Lady Gaga is the Internet. If you try to look up “Lady Gaga Alejandro video” on YouTube, you will find several faux links — mostly, for the record, leading to unattractive angry gentlemen with laptop cameras opining on something or other. The unattractive angry gentlemen, for once, have it right: Entitling something after a Lady Gaga release is going to get you some clicks.
This, for the record, is also how I justified writing about Lady Gaga so much to my personal gentleman caller, around the time he was following up every single post I or anyone else wrote about the Gaga with a blog post of his own to the effect of “SHE IS A POP ARTIST AND ACTS LIKE A POP ARTIST OH GOD STOP WITH THE DECONSTRUCTING:” Lady Gaga is the Internet. Every time she does something, we all pay attention. But, unlike a video of a farting baby or a fatally injured cat or whatever else it is the Internet is looking at this week, she somewhat rewards our analysis. Particularly analysis of the lady-politics or “what the heck is up with sex? That seems like a complicated topic, to be sure” variety. Everything she did was spectacle, pure goofy Internet-pandering spectacle at that, but it was typically rooted in at least some interesting statements about femininity, or gender identity, or sex of some variety; therefore, those of us who wanted to talk about those things were well-suited to keep an eye on Lady Gaga, and to write about her, for she could keep people entertained with her dazzling sparkler boobies while we talked about it.
Which is why it’s a damn shame that “Alejandro” is basically a Madonna video. And also, boring.
I mean, yeah, sure: There are some typical Gaga provocations in there. Oh, hey, a dude in fishnets and heels! Oh, whoa, Nazis! (OR ARE THEY LEATHER DUDES??? Actually, they are probably leather dudes. Let’s calm down.) Oh, my, H.R. Gaga! I imagine that some conservatives are probably upset about her dressing up as a nun; I imagine some feminists are probably upset about the scene of her being surrounded and/or wrassled with by dudes and subsequently macked upon. Whether we should be surprised — or appalled — that an entire video drenched in BDSM iconography peaks with some rough (and notably enthusiastic, on the Gaga’s part) sex is up for debate; me, I say No. It’s just rough group sex. (Also: At one, all-too-brief point, Gaga pegs a dude.) Par for the course, for a lady who writes lyrics like, “I want your drama, the touch of your hand: I want your leather-studded kiss.” It’s just that now we can see that the dudes with the drama, the hands, and the kisses are, in fact, leather-studded. But the cross-dressing and rough sex and H.R. Giger fantasies of a be-underpantsed police state run by an alien queen are only minor points in the video’s narrative. For the most part, it’s just military-bustier Gaga, surrounded by dudes with bowl cuts (THE MOST UNFORTUNATE OF CUTS!) and olde-tymey boxing costumes, doing some not-too-interesting dances.
Gaga’s controversies used to be more interesting than this. They used to bring up stuff like, say, trans prison issues, or the politics of depicting human trafficking, or whether femininity and female sexuality were a means by which women were oppressed, or a means of empowerment (answer: Both, provided you can shoot fire out of your nipples). I mean, what are we supposed to fight about now? Leather culture’s appropriation of SS gear? We had that done by the ’70s, at least. Catholic sexy times? Yawn. Whether women can or should eroticize rough sex with a bunch of dudes and/or one dude? JESUS CHRIST, NO. SHE TAKES HER SHIRT OFF IN A SAUCY AND CONSENSUAL MANNER. WE HAVE DONE THIS; IT IS OVER; CONSENT IS ALL THAT MATTERS; THERE, IT IS SETTLED. AGGGGGAINNNNNNNNN.
This is all some weak sauce, Gaga-wise. It makes her less herself, more the standard pretty blonde pop star her detractors have always called her. In fact, it makes her look like a crappy knock-off of one specific pop star. Because, like, yeah: There’s some blatant BDSM imagery, and some rough sex, and that’s going to piss off all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. But, like, pissing people off with BDSM imagery?
And, yeah: She’s dressed like a sexy latex bondage nun for parts of it, and swallows a rosary (in what is a pretty obvious, and cheap, reverse-the-film bit of trickery), and that’s going to piss off Catholics in particular and Christians in general for its blasphemy and whorish appropriation of pure and holy symbols belonging to Our Sacred Mother Church. But, like, pissing off Catholics and Christians for juxtaposing iconography with sex?
(Side note: How goofy and offensive is that Madonna video? I hadn’t seen it in like 15 years! I remember people talking about how “sacreligious” it was, and I remembered people calling it an anti-racist statement, and I especially remembered her making sweet blasphemous love to Jesus, but I completely forgot the part where Madonna goes on a magical blue-screen journey to Black People Really Like Me Heaven!)
Even the fucking gun-bra corset is nothing new. And, like, a very obvious and derivative nothing. You can call it “homage.” But “homage” should be more clever than this. The most fun part of the video is the part that’s most obviously and goofily early-’90s: The bit where she’s in full-on 1991 pop-star drag, trousers and a vest (filmed in black and white, too! Hello, Salt and/or Pepa!) and fancy dudes in suits come out from behind her and get to catwalking. That part seems funny, intentional, referential, like the Gaga I know. The rest of it just seems… boring. And I kind of count on Lady Gaga not to be boring. That is sort of her thing.
In fact, the whole thing is so early-’90s, and so boring, that it feels goofy to even talk about it. Coming out as anti-“Alejandro” makes me feel like a prudish schoolmarm. Coming out as pro-“Alejandro,” on the other hand, makes me feel like all of those “feminist” “scholars” that wet their pants over Madonna back in the day. People like (SHUDDER) Camille Paglia.
Don’t make a Paglia out of me, Germanotta. Next time, come up with something that’s actually offensive. Or, at least, cool-looking. Give me something to talk about. You are the Internet; our fate is in your hands.