ReutersLady Gaga is a terrible actor. At last night's MTV Video Music Awards, she opened the show with a dramatic monologue, delivered in character as her male alter-ego Jo Calderone. And as if her rumpled white t-shirt, greaser jelly-roll hairdo, and lip-dangling cigarette didn't speak loudly enough, Gaga mugged, sneered, uhhed, and rubbed her belly with all the restraint of the lead in a seventh-grade production of The Outsiders. Gaga's never been one for subtlety, but you got the sense that she actually thought she was successfully pulling off her character. She wasn't.
That's fine, though. Gaga nevertheless took part in the most exquisitely bizarre moment of the night, although it wasn't during her opening number. Rather, the show's strange highlight came when she presented the "Video Vanguard Award" to Britney Spears.
It was a moment of weird indignity for Spears: a younger star hogging the spotlight, another diva waiting to take the stageYou can imagine how the show's producers envisioned it going down: The new-generation pop princess handing a lifetime-achievement trophy to the last generation's pop princess. Of course, Gaga wasn't going to let things happen that simply. She remained in her drag character—as she did for the entire show and, reportedly, the back-stage interviews. "I used to hang posters of her on my wall and touch myself when I was laying in bed," Gaga/Calderone said, and the camera cut to Britney in the audience, who emitted an uncomfortable giggle. After a needlessly turbulent medley of Britney's greatest hits—the music piped in from above, accompanied by anonymous Britney-lookalikes dancing on stage—Britney came up to accept the trophy from Gaga. But Gaga wouldn't get out of the way:
This, of course, was scripted. The two almost kissed, and then broke off at the last moment. But Gaga kept leering, standing uncomfortably close to Britney as she attempted to give a barely felt acceptance speech. What's more, Britney had to simultaneously thank the world and introduce the next performer, Beyonce Knowles. It was a moment of weird indignity for Spears: a younger star awkwardly hogging the spotlight, a roughly contemporary diva waiting in the wings to take the stage.costume changes and her guilt-free lyrical message, Gaga's obsessed with remaking standards of beauty and achievement so that they're set by individuals, not establishments. She's the incredible, cross-dressing, anti-Britney.
As Kevin Fallon noted on this site last week, the planned tribute to Amy Winehouse showed a different kind of contrast with Britney: that of the in-born talent who offers more to MTV than MTV offers to it. Gaga isn't quite in that category. The network loves the spectacle she provides, and Gaga wants a platform to provide it. She's not afraid to use that platform to critique the others on stage—even as she's handing them a trophy. Now, if only she could act.
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