"[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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Manifesto of Little Scholars

In a recent episode of the television comedy *Community*, a disgruntled professor, having been challenged by Abed on his reading of the 1984-92 series *Who's the Boss?", exclaimed, "I am not a fan, I am not a groupie; I am an academic!"  This is a sentiment that many of us who study Lady Gaga can relate to and it is a question we must constantly struggle with. We spend time watching YouTube videos, collecting information, and writing articles on our findings in a timely manner. Our work happens in the interstices of other projects, be it Russian literature or Byzantine icons. Our interest is seen as an obsession by most. Our colleagues and advisors suggest we purge such interests from our professional lives so as to be taken seriously -- and in a tight job market this is not to be taken lightly. Our work therefore takes place in the in-betweens: on trains, weekends, vacations, or dissertation-writing breaks.

Our work happens always on the go, researching and collaborating via social media. We must follow @LadyGaga, @formichetti, @ladystarlightny, etc on Twitter for research purposes, and watch YouTube videos on our iPhones. Our discussions necessarily exist somewhere between gossip and scholarship. The cover for Born This Way album is a perfect metaphor for our methods; it exists outside the studio, in the DIY world of photoshop and blogs. Just as Gaga designed the "Judas" record cover on Word and took a picture of it on her Blackberry, we craft our understandings on Facebook and write introductions on our iPhones. Why? Because, pop-culture will never be lowbrow, because we were born this way.


Sent from my iPhone

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  1. I just love the cover. I haven't been sure what my reponse was since I first saw it (besides "yughk ewwww"), but now I am.

    It's the surrealist jolt, it's sanctified hideosity, it's an epic troll-job, it's the half-finished semi-aborted half-dead born-this-way mess we all always are.

  2. I can only hope you're right that the 'ride me' Gaga cover is a red herring...

  3. As my reaction is that of the minority in that my honest reaction is that of love, I could be one of the brainwashed fans that have been made to love everything Gaga does, although I can't stand the PokerFace music video. I was shocked when I first saw it because I never thought I'd see Gaga as a motorcycle. Initial thoughts were along the lines of "that's BadAss, Rock 'n' Roll, in your face F**K You!" I didn't really pay attention to the aesthetic quality till I read everyone disliking it because it looks cheap and trashy, so I asked myself would I like it more if it was to the standard of magazine photoshop perfect images and I answered "no, I wouldn't have loved it any more or less had it been to that standard" but after this point was pointed out to me I felt my initial reaction was partially validated. Then there were comments that it would have looked better had she been on the back of the motorcycle, which did anger me and I responded not directly- I think- "Why does a woman have to be sat on the back of the motorcycle like a show pony to sell it to a bunch of sexist pigs. I think that's quite an empowering message if you ask me." Just as a side note I'm a gay man so I don't know if women would feel the same way because I also understand it can also mean "come and ride me". Then started thinking metaphorically if I was a motorcycle I'd be able to go where ever I want in my life as long as I had the fuel to get there. Then someone pointed out that its a reflection of Gaga, the image is flipped then my brain decided it couldn't cope. I understand most of this is analysis that I have created to validate my opinion. In short I love it and started loving it so will actually be sad if it turns out to be a joke/betrayal. Just as a possible explanation as to why I like it, unrelated to Gaga, I like to look at motorcycles and I like the look of motorcycles and I have no motorcycle expertise, so theirs extra bias.

  4. As Eddie and I have discussed in our tiny apartment, (in between Eddie's writing about the semiotics of the cross during the Crusades and my writing about the aesthetics of zero in 20th century literature), Gaga's project entails complete self-love and self-acceptance, and also complete acceptance of the other. If we love and accept Gaga, we have to love her even when she's sloppy, messy, imperfect (putting aside the aesthetic question - what *is* a beautiful, perfect album cover?). Many have expressed outrage at Gaga's fans for liking the album cover, saying that "Gaga could take a picture of shit and you'd like that cause it's Gaga's." Well, in a way, that's exactly the point. Gaga still loves Judas even though he betrays her; love and acceptance don't come with built in exceptions.

    Which is why both love and acceptance can be dangerous, too. Gaga hints at this in BTW, when she speaks of the necessary evil that protecting perfection entails. But Judas addresses another aspect of love's danger: what if you love something that isn't good for you? What if Gaga's album cover depicted Gaga eating a baby (sorry, it's my go-to extreme evil example)? Could we still accept and love that, even if we love Gaga? But that's how love works - it's not a matter of "should," it's more of an ontological state, I think.

    In any case, I love the discussion this album cover has inspired, and I love what Eddie (above) points out: "it's the half-finished semi-aborted half-dead born-this-way mess we all always are." We are born sloppy and incomplete and imperfect - and that's what the cover is celebrating. We're sort of hilarious creatures, no?

  5. Yes yes yes, Meghan!

    Also, I would just like to point out that this messy thread ends with two declarations of love:

    "I love this thread"

    "it loves you back"

  6. I love this cover; it screams "Meatloaf" to me; and since she's constantly citing rock as one of the big influences on the Album, it sits well with me

  7. Has the original Facebook conversation been taken deleted? I couldn't find it on Gaga Stigmata's FB page. I'm still reading through the conversation, but so far it's awesome and hilarious, guys.

  8. Young Poet, yes, the Meatloaf "Bat Out of Hell" cover came to mind when I saw hers. I do think we're going to hear more rock/metal influences in this album. Born This Way is really a gospel-rock song, and the Country Road version is very blues-rock, You and I is a full-on arena rock song in performance. The cover is also a complete culture shock to people expecting something Pop-ish. This is not pop. It doesn't say pop at all. And maybe her fans recognize that subliminally and are reacting to the perceived loss of the Gaga they fell in love in her pure pop beginnings. Except to a musician who can hear the underpinnings, they were never all that pure to begin with.

  9. Hi Redball,

    The original conversation is actually on my FB page (Kate Durbin)--feel free to add me and join in!

  10. I love EVERYTHING about this post. I want to be best friends with ALL of you.

  11. First of all, let me start by saying this is an excellent post - your concept of formatting within the framework of social media to the point of including your back-and-forth with the site's editor is genious.
    FWIW here are my thoughts on the cover; I don't love it. I also don't hate it. To me, it falls short of what Gaga typically champions, which is embracing avant-garde ideals and continually pushing the envelope of fashion and design - and doing so by wrapping her work in layers of explicit and implicit meaning, symbolism, and narrative. This cover is somehow an onion with no layers to peel away, yet has still brought many to tears.
    If this is the real cover and her intent is to reference 80's hair metal with the artwork, I just wish she would have pushed the concept further. There's a web designer by the name of Huw Gwilliam who has created a wonderful collection of artpieces shown on Flickr, contemporary album covers reinvisioned with the styling of Pelican books from the 60's, and 'aged' to look as if they've been around since then. I feel that if the BTW cover were treated as such, it would advance the narrative by adding elements of evolution:effects of nature and nurture, "I was Born This Way, here's where I'm at now, I've been around and I'm going places. I'm on the right track, Baby!"
    With that being said, I can't wait to hear the album in it's entirety!

  12. I immediately thought of Lacan's masculine attainment of the phallus. It morphs the two ultimate phallic objects: women and motorcycles. Brilliance

  13. Maybe it's just my unconditional, undying love for Gaga, but the album cover actually makes me so happy. My first reaction was "WHAT THE F**K", but hey - that's Gaga.
    The cover is kitsch, brash and you could even call it "lame", but that's what Gaga is to me. She's unashamedly lame (in a good way). She doesn't care what anyone thinks - she's uncensored and unapologetic. She's "honoring her vomit".
    To me, Gaga will always be the sexy, unconventional, dorky hero. She might not be "cool", but she doesn't care and I think that's what the cover is saying.

    Also, I like Ty's comment about the morphing of the 2 phallic symbols. She's making the sexy "unsexy". Instead of her seductively mounting a bike, she is the bike and it's ugly and confusing.
    I really can't wait to see how Gaga melds rock, metal and electropop together on this album. Hopefully, it will be something truly unique.

  14. Maybe what Gaga is trying to do with this cover is the same as her fashion. For instance, Gaga's fashion is very accessible even in developing countries as you can put coke cans in your hair, which is the brilliance of Gaga, as I believe your website has pointed out. In other words, we can all be super stars just by being who we are with little effort.

    Likewise, when I saw this cover, I thought it was so hideous that even I (who have absolutely NO artistic molecule in my entire body) can come up with a better Gaga cover than this monstrosity? You notice how a lot of little monsters also have stated something to the effect that even their 3 year old child can come up with a better cover than this! Which IS the truth.

    In fact, Gaga has invited her fans to come up with their own artwork, and it will be chosen as the cover of her V Magazine stint as a fashion columnist, rather than having a picture of her as the cover, so that her fans are part of her Haus of Gaga, so to speak. She wants to include us in her own super stardom, as part of a very special, unique club. This inclusiveness makes, at least me and I believe countless others, feel part of her family.

    I may be reaching, but these are some of my thoughts. But yes, let's call a spade a spade, this cover is truly awful, which may have very well been Gaga's point!

  15. @meagan. I feel the same way. I want to be friends with you and all of you as well! This is a great forum, a wonderful sense of community.

    @Kate and Meghan. I can't wait for the book to come out. I'll be first in line!


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