The Lady in The Slaughter
If you're remotely aligned with the mainstream queer community, if you're a pop music aficionado or contrarian hipster or simply a member of the human race that has the misfortune to live anywhere beside a YouTube-less desert island, you've probably heard Lady Gaga's new single "Born This Way."
Here's what you should do next. Turn off your stereo. Open your windows. Take a deep breath and just listen. That noise you hear? It isn't nearby construction or birds cawwing. Its not the rumbling of a train or even the low roar of the ocean. It's not an American Eagle-clad youth screaming "Whoo!" in your ear at a megadisco.
That noise is one million gay men simultaneously vomiting up the kool-aid of arbitrarily prescribed cultural icons. And I don't know why it took so long.
This morning, Facebook was abuzz with disappointment about the latest lump of sequined coal to fall from Stephanie Germanotta's meat diaper into our open ears. And by some blessed miracle, some divine intervention of truth and common sense, that buzz was not good.
Activist types were dismayed about Gaga's exclusive marketing deal with Target. Club fags found the song to have crossed the line between "Madonna homage" and "'Express Yourself'-related intellectual property lawsuit." And everyone else imploring the world to shut up about Lady Gaga, already, was finally in some good company.
Lady Gaga is a brilliant self-marketer who writes stellar hooks and looks good wearing items that appear to have been fished out of Karen O's dumpster. I find her songs to be as emotionally evocative as lichen but they make me dance. And that's pretty awesome. I do not, however, understand how she transitioned into the shortcut for all things gay. She doesn't represent my life, no matter how many times she might be played at a gay bar or how many men take pride in knowing the entire "Bad Romance" dance by heart. Contemporary gay culture has become so entwined with this one woman that I can barely breath.
I am forced to keep abreast of her every single move by the endless, breathless accounts of gay blogs, gay clubs, and overly enthusiastic gay friends. So I might crank "Paparazzi" when I'm at home alone, but the rest of the time I just want her to be de-canonized as a homosexual omnipresence so I can go on with my life. I do believe in culture as politics. But Lady Gaga is not culture.
She can scream at Barack Obama on our behalf all day and I'll appreciate her as a political voice. She came out as bisexual before she was blew up, so she has my love and support as a member of the greater queer "family." And hey, I wouldn't wanna wear the meat dress. So good on her. But otherwise? Her songs are too disposable to be highbrow, and her public persona too self-important to be lowbrow or camp. Instead, that shadowy kabal in the backroom of the Stonewall Inn decided she would be our new god and, remarkably, no one asked why.
So I'm not amazed that this one particular piece of derivative, image-heavy pop might be declared the ultimate gay anthem to a chorus of angry ears. I'm just astounded that it didn't happen earlier. What is the difference between "Born This Way" and everything else Lady Gaga put out? Is it the fact that, for the first time, the content of her music matches the gay-rights messages that spill from her mouth? You'd think that people would embrace that, revel in her outright musical acknowledgment of our struggles. (And no, the video for "Alejandro" does not count.)
Maybe, then, the months of anticipation she engendered towards this song could not match the what it delivered. I always thought that gay male sheepism was a universal certaintly on par with death and taxes but even that, it seems, has its limits. Declaring yourself an icon can only take you so far. Eventually the worshippers catch on and will drop you faster than an unclean bottom at an OCD sex party.
It's scary in a different way, though, that the backlash at this point seems so unified. All that does is create a power vacuum for the next intellectual vacuum with blonde hair and unconventional brassieres to come along. To hijack my life with a song about clubbing and keep me struggling in her clutches until that mythical "they" decides she's done. I don't know if "Born That Way" spells the end of Gaga or just the last step of her current iteration. I could pray for a time that Antony Hegarty is revered the way she is, but I know that will never come.
I know I can "be a queen" if I want to. I didn't need a limp, pink-wigged strand of fettucini to give me her permission. If "Born This Way's" leads to a widescale act of rebellion, if it causes Lady Gaga to fall by the gay wayside, if it allows us to stop being defined from the outside, even for a minute, then I'll count it as the single best song of the year and wash my hands of the whole thing.