The following piece is the second analysis in our series on Lady Gaga’s video for “Yoü and I”. For the first piece, click here; for the second, here.
We’ll begin colloquially, since the video takes place in the country.
Having little bits of metal implanted in your face and arm fucking hurts. In fact, the entire video hurts. Even the shot of her high heels looks painful, though nothing’s involved but dirt, grass and shoes. Maybe that’s saying something about high heels. Maybe that’s saying something about a lot of things.
Women are cyborgs. People in relationships are cyborgs.
Donna Haraway basically seemed to think that anything that could be parsed as two interlocking systems could be deemed cybernetic, because the distinction between the “natural” and the “artificial” didn’t mean much to her. But we see the violation of the body’s boundaries in this video and in general, in terms of cybernetics, as painful. Robocop did not look comfortable, and neither does Gaga. What does that mean about falling in love?
These implants aren’t the only painful situations in the video. There are allusions to restraint and suffocation – a mermaid outside of the water might have trouble breathing. Those prominent gills have nothing to draw in. She’s being taken care of, but a huge proportion of the scenes in the video look very uncomfortable.
There are two notable exceptions: her wedding scene and her scene with Jo Calderone.
These are worth looking at, firstly to discover if they actually are exceptions.
I can’t think about Jo without thinking about Carl Jung. The Anima and Animus, psychic shadow-personalities created from the repressed femininity in males and the repressed masculinity in females, that act at gateways, guides to the deep areas of the subconscious. The essentialist ideas implicit here cause problems, and I wouldn’t be so on board with them except for the problematic nature of Jo himself.
He’s male, and this makes him somehow different from all of Gaga’s other creations. He received an enormous amount of attention for this. Why?
Let me put this another way: Jo throws into stark relief the fact that all of Gaga’s other images and personas, while infinitely mutable, have all been decidedly female. She isn’t as amorphous as we thought. There’s something about men.
But here, at last, she gives us a man. And she has a very special relationship with this man.
Both Jung and Aliester Crowley would argue that an individual’s marriage to herself is one of the most self-actualized accomplishments in human psychic life. And that’s what Gaga’s giving us here. The force inside you that makes you fall in love, that makes the whole world seem aglow and full of butterflies? That comes from you, and gets projected onto the love-object. You can have access to that feeling whenever you want.
Is Gaga in love with Jo Calderone?
One would sculpt a male identity based on a male ideal. A possible answer is “yes”.
So we have her and Jo loving and doving in the cornfield. But we also have a very literal wedding taking place, with a gorgeous model, this acknowledgement of the other.
This other, though, is performing surgeries and violations of pornographic proportions on the pain-nerved body of our ingénue. The aggressive imagery stands in stark contrast to the upbeat rock and roll of the track. Why all the violence?
We have, here, the narrative of human love as process. Because Gaga understands something important about love, something blindingly obvious but something that often gets left out of the media’s portrayals and our own perceptions.
Love is pain.
Her example-narrative points us not to a single moment of love, the happy moment, the moment of butterflies, but to the entirety of romantic engagement as a process viewed in four-dimensional space. Five dimensional, even, because of all the layering of metaphor. Consummation is thrust in our face at the same moment as agony, and it’s all soundtracked by a rousing stomper of an uplifting track that closes Gaga’s religious statement of an album. She says, watch me get surgery performed, watch me experience pain and suffocation, and watch me do it triumphantly. Watch me get married, too. Watch me do it all at the same time.
Love and mating are engagements in which both systems involved must open to the interaction. Parts mesh, gears grind, and things get snapped off. Love is violence and collision; I’m sure Ballard would agree. Love is the creation of the cyborg, the amalgamation; it’s the ultimate surgery on our subjectivity. This is the surgery that’s being performed in the video, and whether the interaction is between Gaga and the other or Gaga and herself is ultimately immaterial – when say that we must come to love ourselves, the violence of a bifurcation has already taken place.
The oxygen mask offered to the mermaid. The splitting of the self. The longing, and the eternal gap, and the tiny, glorious moments of consummation we get. These processes are the reward for living and loving. The processes themselves. The entire picture, and the slow disassembly, throughout our lives, of the chrysalis of ourselves, the imprisoning neurosis of our own individuality. Learn to love, and learn to die. Be ready.
Grant Morrison has declared, in lectures and in writing, the end of the individual in favor of a kind of willful schizophrenia, the development of multiple personalities to avoid the ego’s calcification and lack of options toward being. What a charming idea: two of those multiple personalities could get married.
You can marry yourself.
But you can also marry somebody else. The meshing is never easy, and you do it at peril of the disruption of your current system of self. But this pain, this surgery, is celebrated by Gaga. This song is triumphant and liberating and the video should be viewed the same way; we should marvel at this gorgeous violation of becoming, we should glory in the dirty obscenities of love as thoroughly as we celebrate its beauty. The video forces us to confront both sides of the coin at once. It’s a tesseract diagram of how to love, and we should not just examine it. We should go beyond that, and examine our own lives, loves, and pains in the same way. In five-dimensional hyperspace, the way they actually exist. They’re beautiful that way.
Photographs and video from Devin and Mrs. O'Neill's honeymoon album.
Devin O’Neill is a writer, performance artist, PR practitioner, and compulsive liar. He enjoys things he shouldn’t, on purpose, and tries to get other people to enjoy them too. Some of his projects can be found at http://www.popocalypse.com/ and at http://devinoneill.blogspot.com/.
Mrs. O'Neill is a psycho.
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