"[Gaga Stigmata has] very modern, edgy photography to free flowing, urban narratives without censure to analytical essays, et cetera—like Gaga, imagination without ... limits. And the beauty is that anyone can submit work to the site, so artists and writers from all over the [world] have joined this experiment." -The Declaration.org

"Since March 2010, [Gaga Stigmata] has churned out the most intense ongoing critical conversation on [Lady Gaga]."
-Yale's The American Scholar

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bright-Eyed Pallas Gaga: Goddess of Wisdom, Warfare and Crafts

by Brian Oliu

Lady Gaga! Love of my life, fire of my loins. You exist on a plane that I never learned in geometry class, and trust me, I learned a lot in geometry class. There are times I think that you are going to battle Godzilla in a war-stricken city (is it Tokyo? It might be Tokyo! It might be Laser Paris!) or at the very least claw someone’s eyes out. You drink tea. Sometimes you resemble the final boss of the ice-level in the videogame that is my life; other times you resemble a simple foot soldier who may or may not be holding a weapon. Despite the cliché statements of “I define myself; I am indefinable,” that we have come to expect from yearbook quotes and celebrities, to define Lady Gaga is to know Lady Gaga, and to know Lady Gaga is to love Lady Gaga.

Of course, there is a good chance that Lady Gaga is a robot and therefore my crush is even weirder. In fact, there’s a good chance that she’s the most dangerous type of robot—the one that is self-aware; the robot that we as humans have learned to fear. The Vigilant Citizen, best described as “Conspiracy Porn”, wrote an article in late summer of 2009 theorizing that Lady Gaga is a puppet for the illuminati. Yes, our fair heroine is a victim of Project MK-Ultra (awesome!) or Project Monarch (less awesome!), which was a CIA mind-control and chemical interrogation research program that manipulated mental states. Oh no! Gaga! The author of the article doesn’t go into detail about what Lady Gaga’s mission is but I guess we are to presume that it involves some sort of manipulation, (if this sounds like the plot to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, it’s because it is) or at the very least showing us the back of a dollar bill and pointing out the pyramid with the eye in it before putting a “B” and an “R” before and after the “ONE” on the back (tee hee). This makes some sense: watch an interview with her—if the host is familiar with the puzzle that is Gaga, she is warm and friendly—if not, she is cold and bizarre. Anyone who has operated a computer or a piece of technology knows this feeling well—while not “user friendly” the learning curve isn’t overly steep if we are willing to put the time into reading the manual: talk about pianos, touring, New York, her aspirations. In other words, treat her like a human and she will respond in kind—treat her like a cyborg burlesque member and receive a command-based interface where a misplaced word will emit a “do not compute”. Gaga’s dance moves are not overly impressive, but they are delightful and quirky—she used to rely on classic moves such as the Charleston (downloaded, totally) and has evolved into more staccato movements. And, if we learned anything in college, the best way to impress fellow humans is to dance like a robot.

Of course, Gaga is not a robot. We have seen youtube clips of her before her Gaga stage playing mediocre gigs at mediocre clubs in Manhattan. We have seen her on MTV’s Boiling Point becoming perturbed at a continually botched salad. We have seen her vagina. We only pray that humans are that technologically advanced. Gaga, (nee Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) is both transcendence and immanence personified: if this were early Rome, blood would be shed over the homoousios vs. homoiousios argument—is Stefani infused with Gaga or is Gaga a being beyond self? Certainly, Gaga, the creature! the woman! is incredibly self-aware: she is not what we call her—she is what she calls herself. Her debut single and first track off of The Fame, “Just Dance,” starts off with a declaration of her name for the uneducated. The onomatopoeian chant at the beginning of “Bad Romance,” has entered our lexicon—if there was a password for the zeitgeist then this is it. Yes, Lady Gaga knows exactly what she is doing: there will be no moment on the Eero Koivisto designed LED cross where she will feel forsaken by the God that created her. Besides, she has already mimed the crucifixion while being strung up and hoisted to the rafters during her performance of “Paparazzi” at the MTV Video Music Awards. Despite the obvious Catholic allusions (Germonatta attended Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan, though we could debate that it was more because of the selectiveness, not to mention famous alumnus such as various Hiltons, Kennedys, and Vanderbilts) if in a book report your thesis was “Lady Gaga is a Christ-like figure,” you would probably get a C. I mean, she’s not Madonna, people.

Perhaps my upbringing is making my assessment a little too Catholic: though it is undeniable that homegirl contains some deity-esque tendencies. It is not difficult to imagine a fully-formed Gaga emerging from Zeus’ cracked skull in a gimp suit and a scarf made of Muppet. Is Gaga a modern-day Athena—shrouded in mystery yet still instantly recognizable and kind-hearted? Signs point to yes: the Bowie-like androgyny is very Athenian, as Athena was often described as both patriarch and maternal, though the first google suggestion that pops up when typing “Athena” is not “Athena hermaphrodite” and there was no need for Athena to parade around in form fitting battle girdles to display a lack of bulge. It is amazing how someone so sexy can seem so sexless and so disinterested in sex; we are all Herphaestuses, sorry honey, you’re not my type. Even in the video for “Bad Romance,” we see this: Gaga, in some bizarro Russian-bathhouse sex trade depot is being bid on by potential suitors. The end scene is Gaga in bed lying next to a pile of ashes, visibly unimpressed. Vengeance achieved. While we have not seen a Gaga-lash out papa-paparazzi camera kick, we know she is capable of it—her videos portray her as a femme fatale, (her most recent video Telephone, a Tarantino-inspired revenge party, has her and squeaky-clean-yet-getting-weirder Beyonce poisoning an entire diner) ready to seize control when the moment asks for it.

The main difference in all of this is in the costuming: certainly, Athena was a woman of many costumes and disguises which is undeniably Gaga, who heads the aptly titled Haus of Gaga; a group of designers in charge of her various outfits that have made award shows relevant again (or at least worth watching…okay, fine, worth browsing the photos on Yahoo! the following day). Athena used these disguises to fit in with the common people and to appear less god-like, whereas catching Gaga in a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt is like seeing a spotted owl. Of course these outfits are what make Gaga resonate with the common people: if you own a Twitter account, something Gaga-related is always a trending topic. Her quirks and eccentricities speak to the masses. She is one of us but is not us. And, like Athena, she is good to her worshippers (she refers to them as her “little monsters,” which sounds pejorative but is really sweet—she recently got a tattoo of the phrase on her arm, next to a quote by Rilke, of course) and they respond in kind with tithes in the form of tribute videos, fan art, and adoring mimicry (Gaga parties will replace toga parties by 2016). While there is not a city named after her as of yet, it could very well be on the horizon. And if that city just so happens to become the cradle of civilization for a couple hundred years and then crumbles into a den of inequity and awkward beauty, so be it.

Author Bio:
Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His work has been featured in Ninth Letter, New Ohio Review, Bat City Review, Web Conjunctions, The Collagist, Best Creative Nonfiction Vol. 2, and others. This is an automated message.


  1. This was beautifully written I love your thesis so much and it made me laugh too as you have such character in your writing. I <3 GaGa too! Your quote: "(Gaga parties will replace toga parties by 2016)" I had one for my 21st birthday a month ago haha so it's coming alot sooner than 2016 (hence my blog profile pic taken from the night)

    I can't wait to read more. What you say about the Tarantino inspired concept I think a lot of people have picked up on this reference to the popular culture but it really reminds me of Natural Born Killers, with the scenes of canned laughter etc, comedy contrasted with sheer horror of a reality. I know the script for NBK was written by Tarentino but not directed. Sorry I could go on for hours, but I <3 this a lot! Much Love.x

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words! And I'm happy to hear that Gaga parties are poppin' up across the world.

    There's so much to be said about her--I think this is a brilliant idea by Kate & Co. Hope you are well!

  3. I´m going public with my $ 100 666 once-in-a-lifetime offer for her, a finished new concept album entitled Voodoo, with smashing hits and video scripts I´ve penned as the dubbed Czech Hollywood Warrior Priest from Serious Entertainment to even top her latest powerhouse, to include Phoenix Stardom of Snowwhite Lady Gaga in my 35 volume Sixth Gospel trademark/franchise as Volume 36, I´m 36. This has had to happen. I´m a hedonistic fatalist. I haven´t found the proper channel yet. Can anyone help ? I can pay.

  4. Fantastic work as always, Brian. You've set a high bar for the Gaga essays to come.

  5. Thanks Dustin! Much appreciated.

  6. Yes, Brian has definitely set the bar high. We're really pleased with this piece, and looking forward to more excellent ones to come.

  7. Robots have been coming around again in pop culture. There's the Autotune voice thing that T-Pain et al love.

    There's Janelle Monae (who I love!!), whose alter ego is a robot named Cindi Mayweather (who lives in a city called Metropolis, which she openly borrowed from Fritz Lang), who is revered for her uniqueness with regard to musical performance, but is to be destroyed for her uniqueness because she falls in love with a human.

    There's also Lupe Fiasco's "Daydreamin'" which is from the perspective of someone viewing his daily life from inside an enormous robot, but also mocks the super-glitzy unthoughtful objectifying spectacle pop-rap has become, and seems to hint at the fact that maybe we're all wedded to/swallowed up by technology (cue my faint knowledge of the discourse on "humans modified with any sort of technology [glasses for example] are cyborgs").

    Have also been witness to Gaga look-alike parties, and saw quite a few Gaga-esque women in eastern Europe when I was there in December.

  8. Oh wow, this is seriously exciting! People look at me like I have 3 heads when I try to speak intelligently about Lady Gaga and her deep commentaries on pop culture and society. I can't wait to see how this discourse all plays out.

    Thank you!

  9. Thank you, Stephanie (and everyone) for your kind words. We are so thrilled about this project and also cannot wait to see how the discourse plays out. Please spread the word and please keep checking back.

    Kate Durbin (Founding Editor)


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