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The Monster Ball

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Jayne Dullahan


17 March 2010

I did promise to tell everyone about Lady Gaga's Monster Ball, didn't I. And then time slid away from me like...a slimy thing.

I am reminded of it though because of the recent release of Gaga's music video "Telephone". I said in my last post I doubted it would take long before someone starts to write critical theorily of her work, and I was right. A graduate student here in the US was even interviewed by one of our larger national TV stations (ABC) because of her extremely theoretical (and good) analysis of "Telephone," because Gaga herself evidently found it so intriguing that she tweeted a link to the blog discussion.

Gaga is of course a pop performance artist [see last post], and it stands to reason that there would be theoretical complexity to her work; the filmmaker/auteur has come forward in the ABC interview saying that the video is just kind of crazy and that theoretical analysis goes too deep. If the point of the analysis were to guess the riddle of the artist's mind, he might be right. But whether Akerlund filmed the video with all the theory in mind or not, the video absolutely matches up to Cand. Phil. Vicks's analysis, and I must say the analysis even shook a few things into place for me. My initial response was: well, it's a liberal quote of Tarantino pastiche [for which I have little patience]. And that is because I was looking at it as a narrative like Bad Romance--somehow it had escaped me to view it as a meta-pastiche, a symbolic mosaic of artistic development and consumer culture. The reading holds up, and really brings a lot out in the video. Kudos to Gaga for making art that draws such intense and thoughtful scrutiny, kudos to Comp Lit PhD candidates who take her work seriously.

Why that reminded me of Monster Ball: I was absolutely floored by the crowd it attracted. It was the most diverse group of people I've ever seen at any show--all age groups represented, all walks of life represented, people from all over just getting down and having a good time. And the screaming was DEAFENING. I would never have known how loud a collection of human voices can be. It was astonishing. She brought all these people together on the coldest night of the year. She played Michael Jackson CDs while we waited between acts. She made us wait a long time between acts (Semi Precious Weapons? Um. No thanks. Just give me Gaga, please) and I told the people I was with that the show had better f#@king blow me away for all this waiting. Ok, it did. She was on stage for nearly 2 hours. The sets were beautiful. The costumes remarkable. The songs exciting. She asked us a lot if we wanted to ...um...you know her. It was like a drag show, but larger, louder. And all these people... just having fun. She appeals to a wide demographic, and that for me is a hallmark of real greatness. You might be awesome, but have a small following. But if you can manage to be awesome and corner a diverse and huge following, that's pretty impressive.

And a man who will follow you to Gaga is a keeper.

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