If you haven't been aware of Lady Gaga's latest music video, you're either severely disabled or ignorant of all pop culture. (Or, you know, you're busy doing something more important like saving Haiti/raising a family, but that's another issue entirely.) Let's assume you've watched the "Telephone" video, and have been, however vaguely, aware of the conversation as to whether it's excellent, obscene, feminist, sexist, disgusting, artistic - or simply all of the above.
The video is simultaneously extremely superficial and deeply multi-layered: she references Tarantino and Ridley Scott whilst posing in lingerie and dancing (as I'm sure the Daily Mail would put it) "provocatively." She lampoons American culture whilst throwing herself, naked except for fishnets and some black tape in the appropriate places, against the bars of the prison cell which we find her in at the start of the video.
So is it degrading and dehumanising? It doesn't take much flicking thru the music channels on your TV to find far worse examples of female exploitation - the sexy laydeez 50 Cent has lurching around him in pretty much all of his videos (to which I'm kind of like, "Er, Fiddy, are you trying to compensate for something?") and, most recently, the video for Timbaland and Justin Timberlake's new song "Carry Out." In this video, Timbaland and Timberlake, dressed in suits, sit whilst women pose seductively next to them, serve them food with a cheeky, subservient smile on their lips, suck on cherries - basically they do stuff I've never seen a real woman do in my life. In short: the female form is still abused and objectified in, let's say, maybe 50% of the music videos you see on television and the internet - at least.
Therefore, what I don't get is the disproportionate outrage at Lady Gaga. Sandy Rios, president of the Culture Campaign (which seems to be some typical fundamentalist Christian American group), described the video on Fox News as "poison for the mind of our kids." Wait, is 50 Cent poisonous too? Is that 3OH!3 video gonna corrupt our kids because it's got promiscuous women in it?
The shock and terror some have felt towards "Telephone" and its (apparently) krazy obscenity, aren't because it features nudity and violence - in fact, the video is probably a lot more tame and kitsch than a hundred other music videos. The problem isn't that she's showing off her tits, or kissing a girl (Katy Perry, Black Eyed Peas, t.A.T.u have already done this, to name a few.) The problem is that none of the erotic aspects of "Telephone" are designed or performed to arouse and thrill men - the problem is that Lady Gaga's a free bitch, baby - the problem is that the video is fully, fearfully, female.
It's unafraid and unashamed - similar imagery in a different video becomes (to quote feminist writer Elizabeth Wurtzel) "a form of enslavement meant to please men, not women." But Lady Gaga's relentless, sexy female aggression saves the video from becoming mere pulp and porn. The prison that forms the video's initial setting is called "Prison for Bitches." And what do we take the term "bitch" to mean? Whilst being an insult - a female dog, not a real woman - its newly reclaimed, third wave/post- feminist meaning is more understood to be (and again I quote Wurtzel) a lifestyle of "libertine abandon." And I'm sorry but is there ANY better term for Lady Gaga and everything she embraces and endorses? You hear that, Justin and Timbaland? If this bitch serves you some food for you to stuff down your sexist face, it'll have poison in it and kill you. The video's not promoting murder, promiscuity or the heinous crime of not wearing many clothes: it's doing the opposite - empowering the female form, after decades of its degradation at the hands of pop culture and the (white, middle class, straight, male) corporations.
Last but not least, the whole thing is gloriously, deliriously QUEER. Whether Beyonce and Gaga are supposed to be fucking is irrelevant - what matters is the sisterhood between them. The kiss between Gaga and an inmate at the Prison for Bitches is done with a deliberately androgynous aesthetic - is it a girl? is it a boy? - mimicking the real-life rumours of Gaga's hermaphroditism, which she has deliberately never quite cleared up. The video's cast (besides the dancers) is predominantly female/other - they are butch dikes, slim femmes, transsexuals. In short, they are examples of some the most under-represented minority groups in mainstream media. When did you last see a bunch of beefcake lesbians on your TV? Lesbianism is another area continually turned into pornography for men, comedy for men, and titillation for men. Just check out Katy Perry's disgusting "I Kissed A Girl" or Britney Spears and Madonna's HAWT KISS at the VMAs a few years back. Fake lesbianism sells and Gaga ain't buying. Instead, "Telephone" is a gloriously trashy, sexy and queer music video - putting parodies of a subculture under the lens of mainstream media. In a world where so much culture relies on objectified naked chicks, Lady Gaga is emancipated and empowered - a role model for free bitches, fat dikes and camp faggots.
So considering the upcoming election, what do the three main political parties have to offer all the free bitches, fat dikes and camp faggots? The Liberal Democrats are kind of like the Miracle Whip Lady Gaga uses in the "Telephone" video - a cheap version of the real mayonnaise. Nick Clegg's promise to ensure schools teach homosexuality as "normal and harmless" and legalise gay marriage are obviously GREAT, but considering the party are (at best) 20% in the polls, it's fair to say Nick Clegg could say whatever the hell he likes without any regards for a realistic policy to put into place come May.
And then you've got the Tories - notorious bad guys; a bit like the guy Beyonce and Gaga kill in their general historical outlook. The last time we had a Tory government, poll tax penalised the poor, council housing was sold off and not replaced, public industries were closed and privatised at the expense of countless jobs, and the unemployment levels were at times far higher than they have been today throughout the recession of 2008-2010. And I haven't even mentioned the Tory's history on gay rights.
Let's bring in another Gaga analogy. Anissue some have had with the "Telephone" video is its supposed glamourization of murder. OK, they pretend to kill lots of people. Yeah, maybe some small children will see it and think, "Hey, that's cool! I'm gonna put bleach in my Mum's moisturiser!" Maybe we'll all start killing each other on the streets. But what about the Tory party? It's well-documented that the suicide rate of men is double that of women. The closeted gay male taking his own life is an archetype of modern tragedy. Whilst the teenage suicide rate was climbing higher and higher, Margaret Thatcher put into place Section 28 - making it illegal for teachers to "promote homosexuality" with students, and making it nearly impossible for schools to combat homophobic bullying. Whilst the legislation was in place, statistics show that 4 out of 10 gay teenagers had harmed themselves at least once, and 77% of gay teenagers had been bullied. So maybe the Tory party - including the fresh, modern David "Hug A Hoodie" Cameron - are the murderers we should be looking at. With no Section 28 as a hurdle, teachers and support workers could have intervened in homophobic bullying and promoted tolerance and acceptance - which could have stopped the countless self-harm, torment, and, sometimes, suicide that gay adolescents were driven to, partyly thanks to the unforgiving, nasty Tory legislation.
It was only in 2003 that the Labour government repealed Section 28 - and substantial numbers of the Tory party voted against the homophobic legislation's repeal, including David Cameron, who also (surprise surprise!) voted against a law entitling lesbian women to the right to fertility treatment. Cameron described gay rights as a "fringe agenda" as recently as 2005. So be wary when you hear Cameron talking about how much he loves gay guys, how great lesbians are, how positive a contribution we make to society.
Compare the decadence and depravity of Lady Gaga, that queer icon in the making, with the stern and selfish past of the Tory party. Isn't the former more fun? If you enjoy gay culture, if you are a gay person, if you like a gay person, if you want your pop culture a bit queer, a bit odd, a bit different; then put aside your wallet - and don't vote Tory at the election. Vote Labour - Vote Gaga.