Lady Gaga | The Movie 'Brazil'


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:28 AM EDT, 19 December 2009

Lady Gaga is an interesting phenomena whose theatrical and satirical music video "Paparazzi" seems to parody America's wanton sexuality, loss of moral compass, consumerism and self-absorbed showmanship.  Even the ambiguity of her sex and sexuality contribute to her appeal and marketability as a performance artist. As a consequence of several comments from readers, it should be noted that this critique of Lady Gaga is limited to the video "Paparazzi," as I am unfamiliar with the rest of the body of her work. It is uncertain whether the antics displayed in Lady Gaga's videos are conceived with foreknowledge of the pioneering, critical works of Fritz Lang and Terry Gilliam; however, the video "Paparazzi" intentionally or unintentionally hearkens back to the works of these two iconic figures.

Starting with Lang's "Metropolis," Lady Gaga's metallic gold costume in the scene where she uses crutches to get up from the wheel chair seems to be an obvious homage to the female robot. Several scenes later, stylized moribund females are displayed in vintage clothing and are both caricatures of the prototypical American Postwar era helpless women, and provide an opportunity for flawless drag queens to mimic them.

This mimicry further erodes the prior division between the sexes, denigrates the sanctity of womanhood, and contributes to the continued breakdown of societal norms leading to an increase in sexual objectification, abuse and abandonment of women who are now forced en masse to care for themselves and their offspring alone. Thus women at large, as well as those portrayed in this video, are no longer perceived as human beings, but only as tender to be traded and trod upon.

Though the overt use of this video as social commentary is not indicated through interviews with the artist, it does seem to portray something deeper than the status quo. Her costumes are reminiscent of the 40's and 50's habiliment worn by the society women satirically portrayed in the movie "Brazil." While the underlying theme of physical and sexual abuse figures prominently in this video, it is because of their beauty and perfection that these women are coveted as possessions.

This is the state of our society today, where nubile youth is prized over wisdom and intellect, and where a woman is defined simply by outer appearances, hence the increased popularity and fascination with men who are capable through artifice to impersonate and project beautiful creatures more seductive than the women they emulate.

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Published: 19 December 2009 (Page 2 of 2)

The director of "Paparazzi" sardonically yet humorously portrays an upper echelon society woman constrained to live a stratified, organized and rigid existence, where her only choices are to suffer in silence or resort to an immoral means of egress.  In this video Lady Gaga avails herself of the latter by murdering her abusive boyfriend. As she explicitly depicts, the public has been anesthetized to morality through the corporate machinery that promulgates the differences between those it elevates and the masses who idolize them.  Corporation use Paparazzi as a blunt instrument to provide a continuous stream of fodder for media outlets such as tabloids, talk shows, etc., to increase or decrease market share and profit through the adoration or denigration of celebrities.

If taken at face value, this video is immensely entertaining, and provides the viewer with a feast for the eyes, as well as the challenge to the brain when one tries to identify the numerous allusions to the symbols and characters that inhabit the American entertainment landscape to which it tips its hat. It also provides a glimpse into how Lady Gaga has cultivated and maintained her fan base. If she is a man or woman is a mute point, because this artist seems to be cognizant of the ridiculous unreality of the industry in which she is a pawn, but through which she has gained her fortune.

Whether this is a consequence of her own ambiguous sexuality, or her fierce loyalty to the population segment that made her famous, she is definitely a very savvy marketer and emblematic of the voyeuristic nature of Americans who have ceased to inhabit their own lives, preferring the vicarious experiences found in the antics of entertainers, sports figures and "reality" TV personalities.

The summation of the video further convicts American mores and values by portraying the reality of completely different standards of "justice" for the rich and poor. This country likes to espouse the ideals of blind justice, but the reality is money can buy everything but a heart or soul.  We fawn over and adore our man-made "gods", forgiving them of any wrong doing, even murder, after venomous public castigation that does not result in any real punishment monetarily or otherwise.

For a deeper, more intellectual depiction of dystopian universe, and the society in which we currently live, I would recommend Lang's "Metropolis", Huxley's "A Brave New World," Orwells "1984" and finally Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." A classic movie released over twenty years ago, its references to "Big Brother", pervasive government surveillance, and perpetual war, are hauntingly apropos to the society in which we live today.  It is a movie well worth viewing.

One of my readers referred me to a blog titled 'A Photo Editor' where I read an interesting discussion centered around the announcement of "Lady GaGa Named Creative Director at Polaroid."

Check out the discussion by photographers and then stop by 'Still Photo Devotion' to peruse some really cool photographs.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias
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