love? With the lights off? Before doing good works, the sort not inspired by the likes of a morally bankrupt Tarantino and co?
    We can’t blame Melinda herself but rather a culture that produces editors who allow only two narratives on the subject of female sexuality in visual culture. These being (a) It’s peachy keen or (b) it’s super bad.
    Fuck me. It’s both. GaGa knows this.

  21. helenrazer says:

    There’s been a little discussion here and elsewhere about the product placement in the clip. Never one to defend unchecked consumerism, I have little to say to this end.
    But, if Richard Branson wants to be GaGa’s Medici, that’s okay by me.

  22. PaulRobert says:

    I’m with you there. Let’s revel in the ambiguity, delight in the ambivalence, confidently embrace the uncertainty and the discomfort of being challenged about the fixed ideas being foisted upon us as received wisdom.

    It’s immensely frustrating that the range of expression allowed for women is so narrow; the space between Tankard-Reist’s Brown Owl uniformed hyper-sensitive and disapproving panic-merchant and Nowra’s hideously unfeminine demented crone is impossible to navigate. Methinks the game is fixed: women are caught in a no-win situation.

  23. Bonny_missB says:

    My passion for Gaga hit the same way, suddenly and instantly. Flying and being too cheap to pay for the little TV screen I watched the screen of the passenger in front of me and saw Paparazzi. I couldn’t even hear the music, the costumes were enough.

    I too never thought about why I was so inflamed, but thank you for thinking – and sharing.

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