A friend of mine made a comment on Facebook the other day that got me thinking. He said (in the most respectful way possible) that even though Lady Gaga is on a non-stop media blitz right now and even though she’s usually in various states of undress, she doesn’t manage to get a (ahem) rise out of him. I don’t think he was saying that Gaga is unattractive – she clearly is very attractive – but that she doesn’t project sexuality. Which is fine, because it’s pretty clear that arousing hoards of heterosexual men is not at the top of her to-do list. She’s got bigger fish to fry. But the question remains: if Lady Gaga isn’t trying to be a standard sex symbol, why is she alway running around in her underwear?
I’ll be upfront and say I’m not a huge lover of Lady Gaga’s music. “Bad Romance” is a pretty good song and I don’t groan when I hear her other songs when I’m working out at the gym. But in general her music doesn’t live up to the potential of her persona. Despite the fact that her ubiquity has become grating and she tends to overstate her “freakishness,” (note: a true weirdo doesn’t have to go around telling people how weird she is all the time) I do find a lot of what she does to be generally subversive. She stands up for the underdog, she encourages her fans to express their points of view and she she celebrates the ugly and the grotesque. Which is why her insistence on wearing provocative clothing is so puzzling.
Gaga prides herself on being provocative, but is showing skin really all that provocative in 2011? In most places, regular women can get away with wearing next to nothing in the summer and few people bat an eye. When you venture into the realm of female performers, where their look and image helps to build a brand, sexy stage wear is a no-brainer. It’s hard not to find a young female pop artist who doesn’t dress in tight bodysuits, bustiers or bikinis on stage. And it’s not just the empty pop vessels who are gussied up either. Women like Beyonce who write their own songs and trade on their own fierce independence know that squeezing into their stage clothes is part of the job description.
The skivvies-as-stage-wear aren’t setting Gaga apart from the pack and she genuinely doesn’t seem to be trying to seduce or sell sex with her get-ups. Yet, she seems to be wearing less and less as time marches on (with the exception of the ridiculous leather maternity act she put on on SNL this weekend). This coupled with the fact that the she has made comments about starving herself to look like a pop star, makes me think that the Lady is a lot less subversive than she claims to be and definitely a lot less subversive than she could be. Wear a roomy tent dress with your crazy lobster claw shoes, Gaga. Don’t stop with a meat dress – go for a meat pant suit! Because when you come on stage in a teeny tiny bra and panties you aren’t telling your fans that they can be anything they want. You’re telling them that they can be anything they want as long as they’re able to look the part and willing to play the game.