Monday, November 16, 2009

2009: A Gagadyssey

All right, y'all. Last week was weird for me. I started the week sick, then took a day off from work in the middle, and finished it out with two really busy days. As a result, my blog suffered. I'm sorry! I'm getting back on my feet, starting now.

Last week I posted Lady Gaga's new video for Bad Romance, and everyday since then I've grown a little bit more obsessed with the visual story it tells. True, there is a very clear and present storyline in the video that's not really open to interpretation: Gaga "hatches" from a pod labeled "MONSTER," is kidnapped by a couple of supermodels who force vodka down her throat, and then auctioned off to a man who seems to be a member of the Russian mob. Naturally, she later kills him by making him spontaneously burst into flame. But overall, the video has a certain aesthetic, and from the first time I watched it, the influence of one film director in particular was obvious to me: Stanley Kubrick.

I should give the disclaimer that I was mildly obsessed with Kubrick for a long time. I started watching his films in high school - 2001: A Space Odyssey was first, of course - and continued into college. I still own ASO and A Clockwork Orange, my two favorites and, probably not coincidentally, the two whose influence was most obvious to me in Bad Romance.

First of all, the opening shot of Bad Romance reeks of a famous shot from A Clockwork Orange.

True, Gaga's shot is black on a white background, while Kubrick's is obviously white on black, but the general composition is still basically the same. You can't really see it in the bottom photo, but Alex (the main character of Clockwork) and his gang are holding glasses of milk or have glasses of milk on the lady tables in front of them. Gaga and her entourage have similarly shaped gold glasses on the floor surrounding them. The two girls sprawled on the floor in front of Gaga remind me of the lady tables in the Clockwork milk bar. Worth noting: in the film, Kubrick starts this shot wide and slowly zooms in, as if we the viewers are walking toward Alex and his gang; this shot in Bad Romance does the same thing. Also worth nothing, even though it's not part of the visuals: the tingy music playing during this part of Bad Romance - and again at the end of the video - is eerily reminiscent of the theme from Clockwork, called Ultraviolence, which you can listen to here.

After the camera zooms in slowly for a few seconds, it cuts to a close-up of Gaga and her razorblade glasses. In an interview with MTV, she said that she wanted these to represent female strength, as an homage to the women she knew in New York who used to carry razorblades in their mouths - I guess to defend themselves with if they needed to? - but when I saw them, all I could think about was this scene from Clockwork, below.

Granted, they aren't cutting his eyes with razorblades, but they are forcing them open with eyelid clips. Both images conjure thoughts of eye-related violence. Oh! And speaking of eyes that are open freakishly wide, I love this shit.

Moving on to 2001: A Space Odyssey. First, it should be noted that the entire futuristic aesthetic of the Bad Romance video is incredibly similar to ASO: the white lights, the glowing floors and walls, the monster pods, the clothing. During the first part of the video, the camera zooms in to reveal Gaga's finger on some sort of black speaker/MP3 player. It reminded me of the monolith, the big black thing in ASO that is supposed to represent human knowledge/understanding/evolution, or time travel, or finite space, or something.

The monolith theme - some sort of rectangular black object against a white background - keeps reappearing in Gaga's video, just like it keeps showing up in different places in ASO. First of all, the semblance below is just kind of creepy. The first is a shot from Bad Romance, when the sun is coming up right before we see the monsters coming out of their pods. The second is from ASO, a shot of the sun rising over the edge of the monolith, flipped on its side.

The monolith keeps appearing. First, Gaga herself as monolith.

We see Gaga crawling between two monoliths (her suitor's legs).

The computers that show the winning bid for Gaga are sideways monoliths.

Later, the suitor himself becomes a monolith.

Soon after, he becomes incinerated. However, he is replaced by a scantily-clad Gaga, all in black, on a charred black bed. Yep, huge monolith.

Oh, and speaking of that bed/bedroom, um, look at this famous shot from ASO.

True, the bedroom in Bad Romance is simpler - from what we see, there are no chairs or armoirs or Greco-Roman statues - but the similarities are still striking.

In short: I think Gaga knows what she is doing. I think she knows things about art and film and culture nouveau, and she employs that knowledge in her own creations. People laugh or disagree heartily when I say that Gaga is the first real pop artist of our generation - along the lines of David Bowie, Andy Warhol, Freddie Mercury and Madonna - but I stand behind my assertion. With the Bad Romance video, she has elevated herself to an artistic plane that makes her incomparable with the Britneys and Christinas and Beyoncés of our time. I still love those women, and they obviously have talents of their own, but they aren't artists in the way that Gaga is.

I worship her. I mean, once you wear razorblade glasses, there's no going back.


  1. "Gaga knows what she is doing." That's one of the things that changed my mind about her. I wasn't an instant fan. But she's so deliberately...her. She's groundbreaking in every sphere she enters: fashion, music, video. She is following no one. And she's weird, to boot.

    Video is redunk. I loves it.

  2. Gimme more, bitch!

    MJ? Madonna? Def Manson.

    What say you of the Hitchcock references in the song? Where's the damn finger gun from? Or is it just triangle sun god symbolism?

    Seen's analysis? Not sure I agree with all the crazy illuminati business or the GaGa robot theory. But some cool references.

  3. I thought the MJ and Madonna references were so obvious that they didn't need to be pointed out... and as for Manson, I don't know a lot about his work so I didn't have that to work with.

    And yeah, LOVE the Hitchcock references in the lyrics.