A reader writes:
Perhaps I just don't read enough TMZ to have internalized the idea that Lady Gaga's persona is a "misfit," but I have never seen her that way. I think part of Gaga's appeal is the fact that she IS manufactured, but is up front about it. And seeing images of her former stereotypical beauty contrasted with her current look has given me the impression of someone who has actively and publicly chosen to reject her "beautiful" self. This resonates with people like me who grew up surrounded by charmed people, tried to keep up, and are starting to realize that beauty is just another rat race.
Why is this even surprising? It's the only thing I like about Lady Gaga; that with little more than charisma and a few funny hats she's managed to get a lot of people to accept some well-crafted but otherwise unremarkable dance pop as avant garde. As somebody who listens to a fair amount of experimental and avant garde music, it's kind of hilarious. Her ability to manipulate the media and perception of her mostly by force of personality is what makes all those Madonna comparisons apt.
At the end of the day, what is more important: the work or the image (self- or industry-manufactured)? If the criteria by which we judge the value of an artist is strictly either how much they suffered, or whether they truly lived their lives as they were hyped, well ... there wouldn't be enough artists to go around.
Good thing there haven't ever been ANY poets, playwrights, musicians, composers, painters, or actors who developed personas and/or used stage names. I hear some of these people actually had relatively "normal" childhoods. I think most of us can relate to having felt "marginalized" during our teen years, whether we were upper or lower class. Who's to say that she didn't feel a freak?
I'm sure, in a good way, that non-conformist Paglia felt the same. Gaga is young, works hard, writes her own songs, has a pretty good voice, and has ambition. Time and her ability, not Paglia, will tell if she develops into an artist and not just an "entertainer" - not that there's anything wrong with "just" being that. Really, can we give up our Romantic Notions of what we want an artist to be and simply appreciate them for their work?
In conclusion, let me translate what Paglia is saying in her "explosive profile!": "You kids don't know nothin'! Back in my day we knew real music and real sex and real Madonna and ... get off my lawn!"
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