Over the past few months, there’s been a small backlash of sorts within the LGBT community against Lady Gaga. Some of it comes from people who find her simply too weird for their tastes, which is fine – I’ll be the first to admit that Gaga’s style is a bit…out there, and it’s not something that everyone will love. That’s true of pretty much any artist.
For others, the arguments are more harsh. Among the most-cited reasons for disliking Gaga I can find online:
- She’s copying Madonna, as well as Britney Spears and whatever other artist one wants to mention.
- “Born This Way” sounds too stereotypically “gay.”
- She partnered with Target for the album’s deluxe edition, and Target’s the gay Antichrist.
- She’s using the LGBT community to advance herself.
- No one asked her to be the representative of the LGBT community.
First, I want to dissect these claims.
Copying doesn’t quite sum up what Gaga’s doing, from what I can see. Yes, Madonna’s definitely an influence. She’s an influence on pretty much any female pop star from the 1980s on. What’s different here is that the use of Madonna, especially in the case of “Born This Way,” is intentional. Madonna was one of the first pop stars to not only align herself with the LGBT community, but to openly speak about AIDS. The time period where this all happened was in the late 80s/early 90s, which is the time frame Gaga’s intentionally emulating. There was a fervor in the music of that period dealing with empowerment that Gaga wanted to tap into, and it’s clear that she went with the influence full-tilt, from the sounds to the look. All modified in a uniquely Gaga way, of course. As for the Britney claims, those are a little more iffy. The comparisons are only there visually in some shots, and in pop music, pretty much everything has been done already. It’s just a matter of reconfiguration at this point.
As for the Target partnership, she’s come out and said that she had meetings with Target’s executives to change their corporate policies after the financial fiasco from the last election cycle. Target’s a corporation – one that historically has been far more supportive of the LGBT community than most, for the record. While the idea of corporate influence in elections is a little unsettling to me, it’s a reality. Target’s decisions on how they choose to donate their funds are made based on what they feel is best for the corporation, which is what they did. They didn’t make the donations based on social issues. Even then, while Target didn’t apologize (nor should they have), they did promise to reevaluate their stance, which apparently was prodded in part by wanting to secure exclusive rights to Born This Way’s deluxe edition. There’s more I can say on this, but I’ll get to it later.
As for the last two bullet points…here, we get to the red flag arguments. One, Gaga is bisexual. She’s a member of the community. Two, she’s one of the biggest stars in the world right now. Ergo, she’s a highly visible representative. Far too many members of the LGBT community forget about the “B,” assuming they’re not making fun of it. Relating directly to the controversy over “Born This Way,” Gaga’s not the only pop artist to release a statement song as a single in the last several months. Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and P!nk (twice) have all released songs about empowerment and equality to varying degrees, yet Gaga’s the only one who’s getting a wide amount of the “using gays” argument. It doesn’t make sense to me. It may not be her best song, but it’s also far and away the most explicit of these songs to address various communities. And yes, the use of “chola” and “Orient” is a tad disconcerting. But where’s the outrage over, say, Ke$ha’s empowerment song essentially boiling down to “dancing like we’re dumb, our bodies going numb”?
Meanwhile, outside of her music, Gaga’s been an outspoken advocate for the community. I want to avoid giving her too much credit with the end result, but you can’t deny she worked her ass off last year for DADT repeal. She’s identified with the LGBT community before she made it big, and she’s stuck with the community as her popularity and fame have exploded. What I see, though, is that many of her critics (not all, but many) are stuck in the same “us vs. them” mentality that plagues many of the groups typically against LGBT rights.
It’s the same mentality that’s striking with some members of the LGBT community who advocate boycotting Target. To those who feel so strongly about Target’s decision, or Lady Gaga’s, then fine. This is a free society, and there is zero obligation to support either Target or Gaga. The condemnation of those who don’t agree, though, needs to stop. It’s ugly, it’s pathetic, and it’s the same thing that our community complains about in those who really, truly actively fight against our rights.