"[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, August 28, 2011

Jo Calderone Performs at the 2011 VMAs! Let's make a discussion, Stigmata readers!

We're still gathering our thoughts on Jo Calderone's performance (and, Lady Gaga's performed absence) from tonight's VMAs. While we're crafting our thoughts into mature essays, we're hoping you'll share with us your reactions and preliminary ideas regarding tonight's performance. Let's make another amazing discussion, Stigmata readers!

Topics to consider:
  • Jo Calderone accepts award for Best Female Video; highlights the idea that Lady Gaga is not there to accept the award.
  • Jo Calderone, speaking about Lady Gaga: "She left me!"
  • Jo Calderone, speaking about Lady Gaga: "I want her to be real!"
  • Jo Calderone, speaking about himself: "How am I supposed to shine?"
  • Jo Calderone, speaking about himself: "I gotta get in there."
  • Jo Calderone, wearing Brooks Brothers
  • This performance, in relationship to the Jo Calderone narrative so far (see Cheryl Helm's first piece on Jo Calderone, as well as Roland Betancourt's work)
  • Judith Butler, performativity
  • Politics and aesthetics of drag
  • Jo Calderone and Drug Addiction


  1. Take off your shoes (Exodus 3:5) and hide your face (Exodus 3:6).

  2. MTV on Jo Calderone/Lady Gaga in the press room:
    The pop queen was infinitely dedicated to the act, as became apparent when she appeared in the VMA press room and would only answer questions as Calderone, despite being introduced by handlers as Lady Gaga.

    “I don’t understand the question,” Gaga/Calderone said after a journalist asked how one persona inspires or affects the other.

    And how did it end up that Joe showed up at the VMAs instead of Gaga? Explained Gaga/Calderone: “She’s just really f—ing pissed at me right now and she said, ‘F— you. If you really love me, you’ll go instead of me, and you’ll get in that spotlight.’ So I did.”

    Next question: Who is Joe and how long will he be with us? “I’m going to be here about five more minutes,” Gaga/Calderone said. “And I’m from Jersey. My family is from Palermo, Sicily, and I’m not a singer or a model or an actor or anything.”

    Calderone is a guido, someone in the press crowd suggested. “No, I’m not a f—ing guido!” the enraged Gaga/Calderone said. “You don’t like Italians? What the f— is the matter with you? I’m just a guy, and I just wanted to show my girl how much I love her, that’s all.”

    And lastly: Any chance that Calderone would get together with Britney, who he had just lavished on stage? “Maybe if she wants to,” Gaga/Calderone said. “She’s f—ing hot. I don’t know. You know, Gaga is my girl, but Britney is f—ing Britney Spears. Didn’t you jerk off to Britney when you were a kid?

  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjPN78PtuYI&feature=player_embedded Video of Jo in the press room.

  4. This is beyond genius. Gaga playing a man talking about Gaga in her most intimate moments, and how even in those intimate moments, she won't let her guard down...

    "When she comes, it's like she covers her face because she doesn't want me to see, like she can't stand to have one honest moment where nobody's watching."

  5. It's also interesting to see Jo perform a song Gaga wrote about Jo, or someone like Jo, perhaps the "last guy" he refers to at the beginning of his monologue. The lyrics even reflect this gender switch: "I'm a New York man..." At first it might seem disconcerting to hear what is clearly Gaga's voice coming out of Jo's body as he sings the song... but the fact that Jo is Jo all night, on stage, off stage, even in the press room, leads me to believe that Gaga wants us to thoroughly believe that Jo is performing the song, not her. Maybe Jo's singing voice is just exceptionally feminine, but does that make him any less of a man?

  6. I can't stop thinking about Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in 'I'm Not There' and—even more than that—Andy Kaufman as Tony Clifton.

    Oh, and Carl Jung.

    (Also, I may have screamed, "Take it away, Gaga Stigmata!" at my television, confusing my fellow viewers and scaring the cats.)

  7. A running theme in Gaga's Born This Way project has been the difficulty she has found in trying to carry on with her artistic work while at the same time making herself vulnerable enough to love someone else. We've seen this in her tweets to on/off again lover Luc Carl, and the same narrative is touched on in the Yoü and I video, as well as the lyrics in Heavy Metal Lover: "I could be your girl girl girl, but would you love me if I ruled the world world world?"

    Jo answers: "I think it's really fuckin great that she's such a star, a big beautiful star in the sky. But how am I supposed to shine?"

  8. Perhaps the most interesting thing, to me, about Jo, is that he appeared in the Vogue Hommes Japan story in September 2010. Then he disappeared for a long time and now, a year later, he's back. Why?

  9. I feel like Gaga's project is coming to fruition. If she did this two years ago, I doubt anyone would have taken her seriously. But she's been able to carefully cultivate this alter ego (not just Jo) and introduce a major award show in a totally controlled way. I also find it interesting that she seems to be fully committed to keeping Jo a separate entity and establishing a romantic relationship between the both of them. Now the sanctity of Jo will probably be affected since interviewers will ask her about it, and I wonder how she'll respond. Will she say Jo is a metaphor for loving yourself? I can't imagine she'd say that he's real. In any event, I appreciate this because it falls much more on the side of her total creation of Lady Gaga as a separate entity, a persona unattached to the banality of reality. The simulacral function of Gaga and Jo is very apparent in this performance, and I'm so excited about it. I wonder if he'll appear again.

    Meghan, re Jo's incubation - I feel as though she were giving time for Jo to stew in public; it wasn't something that caught the attention of the Western masses immediately, but slowly trickled down via the Internet. And with that seed, Jo began to grow until she unleashed him. Or maybe she just didn't have the opportunity to show up as him again. She was working on BTW after all.

  10. It kind of goes without saying, but in a room of Nickis and Katys and other female artists who arguably would not exist were it not for the road Gaga paved... Gaga flips everything on its head, tapes her tits down and performs in drag on national television.

  11. Alex - She did talk a little about Jo in her interview on MTV last week or the week before when the Yoü and I video debuted... she talked about him like he's a real person, saying things like "he's a bad boy" and "he's trouble" etc.

  12. “She’s just really f—ing pissed at me right now and she said, ‘F— you. If you really love me, you’ll go instead of me, and you’ll get in that spotlight.’ So I did.”

    [thanks for the information on this interview!]

    I think this is a really interesting answer; I was thinking about how some of Calderone's statements in the opening monologue/rant seemed to indicate that Calderone is what Gaga had to leave behind to become Gaga (or what Germanotta had to leave behind to become Gaga).

    Gaga's been emphasizing a lot lately the distance one travels to become oneself, as well as the sacrifices and pain one embraces along that journey. The multiple-identity angle can definitely play this way, and with the "You and I" song a romantic relationship becomes a metaphor for the relationship a person undergoing such a profound transformation can have with themselves.

    Calderone is pissed right now because Gaga left him behind to become a big (fake) star - but the message of "You and I" is that you can travel a long ways and come back to find that you're ready to be with what you'd left behind, either in yourself or in someone else. So maybe Calderone can hope for a happy ending.

  13. From the discussion in my living room: "Jo accepting for "Best Female Video" raises the question of why we present awards according to sex."

    Re: "I gotta get in there." The "there" in question is the spotlight (literal and figurative) but also Gaga herself (physical and emotional). Gaga is the light; Jo is the dark. (Or is he the shadow she casts?)

  14. M - Very interesting! I forgot to watch that. Hopefully she won't waver on Jo's authenticity if she's pressured in the future.

    But I mean, really, think about this. It's just so fucking cool.

  15. From Jo's original interview in Vogue Hommes Japan:

    What is your relationship with Lady Gaga?
    I met her at a shoot Nick Knight was doing. She’s fuckin beautiful, and funny, and interesting. I was a little nervous for Nick to start shooting. She said, “Don’t be baby, you were “born this way.” I took her out after. The rest is private ;)

    Was this the first time we heard the phrase "born this way"??

  16. Totally agree with this, from a comment above:

    "...the message of "You and I" is that you can travel a long ways and come back to find that you're ready to be with what you'd left behind, either in yourself or in someone else."

    holy shit.

  17. We heard "born this way" in the ShowStudio In Camera interview. (It was the answer to the question "What would you call the movie about your life?") That was roughly the same time as Vogue Hommes Japan, wasn't it?

  18. Noelle -

    Exactly my thought as well! It doesn't really make sense that we give awards for music (or acting) based on one's gender, and Jo Calderone accepting the award for "Best Female Video" brings this absurdity to the forefront.

    Also, for those who know me this will come as no surprise (I'm in the last stages of dissertation writing; topic - narratives of zero): I was struck how Jo Calderone goes out of his way, again and again, to emphasize that Gaga's not there. As if he wants to structure her as a palpable absence at the VMAs. So that we actually feel the lack of her presence - even as, of course, she's standing right there before us in the figure of Jo Calderone! I will be thinking more about this, and probably writing something.

    Also, Jo Calderone's lament, "I want her to be real", is the ubiquitous echo we've been hearing about Lady Gaga from day one. In a way, he's the embodiment of the spiritual hologram that is composed of the public's perception of her: he's a dude (Gaga's penis), and he's real (whereas Gaga's fake, he emphasizes). These are floundering thoughts, so I apogize if this doesn't make sense. I just love the beautiful irony and accuracy of Jo crying for Gaga to "be real."

  19. BTW, this is Meghan Vicks, Co-Editor of GS

  20. Also, Justin Bieber looked incredibly concerned about Gaga's performance; and dear Britney just seemed confused - I was cracking up!

  21. What's really interesting about the concept of going on a journey and then wanting to re-concile with whatever you initially left behind, at least in the context of Gaga and Jo, is that Gaga and Jo exist as two parts of the same being. Though she is clearly creating him as a character to be taken as a real person existing separately from her (a car mechanic from Jersey whose family is from Palermo, etc.), we all know that without Gaga there is no Jo. So she's wanting to reconcile with a person - or perhaps aspects of a person - who only exists because of/inside of her.

  22. In an interview with Stephen Fry, Gaga and He were talking about masks (personae) and how they are popularly viewed as false in order to hide the true self and Gaga talked about a theory that states that all masks are true and are part of the self as a whole. Sorry can't remember the name of the theory/theorist, but I think it can be applied to Jo.

  23. Meghan V - "As if he wants to structure her as a palpable absence at the VMAs." - Fucking brilliant. I love this so much I can't stand it. Gaga is more absent from the VMAs by being present as Jo than she would be if she weren't there at all.

    I was also struck by how the throng of "civilians" seemed to embrace Jo right away (possibly because he was a familiar face?), while the nominees in their seats looked very uncomfortable and confused. I felt like I could see a lot of wheels turning!

  24. I fucking love Jo Calderone.

    That is all.

  25. MV - The only problem I have with Gaga being absent is that during Jo's acceptance speech for Best Female Video, he said "me" once in reference to Gaga. That bothered me... like he broke character for a minute.


  26. Jo's song choice, You and I, is written notably about on-again,/off-again ‘Nebraska guy’, Luc Carl. By piecing together what Gaga has said in her most recent interview with MTV and what Jo insinuates here, it is clear that the most private of Gaga's public relationships, is going through a rough patch. It's very interesting that Jo, although his own man complete with a self-narrated identity, seems to be playing the role of not just Gaga's lover, but the role of the guy she just freshly kicked to the curb. He’s not shy about the intimate details of bedding the Lady, and its almost tongue in cheek because he reveals that the ever theatrical “Gaga” can’t bear the requisite privacy that comes with making love. He is nearly furious that she saves herself for the public, that a rehearsal without an audience is not good enough, not real enough.
    Gaga screams through Jo, “I want her to be real,” knowing that on-stage her words will reach exactly who she intended them to reach... S/he plays out the drama of what loving a fantasy is like, and what it take for a fantasy to transcend itself and become reality: not just a stage, not just a persona, not even the wigs—it’s the relationship of the star and the star gazers. S/he ends her monologue by pointing out this synthesis of the “You and I,” who s/he embodies both in and out of the spotlight.
    Jo music video appearance is largely similar to his VMA performance (he even gets up on the piano swinging his beer and gets his paws all over the ladies in attendance). But while singing the song (which is basically a dialogue between Gaga and her Nebraska guy—Jo says he is from Jersey) he only changes the lyrics once, “I’m a New York man.” The rest stay the same, there’s nothing about Jo that suggests that he wears high heels or is a frequenter of lipstick. But he sings these rest of these lyrics all the same, even keeping the reference of Nebraska. I don’t think Gaga just left the lyrics unchanged out of laziness; maybe it’s Jo performing as Lady Gaga, which brings us into a loop of identities I don’t feel confident enough to dissect.
    Meghan Vicks, I also whole-heartedly enjoy the irony that Jo is meant to serve as almost a caricature of what people think about Lady Gaga (“I mean she’s fucking crazy right?”) while in effect being the complete antithesis of what she is perceived to be.
    Suffice it to say that Gaga is a magnificent liar, and by that I mean an illusionist. In a way, she plays the role of jester, but beyond the performances I’ve always been searching to see if the insecurities she has turned into hit songs are still wounds. As much as she has tried to convince us otherwise, the girl is still human. How much of the ‘real’ Gaga is artifice and what does she really want us to know about her private life? This brings me to the Rolling Stone write-up of her, which concluded whether as Gaga (or Jo, or both) it seems that the performance will never stop.

  27. My initial reaction to the performance:

    It was not the spectacle Gaga gave us at the VMAs before--the one of her bleeding to death. This performance was certainly not the candy-coated sort. This lack of spectacle, in fact, this lack of Lady Gaga altogether was an admittedly less glittery performance. Jo Calderone, as a replacement for Gaga, as her stand-in, is blatantly more banal. He wears pretty much the same outfit all the time. There are no costume changes. There are no aquamarine wigs.

    In fact, Jo Calderone is pretty generic. He is a pretty generic guy with generically male gestures (chest pounding, beer tossing) and generically male desires (masturbating to Britney Spears because she is "hot") dressed in generically male clothing (white t-shirt, black pants). Jo tells us that he is “one of the guys” and that Gaga says he is “just like the last one.” As in one of many. As in interchangeable. (Jo even shifts from wearing Dior Homme pants and Chanel boots in the "You and I" video to Brooks Brothers pants and Dr Martens at the VMAs--a shift that makes his attire even more available to the everyman.) Jo goes on about how Gaga is the performer. How Gaga is the star. (“How am I supposed to shine?” Jo asks.) The spotlight follows Gaga, Jo says, not Jo Calderone. But Jo Calderone wants to know how to “get in there.” Jo Calderone seems to desire a bit of the spotlight as well. To be a bit of a spectacle himself.

    Jo performs a choreographed dance routine to “You and I” with a troupe of dancers that are all dressed exactly alike--exactly like Jo. Jo, as the everyman, does indeed become one of many men. He is one of the crowd on stage. When the camera pulls back, they are all indistinguishable from one another.

    However, in spite of the generic nature of Jo Calderone, he is still able to become a bit of a star, even if it is only for a brief moment. The song, Jo’s performance of the song “You and I,” allows Jo to be the spectacle. The spotlight is bright on the piano as he begins to play. In the end, he gets his cheers, he gets his applause. Not Lady Gaga this time, but Jo. And, just as I have suggested in my analysis of the “You and I” video, I think this performance also suggests that even the most generic of us all has the capacity to become the spectacle--that the role as our spectacle does not belong to Lady Gaga alone. Which is perhaps why Lady Gaga asked Jo to fill in for her for the night. Because she knew he could do it. And do it without sequins, without wigs, without high heels, without blood.

  28. Also from the Stephen Fry interview, Gaga likened her performance(s) to Brechtian theatre. And although I knew it was Gaga with her tits bound, very little make-up and wearing men's clothes, I identified Jo as his own person separate and inseparable from Gaga.

  29. Has this kind of performative gender troubling ever been attempted on such a scale- and so earnestly? What strikes me about it is that the theater of it doesn't gesture at all towards camp. She seems more brave and yet also more vulnerable than ever. It seems that what she speaks as Jo comes across as something other than a joke to be gotten because the key of the performance is, even with it's playful ironies about gender and identity, deeply sincere. I think that's the great source of the audience's discomfort and befuddlement. They're waiting to laugh, and that release is denied to them. I love art that creates that sort of pause and tension and those questions of how to respond, and it is still so remarkable to me when I see that sort of provocation done before so many. This stripped down Gaga/Calderone, less strangely spectacular and glamorous than ever, inhabiting the gestures of performed masculinity, created such a huge space of wonder.

  30. Let us return to the Bad Romance video: Gaga, a creation, emerges to be enamored in a life of boozing and forced sexualization of her body and performances. Her solution? Set the man on fire. She later admitted in an interview that it was about the commodification and eroticization of female bodies in the entertainment industry.

    After this performance, I can't help but think that she lit the match once against to set the Man on fire. This is not a singular man, but rather Man -- an ontological fiction upon which masculinity and heterosexuality is a derivative and hegemonic.

    And what better way to destroy the Man than reveal that fiction than what Gaga does best: performance. The refusal of Jo to identify as the same as Gaga, his references that he's one of the boys, his clear performance of masculinity. But what is more phenomenal is the commentary he makes on wanting Gaga to be real; but Gaga is nothing outside of theatre. How is that any different from any of us?

    He wants her to be real. Life is a theatre. And why is that true for just her and Jo? Why are we not ALL on stage, constantly performing and navigating fictional understandings of what (fe)male-ness "is." Britney and Bieber are baffled by this -- both look as if they're at some sort of freak show and don't understand why this kind of behavior is happening. This is a phenomenological encounter with queerness. The transgression is so unintelligible to them because their social understandings are so heavily defined by the industry and society at large.

    Even her opening product is defined by her as a rehearsal; the performance of You and I, the only chance Gaga has to perform in the 2011 VMA's, after practice and scripting, is not suppose to be understood as something final. That is because when you understand identity as performative or "infinite birth" in Gaga terms or becoming, there is never a final product, no teleological ending for the present act.

    This criticism of the Man and masculinity becomes apparent in her interaction with Britney. Jo treats her as sexualized (publicly confessing to masturbating to her) and physically available (awkward attempt at a kiss.) Then when she accepts the award, she lingers, because this is an industry in which even when woman is suppose to be in the spotlight and receive the award, man can take the spotlight away.

    I'm speaking of the Kanye-T Swift fiasco over BEYONCE (the artist being introduced,) of course. Britney made others "Fearless" - a call out to T Swift's album that I think is reaffirmed by her calling out a singular person in the audience. I don't think it's any coincidence that she then references herself as an "American Boy" (which Kanye embodies in Estelle's song.) She then leaves where she was originally sitting to go hang out with Kanye for the remainder of BEYONCE's performance. Coincidence? I think not- however I think more analysis is needed beyond what is said above.

    My last comment regards her acceptance. The issue of a "man" accepting a female video award has been covered, but I think it's important that we note her comment about how she won "best video with a message." She then goes on to say that every music video has a message, a concept cultural theorists have been insisting upon that most people engaging the pop industry don't think about or recognize; it's just entertainment, how can it be (socio)political!? She doesn't say they're good. She's saying they all have MESSAGES, and these messages play an important role in shaping our cultural realities, such as what (Wo)Man is in terms of sex, gender, and sexual congruence.

    Just banged out some thoughts -- I'll probably have more to say later.

  31. The cut to a stone-faced Justin Bieber was editing genius.

    I guess what I initially discovered after watching the performance is that I was worried. Worried that Jo would slip up in the act, but not quite sure who I was expecting to find under that persona. It's been said before in this thread, but everything about Jo is so exaggerated -- the hand gestures, the smoking, the profanity, the drinking, the facial twitches, the stereotypical masculinity of it all. But everything about Lady Gaga is equally exaggerated (and was also birthed with a thread of stereotypical femininity . . . blond wig, high heels, etc). Why am I not worried about Lady Gaga slipping up in her act? After watching this show I felt strange that I'm not constantly nervous about the cracks in all gender performance.

  32. watch this from 29:38 to 34:38:


    relevant, i think.

  33. I sometimes take a little pride in comparing Gaga to Beyonce. Take this video, where she's anything but traditionally femanine and sexy, and compare to Beyonce's marketing image. Gaga focuses on the art and the music and only that in order to promote, whereas Beyonce often seems happy to just promote her body with added music.

  34. In addition to the poly-sexual and bi-gender references, we are also talking about the poly-cultural on these levels:

    Jo Calderone as construct that references Bernardo/Tybalt from West Side Story/Romeo Juliet, the archetype of the cultural Other (Puerto Rican/Italian)for whom the mainstream Western gaze seems more comfortable in projecting images of raw impulsive sexuality.

    This is helped by the fact that musically, You and I is a conscious homage to Queen, whose stadium rock credentials was helmed by none other than the late poly-cultural/poly-sexual Farrokh Bulsara aka Freddie Mercury.

  35. I'm coming to this WAAAAAY too late in the game; a result of having had to tend to a toddler's cold.

    But my thoughts on this are quite different from the some of the comments above. I did not get a sense of a gender troubling performance by Calderone at all; instead (and now I am dating myself) what I saw was someone who looked uncannily like Ralph Macchio of his "The Outsiders" days doing a great job singing a Lady Gaga song - in the way in which we have occasionally seen other young singers generating a viral Youtube video singing Lady Gaga songs (i.e., Grayson Chance or Maria Aragon).

    This suggests to me three things:

    1. that the persona of Joe Calderone ushers in an era of post-identitarianism that cannot be easily explained either by performance theory or by gender troubling. There is something altogether politically different going on here, given the candidness of the appearance. That is, one can only make the claim that there is a performance going on if one reverts to a knowledge-based assumption that it is Lady Gaga performing Joe Calderone one stage (which, ironically enough, betrays a denial of the performance as such because by saying that it is Lady Gaga performing Joe Calderone we are privileging the former over the latter – i.e., what we know and are comfortable with over that which disturbs us). But that's not what the appearance of Calderone seems to be showing us. In other words, the performance on stage at the MTV VMAs is not Gaga as Joe Calderone, but the singing of "Yoü And I" by Joe Calderone.

  36. 2. What the appearance does seem to be making manifest, then, is an instance of the famous duck/rabbit as elaborated by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein to describe the difference between interpretation and what he called aspect-dawning. There's no need to go into the details of that here other than to say that Calderone's appearance is the appearance of an aspect, and not of an alter-identity representing something else. In other words, it demands that it be taken on its own terms and not as a signifier for some other – more familiar and more palatable - reference.

    3. Which brings me to my third point... and it is a point regarding the themes of cyborgs, post-humanism, and the like in the “Born this Way” album that many other commentators on the pixels of Gaga Stigmata have made better than I: namely, the question of one's attitude towards other appearances is not one of knowing the nature of the thing represented or what it means; but of affronting the appearance as such, on its own terms. The cyborg, the alien, or the alter-ego are not - therefore - representatives of a larger meaning whose access must be plumbed. The risk of this all too common interpretive approach is to create precisely what the appearance is attempting to undo - namely the inequality between those who know (and are entitled to know because of some special access) the nature of a thing and those who do not know. It's not like those who know that the cyborg is not really human have a better knowledge of it than others. On the contrary, what they have - if they have anything at all - is an aspect of it that is indistinct from any other possible aspect available. This suggests that one of the crucial things that we get in the public appearance (not performance) of Calderone last night is an implicit insistence that no one aspect gives us privilege to a better way of knowing that which is otherwise unknowable or inaccessible to us. This is how last night’s performance of "Yoü And I" by Joe Calderone is entirely consistent with Mother’s ‘birthing’ of “Born This Way” at the 63rd Emmys.

    This is what the post-identitarian politics of the aspect insist upon; that is, that there is no privileged way of accessing an appearance. And this is what I saw on the VMA stage last night.

    (Ralph Macchio in "The Outsiders" here: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-mE14Xv0ZfQQ/Taumxz26ajI/AAAAAAAACss/V9t0XxPrF1c/s1600/ralph-macchio-as-Johnny-in-The-Outsiders.jpg)

  37. I loved the fact that Jo was seated next to Jay-Z and Kanye and a group of other black male rappers - generally considered to be the most machismo sect of pop culture by far. Jo was literally one of the boys, drinking whisky out of a highball glass while Jay-Z and Kanye did the same. I think Sydnor makes a good point that in many ways Jo represents the heteronormative cultural constructs of what a "man" is. Rap culture and music is perhaps most guilty of keeping this construct alive and healthy, as it is the most homophobic, mysoginistic, male ego-driven genre of pop culture. A part of me thinks that Gaga authentically wants to know what it feels like to be one of the boys - to be treated like a man, to sit with men and act like them when they hoot and holler and drink at an awards show - and not just any boys, but THE boys. You don't get much more masculine than Jay-Z and Kanye West - they've got the girls, the money, the power, the clothes. As Kanye says on WTT, "You know how many hot bitches I own?"

    I might go so far as to say that nothing could be more opposite from Gaga's "message" than the messages so often portrayed in rap music. And yet here we see her havin a good time with the rappers, which seems permissible as long as she's doing so as a man! She does a superb job of showing that not only do men get away with messages that are not always positive towards women (or, really, anyone belonging to any group that's not defined by male heterosexuality), but in order to be welcomed into that group - by the group and by the audience watching the group - you gotta be a dude.

    Of course this is all sort of reinforced by the incredibly awkward presence of an injured Jessie J sitting in a chair all night singing snippets of random songs - a woman whose breakthrough hit is called "Do It Like A Dude." And Gaga does, to great effect.

  38. If the documented reactions of her contemporaries have been sincere thus far, it appears she has really ruffled some feathers and showed up the conditionality of the contract bywhich Queer and Otherness discourse is embraced by a culture still ruled by subtle heteronormativity.

    Certain sections of the general entertainment punditry thinks she has taken it too far (eg. http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2011/08/29/exclusive-lady-gaga-took-male-alter-ego-to-limit-by-using-male-restrooms/ ) much like when Ricky Gervais was slammed for his hosting stint at the Golden Globes.

    She has disrupted some serious long-held narratives some these stars have held sacred, and as per Meghan's observation of Jo's mixing it up with the rappers, her open flirtation with Britney (when did she become Miss Mellow), his Kaufmanesque entrance etc

    The look on Dave Grohl's face was priceless, as if he was the only one who seemed to get it.

    In one fell swoop, the most powerful female celebrity as nominated by Forbes has reframed and reinstated her 'outsider' status, which must be terribly frustrating for an industry that seemed to finally settling into a mode of idol worship and cross-peer back-patting

    Judith Butler's head must be exploding...more to come

  39. One small note to add to the fantastic commentary here: I thought it was particularly interesting in Jo's acceptance speech that he took time to point out that ALL videos have a message. I think it probably didn't dawn on the Britneys of this world that this "praise" had a double-edged kick. What is the "message" of "I'm A Slave 4U" if not sexual submission?

  40. This just makes me so much more excited for the future of Gaga. She's just getting more crazy, more hilarious, more fascinating and pissing off MORE people in the process!

    Gaga really delivered on her comment about being inspired by psychology and Jung's anima/animus. She's really give her alter-egos/personae a full work-out. I wonder which aspect of Gaga we will will be introduced to next (personally, I hope it's a "government hooker"!) Or perhaps Jo is here to stay for a while?

    I've been watching "United States of Tara" lately (a show about a woman who suffers multiple personality disorder). If anyone's seen it: Jo = Buck!

  41. I feel a bit foolish bringing this up...

    But remember a few years ago, when the rumor du jour was that Lady Gaga was a man? (And then the Q magazine cover...) I completely forgot about all of this until reading the Fox article linked above...where the major objection to Jo Calderone seems to be "But Lady Gaga's not a man!"

  42. I thought this was a smart-ass performance. Jo publicly criticized Gaga on the usual topics: Gaga dresses weird, she's fucking crazy, and she's a gimmick. Jo saying the last part was especially hilarious because Jo is a gimmick. As Jo, Gaga mocks the critics with their own words.

    Also, as opposed to the 3 outfit changes Gaga had in the 2009 and 2010 VMAs, Jo only had one outfit throughout the show. I think this has to do with Gaga leaving Jo because he refused to change. So at the VMAs, he's trying to branch out (since he's not a singer or performer) in order to show how much he loves her, and how he continues to believe that Gaga is his "girl". Yet, he still retains his "Jo-ness" by maintaining his twitchy gestures, facial expressions, and greasy look.

    It was very on point for Jo to perform "You and I" because he represents the video's theme. Your significant other may try to change you, and in a way, you agree with them. However, you have you find that balance in changing yourself in order to have a more healthy, committed relationship while still maintaining the individual spirit that your partner fell in love with.

    And even more hilariously, female artists like Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry, wore outfits that resembled/tried to resemble previous Gaga outfits.

  43. Usually you see men dress up as women. This is a whole new thing!

    POLL: Is Lady Gaga hot as Jo Calderone?
    Vote: http://www.wepolls.com/p/2213175

  44. I always have to think of this when seeing her latest performances.

    Gaga: (...) And I have been for three years baking cakes — and now I’m going to bake a cake that has a bitter jelly.

    NS: Elaborate on that metaphor a little.

    Gaga: The message of the new music is now more bitter than it was before. Because the sweeter the cake, the more bitter the jelly can be. If I had come out as who I was, no one would be listening. Now people are listening. So I can be inspirational, and I’m in a different place in my life. I’m interested in different things. I’ve got fame now. So I don’t want to write about it anymore.

    Also I think, bringing Jo Calderone on stage, it makes her last music video more "real" in a very strange way. Like her narrative videos are turning into documentary ones. It all started with the Edge of Glory and the cameo of Clarence Clemons. And now - the other way round - a guy from her video (and before photo shoots...) truns more and more into a real peson. I think I like this. Jo even has a different way of singing.

  45. I'm coming into this conversation suuuper late, sadly… But one thing I'd like to bring up that no one has really talked about is the near-kiss between Jo and Britney. On one level, it references Britney's infamous make-out with Madonna on the VMAs in 2003. What I find fascinating about that kiss was how it was both a hyper-sexual display meant to titillate the audience (and specifically, the straight male constituent through how it served as a kind of display of lesbian fantasy), and symbolically, a kind of sexualized "hats-off" to the other female artists, pop stars honoring pop stars…through their sexuality! What does that say about how we view female pop stars? It says a lot of things, but certainly that they are objectified within the male heteronormaitive framework (both from the audience and the industry itself, as both feed each other).
    Jo, then, as an over the top rendering of a heteronormative, "regular guy" did something very interesting when he started to make moves on Britney. I'm not sure how to parse this out exactly, but I'd love other people's feedback, if any… Was I the only one who felt uncomfortable when they almost kissed?

  46. Interesting piece from The Atlantic on the Jo/Britney moment: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/08/lady-gaga-and-britney-spears-share-a-surreal-moment-at-the-mtv-vmas/244268/

  47. Thanks for that link, Sam. When Britney and Jo shared their awkward will-they-kiss-or-won't-they moment, I first thought of Britney and Madonna's kiss, obviously. But after Britney deflected Jo's advances and then he just stands there in her spotlight, hovering, I was reminded of when Kanye interrupted Taylor Swift. It's interesting to me - when a male rapper interrupted a female singer, we all knew immediately what was going on. "He is interrupting her to interject his own opinion." But when a woman-as-a-man interrupts (albeit silently) a female singer, we're like, "What's going on?"

    Perhaps on some level we *expect that sort of behavior from men, and - despite our apparent collective indignation and outrage over what Kanye did - it still makes more sense, or we on some level prefer it, to seeing a woman (albeit in drag) interrupting another woman.

    Not sure if I'm making sense here...

  48. a commenter on Salon's post about this noted the performance's similarity to Annie Lennox's 1984 performance at the Grammies.


    adds another layer of reference, one which I never would have caught, but find really interesting.

  49. when looking for a video with gaga's performance, I found a blogpost mentioning that Gaga was bringing 50s and gay icon Sal Mineo (american-italian actor, eg with James Dean in Rebel without a cause) back to life with her Jo impersonation...

    saying that she spoke as well as smoked exactly like he did.

    what do you think? I have do a little research before having an opinion :)

  50. http://www.carl-jung.net/animus.html

    Animus is the archetype of reason and spririt in women. This is the male aspect of the female psyche, as the anima is the female aspect of male psyche.

    This archetype is projected in various male images and characters like great artists, heroes, warriors, sportsmen, philosopher, and so forth. When identified with the animus (animus-inflated), women develop an excessive rational drive which may end up in excessive criticism and stubbornness.

  51. Re. Britney. She was the perfect unwitting foil to this performance. Gaga might have been playing a caricature of a man but Britney's being playing a caricature of a woman for her whole career.

  52. Hey guys, Jarraxe here from gagaism.org (I hope it's ok to mention other sites/blogs on here. If not, feel free to edit that part out. Also, please excuse in advance what will undoubtedly be a stream-of-consciousness, rant-like post. I'm just trying to get my thoughts out in writing before I have to scurry off to other tasks.)

    I know I'm also super late to the conversation, and I don't have any major new points to bring up, but I would like to touch on a couple of things mentioned by other people.

    A few people (here and elsewhere) have mentioned Gaga slipping up a couple of times, accidentally stepping out of Jo Calderone for a moment. I'd like to argue that this is not an accident.

    When she was interviewed by Stephen Fry she said she wishes to be the "Bertolt Brecht of pop music" and that "there is an element of theatre but you can see right through it ... It doesn’t ruin the integrity or the fantasy of the theatre..."

    If you look back at Gaga's career, she has made a point of emphasizing the artifice of show business and of celebrity, while simultaneously pointing that this artifice is really just an exaggeration of the artifice within all of us. We all have a persona. In fact, though few would like to admit it for fear of being perceived as "fake," we all have a variety of personae. This is along the same lines as the mask-wearing comment she had made.

    We are all fake, and yet we are all real. Gaga represents theater and show business to the nth degree. She is, by choice, an exaggeration of both reality and fantasy. She said early on in her career that show business was being ruined by things like superstars going grocery shopping in shorts and flip-flops. The fantasy of celebrity was being destroyed and she wanted to fix that.

    I believe that Gaga's "birthing" of Jo, and the easily-perceived cracks in his facade, are logical extensions of everything she has stood for from day one of her career. This ties into a question Alexander posed in a comment above about how Gaga will explain Jo. I'm willing to bet that Gaga will intentionally give mixed answers to the question, "Who is Jo?" She will mostly insist that he is real, much like she insisted that her horns in February were her real bones (knowing damn well that no one would believe her.) Then there will be some interview in which she will "slip-up" (from the casual observer's point of view) and explain Jo as a metaphor.

    Gaga said this VMA performance would be a continuation of everything she has been doing and she was right. Everything Gaga has done since the very beginning has been about blurring the lines when it comes to identity. First it was blurring the lines within the space of the female pop singer, but now she's blurring lines that run deeper and are more unsettling to people.

  53. Also, Meghan Vicks, I must echo Noelle's sentiments regarding your comment about Gaga intentionally making us feel her absence. Just a few days before this performance, Gaga talked about the '10 VMAs and mentioned that she was trying to expand the space in which pop can exist. It's taken most of us a year to realize it, but Gaga did indeed perform live at the '10 VMAs. Everything from her red carpet entrance to her meat dress was part of one performance. This became more apparent to me after this year's Grammys when she talked about her performance beginning three days prior to the show when she entered the vessel.

    Gaga managed to turn the majority of this year's VMAs into her own performance piece. Before the show had even started, I was struck by how much Jessie J and Nicki Minaj (whom I both love) were mimicking Gaga. Jessie J had broken her foot and was sporting a 1-piece with two crutches, all covered in glitter and made to look ultra-glam. I immediately thought of Paparazzi. Nicki Minaj wore about as much as she could get to stick to her, but the center piece was her dress, which was nearly identical to the dress Gaga wore throughout the Monster Ball when performing Bad Romance.

    The clincher was Katy Perry's frequent costume changes and, in particular, the outfit she wore when accepting Video Of The Year. Meanwhile, while Gaga's competition was all dressed up like Lady Gaga, she was dressed up as Jo Calderone. It was absolutely perfect. In fact, it all worked out so perfectly that I can't help but wonder (crazy as it may sound) if these other artists were in on the joke. If not, then Gaga pulled one hell of a stunt that was three years in the making.

    I've seen people mimic Gaga's style plenty of times before (and, as we know, Gaga has done plenty of clever mimicking herself), but this is the first time I ever saw nearly all of the other female pop stars wear outfits that seemed like they were designed to make people say, "Shouldn't Gaga be wearing that?”

  54. "I'm not like the last one."

    Jo or Gaga?

  55. Great discussion. i don't really have anything to add, just to say that I found it interesting that at least a couple times I can think of, when coming onstage for the Britney tribute, and later at the press conference, Jo actively flinched at the brightness of the lights. Her commitment to the character was quite deep. Also, of all the people panned for reactions in the audience during the monologue, the only one who really seemed to get what was happening was an actress, Katie Holmes.

  56. "For many, the theatre is the abode where dreams are created. You, players, sellers of drugs, in your darkened houses people are changed into kings and perform heroic deeds of safety. In rapture over themselves, or seized with pity they sit in happy distraction, forgetting the toils of daily life. Runaways. .. Of course, should someone come in, his ears still full of the roar of the city, himself still sober, he would scarcely recognize there, up on stage, the world he has just left. And leaving your house, he would scarcely know the world-- now no longer king, but lowly man-- he'd scarcely find himself at home in real life." (Brecht 54)

  57. A few thoughts, some reiterating what's already been said...

    For me, the presence of Jo has actually made me question the existence of Gaga, and somehow brought to light more the existence of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Because, if Jo is not "Gaga as Jo" then he is either "Stefani as Jo" which makes "Stefani as Gaga" on the same level of existence as Jo (Or, does the reverse, and puts Jo's existence on the same level as Gaga's.) From the beginning, I have bought in to the message that Gaga IS as real as Stefani, so why can I not believe that Jo IS as real as Gaga? (Sidenote: If Yuyi is to Gaga as Gaga is to Stefani, as twittered by the Gaga, then what is Jo to whom exactly?)

    Another point is that Gaga managed to do that super-mind-twisting thing where she reveals a truth about herself and people continue to question it. She stands on stage and basically tells us outright that she wears high-heels into the shower and covers her face when she comes, and yet in doing so, she tells us that she would never reveal these things about herself (which doing so). And THAT is why I love her. She makes you think so hard your brain hurts.

    As someone already said, her presence made her absence more real.

    Also loved the comment above that mentioned people now saying its crazy for a girl-to-dress as a guy, whereas a few years ago people believed her to be a guy-dressed-as-a-girl.

  58. One more comment that occurred to me post-posting, unless I'm wrong, at some point when preparing for this appearance Gaga must have stopped existing in order for Jo to then exist (unless this is Gaga performing as Jo). At some point, perhaps during hair and makeup, Gaga ceased and Jo started. Gaga, having previously visited the lady's room, now had access to the men's room. At which point exactly did that switch occur? And later, Jo stopped and Gaga returned...assuming Gaga has returned post-VMAs.

    Also, does Jo have anything at all to do with the Joanne in Stefani's name?

  59. I've been asking myself similar questions as Matt. This will sound somewhat unrelated at first, but bear with me. (Also, forgive me if that has already been covered/discussed elsewhere on the site. I don't think it has but I could be missing something.)

    For a while now, I've been trying to figure out what's going on with Gaga's hair and how it functions as a symbol of her identity. She has been going back and forth between full-on blonde hair, a combo of black and blonde (various ratios of black to blonde), and teal.

    This is something I have been wondering about since she started adding black into her hair soon after the release of Born This Way's title track. She has said that the overarching meaning behind Born This Way was meant to be revealed slowly.

    When she first started out with the black streaks, I thought it was just fashion. Then I noticed that her blonde/black hair color combos were starting to feature more and more black and less and less blonde. I also noticed that her clothing used in performances was changing from light to dark (see Gaga's first Born This Way performance at the Grammy's vs her Born This Way SNL performance two and a half months later.) It was a bit of a back-and-forth struggle between the dark and the light, but dark seemed to be gaining traction over time. Then she threw teal into the mix and I thought the black/blonde this was over with...until it came back.

    Before the 'Yoü and I' video came out, I had already started to suspect that the teal hair represented Yüyi and/or fantasy. I couldn't figure out what the black vs blonde thing was all about though. The only thing I could think of was that it was a representation of Gaga being "between fantasy and reality at all times," but I had a feeling there was another layer to it.

    The release of the 'Yoü and I' video answered some questions (potentially) but raised others. At the time, I took note of the dark-haired Gaga in the video seeming like she was always either dead or dying. That is, until the latter portion of the video in which dark-haired Gaga seems to reanimate herself. I thought dark-haired Gaga represented Stephanie but I wasn't sure.

    What I'm thinking now is that the dark hair represents Jo, just like Matt was saying. By extension, it also represents whatever it is that Jo is supposed to represent. It wasn't until the 'Yoü and I' video that we finally saw Gaga with 100% dark hair. We've seen Stephanie with dark hair, but not Gaga. It's telling that she chose 'Yoü and I' to finally bring both Yüyi and Jo to life, as well as dark-haired Gaga. The Jo as Stephanie (Joanne) idea makes sense. Jo mentioned several times, both on and off tv, that he was just a "regular guy" and that he needed to "get in there" (presumably the spotlight), but that it always followed Gaga. Does this not sound exactly like the struggle that the press has insisted Gaga must face on a day-to-day basis?

    If Jo is meant to represent Stephanie on some level, is he meant to represent the "real" Stephanie or is he some sort of twist on or subversion of the public's perception of what the "real" Stephanie should be?

    I have to say, the idea that Gaga would use Jo to represent the "real" her is brilliant. It's a major mind-fuck. By the way, here are two tweets sent by Jo Calderone in July on the same day. The first says, "Society's projection, should not be your reflection. If you've ever felt rejection, feel safe by my protection." The second says, "If YÜYI was more than just a fantasy, a reality, would you still love her for who she is? #YuyiIsReal"

  60. Oops. In the third-to-last paragraph I meant to add in "just like Matt was saying" to the sentence regarding Jo as Stephanie, not black hair as Jo.

  61. Matt, you have expressed my thought-process better than I could!

    Are Jo and Gaga two (complimentary) "drag" performances by the same individual? The fact that we know "her" better as Gaga doesn't make Gaga more real than the others. I'm also finding this discussion gives me a serious case of Pronoun Trouble. I suddenly feel as though whichever pronoun I choose is somehow—even just a little bit—inaccurate.

    In the vein of "Jo's presence highlights Gaga's absence," I've realized that as I puzzle over this, I'm entertaining the notion that while Jo is moving and talking, somewhere Lady Gaga is laid out on a fainting couch (in all of her McQueen finery), unconscious...

    ...which then reminds me of the dead/dying/preserved/paralyzed dark-haired Gaga in the "Yoü & I" video that Jarraxe discusses. (And it's not just any dark hair, is it?)

    I feel like I'm thinking in circles here.

  62. A-ha moment!:

    Are Jo and Gaga two (complimentary) "drag" performances by the same individual?

    Whoooooooooa. Mindfuck.

  63. This is wonderful. I don't have to much to add - and i will sound simple compared to others as well so I apologise - although I must say this does make me more excited about Gaga than i have ever been. Thinking about the whole 'drag king' performance idea i cannot help but wonder if there is any kind of link to Madonna's performance of 'Like a Virgin' for the Girlie Show tour. ({http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRS6'nieJzBg)
    Given the whole idea of Gaga as some kind of postmodern Madonna could the 'Madonna as Marlene Dietrich as man' performance serve as some kind of precurser to the brain bursting 'Stefani as Lady Gaga as Jo as Lady Gaga(as in when performing Gaga's song)'. Just a thought.
    Great site!

  64. ok that link was a fail but just search for it!

  65. It was definitely Jo who performed that song. Pretty sure the key was lowered, her mannerisms changed up, even the vocal stylings were a bit different. In some ways Jo may have been a convenient vehicle for Gaga to perform that song as a nearly straight up rock cabaret number, whereas Gaga herself would have been expected to come up with some gigantic stage spectacular.

    I tend to think Stefani IS Gaga, and Stefani IS Jo. Or, maybe Sefani Is Gaga, performing Jo. Its true that Stefani could be performing both, but if so shes been putting on a remarkably consistent performance as Gaga for a number of years now.

  66. In response to Jarraxe...If Jo is in fact the way that the 'press' have created Gaga (drug-abusing, MALE, talking about Gaga but not really being her, and dark haired) that would make sense. But look at how the press are now reacting, suggesting that she should be 'herself' (Gaga) again not some sort of Jo. This illustrates the 'gaze' changing art that Stigmata has often discussed before, that Gaga turns expectations back on themselves (Photos of the Paparazzi).

    Jarraxe, I hadn't noticed the specific hair colours and their use...But a part of me would be incredible saddened if Gaga (blonde) were left behind and Stefani were to return to the forefront.

    I may be taking it too far when I say it feels a little like someone died. Have we seen Gaga since the VMAs? I hate the idea that she may be trapped in an egg, a glass case (Bad Romance), a coffin (Radio One Big Weekend) or a fishbowl (You and I) somewhere.

    On another note ENTIRELY, I was listening to Born This way album today...thinking as if some of the songs were sung by Jo, instead of Gaga, and Americano really changed its meaning. Why did they not fall in love in court if sung by a man? Similarly, Bad Kids has another dimension when sung by Jo, as does Judas and Born This Way (Was Jo Born This Way? If so, why am I morning the death of Lady Gaga? After all, she was stoned to death at the end of Judas and lived in Edge of Glory!)

  67. I should clarify. I meant to imply that perhaps Jo was an answer to the media's constant questions about the state of Stephanie (not Gaga.) For example, a lot of interviewers have asked Gaga, "So, when you became Gaga, what happened to Stephanie?" or "What about Stephanie's needs? Do you ever get sick of being Gaga?"

    Perhaps this is her way of saying (genuinely or sarcastically) that Stephanie has in fact been dying inside her and has felt the need to reassert herself within Gaga's psyche.

    Remember that Stephanie grew up wanting to be a rock star, and her early songs, even the ballads, had more of a rock and roll flare to them than pop. However, in becoming Gaga, she decided to go blonde, dress provocatively, and sing pop tunes. Does Jo represent Gaga's yearning to bring a bit of Stephanie back into her style? Her current album has a rock vibe to it, something critics found strange coming from a pop diva dance queen. Is it easier to swallow coming from Jo?

    I have been listening to the album again too since the VMAs (well, I'm always listening to the album...) and the lyrics took on a new meaning to me as well. In Marry The Night, Gaga sings,

    "I'm gonna marry the night. I won't give up on my life. I'm a warrior queen, live passionately tonight. I'm gonna marry the dark, gonna make love to the stark. I'm a soldier to my own emptiness I'm a winner."

    I always thought of those lyrics as being in reference to Gaga's return to New York (which is how she has described the song), but a few of the lyrics never made sense to me. Why would she say, "I'm gonna Marry the dark? Gonna make love to the stark?" Also, if this was written from the point-of-view of Gaga living in LA (when she was already a success), why would she sing "I won't give up on my life?" Lastly, what does she mean by "I'm a soldier to my own emptiness?"

    Is that an implication that the persona of Gaga is empty on some level, but that she is a soldier to it, in that she's dedicated to this persona? Or is the emptiness the absence felt from the loss of Stephanie?

    When she says she's going to marry the dark and make love to the stark, does that not describe the scene in 'Yoü and I' that depicts a blonde Gaga making out with a dark-haired Jo? Two days before the VMAs, she tweeted (as Gaga) "It's always, and forever will be, about the work." I was working on an analysis for the 'Yoü and I' video at the time which theorized that the video was more about her career and than about her interpersonal romantic relationships. She has said that the video is about love, but is there anything she loves more than her career and her status as Mother Monster?

  68. I believe her black and blonde hair combo represents a tug-o-war going on between Gaga and Jo/Stephanie. I do not believe that Gaga is going away, or that Jo's emergence is necessarily permanent. Jo said that the spotlight always follows Gaga, but that's he's "gotta get in there" and that he's getting on stage and performing to prove his love to Gaga. I believe this is meant, on some level, to be Stephanie reassuring Gaga that she still loves her, but that things are a bit tense with them.

    In the video, Jo and Gaga are getting along spectacularly but their relationship is on the rocks as of the VMAs. Does the lyric "I won't give up on my life" refer to Stephanie? Perhaps she is no longer content with apparent death, but she's still trying to figure out where she fits. Perhaps Gaga (meta Gaga, representing all of her personas) has already decided how this entire drama will play out and we will just have to see how it goes.

  69. Sorry. One last thing. I forgot to mention that I also tend to think that Gaga is Stephanie, despite what I've written. To me, this is all part of Gaga's theater. That is not to say that she's being phony. I don't believe she is. I believe this is all inspired by her genuine feelings and experiences. She is an artist though, and so her internal struggles are played on metaphorically on the stage.

    However, she not just an artist who performs songs. She is a performance artist and she likes to challenge us. Like Matt was saying, Gaga turns our own expectations and observations about her back upon themselves and upon us. When trying to understand her art, it often feels like I'm looking at a mirror's reflection of another mirror. It creates an infinite number of mirrored images and, while it makes perfect sense, the brain has a hard time processing it.

  70. One thought I have been chasing around -after contemplating Annie Lennox's performance- in my head is the relevance of the history of acceptance of public and pop cultural drag/drab performance (or watered down drag/drab). Especially in terms of the popularity (or lack of in America) of the new romantic movement. And also drag/drab being confined/reserved to the "gay scene".

  71. I want to state also that some people were complaining that Gaga had copied Annie Lennox. Lady Gaga didn’t copy Annie Lennox in the whole idea of what is performance: you see, Annie Lennox trademark appearance was that of an androgynous woman. She never stated she was playing the role of a man. Indeed, her role was that of an androgynous woman. But Gaga came as Jo; Gaga’s trademark appearance is that of a feminine artist whose idea of fashion style, music and artistry is based on avant-gardism. But the moment you see Jo, you know Gaga’s not there. Jo, just to say it like that, is a whole different person within the body (the projector) that belongs to Stefani Joanne Germanotta (see The Manifesto of Little Monsters). Jo is a full male, he’s a homeboy, a macho, he’s a man. He’s not an androgynous woman. The idea of going as Jo to the VMA’s is the ultimate explanation of what Born This Way means: you can be reborn (if you are born again, you surely come as a new person) as many times as you want because it is in you the inherent potential to become what you want to become. So, this is an endless birth: because there will always exist moments in your life where you will feel like ‘you need to change’, that you need to be born again.

    Annie Lennox drag was a bit of a statement, it was merely a way to make the viewer question him/herself what gender she (Annie) was, or what we consider that a female or a male must be. Jo’s objective wasn’t that: Jo is in the beginning of his monologue stating that he is a man and a whole different entity from Lady Gaga by saying that he had fucked with her. The idea that you are born again also means that you believe it so profusely that you actually convince the other people that you are a whole different person. He’s objective isn’t the same as Lennox’s drag: his mission is to clarify and state what I said before and won’t be tired of repeating: Jo’s objective is an archetype of the dozens/billions of people that you could choose to become. Just look at Carl Jung's archetypes. There are tons.

    Society’s projection should not be your reflection. If you had ever feel rejection, feel safe by my protection’

    -Jo Calderone

    To summarize:
    Annie Lennox drag =/= Lady Gaga’s drag

  72. Well said, Ollie! As with everything Gaga does, I'm sure there are many layers to this performance. The Annie Lennox thing is just yet another way people will try to write Gaga off. I think she makes those comparisons easy for people on purpose as a decoy to give the naysayers something to complain about while she continues to deliver her message. She's so clever it scares me sometimes. Like she knows something we don't know.

  73. Annie Lennox was impersonating Elvis in the Grammy's performance, but off stage, she was herself, so Gaga didn't quite "copy" Lennox. Even though I wanted to see Gaga as Gaga and expecting (from the MTV promo ads), Gaga in the water tank as a mermaid, pyrotechnics, Government Hooker and heavy metal lover segue, jazz, etc etc, the fact that Jo was present the whole VMA awards, Jo actually became real to me in just 3 hours. He had a whole history behind him like any other person, separate from Gaga. It was really an incredible experience.

  74. Speaking of Gaga's blonde/black hair - remember she tweeted a photo of herself saying "dyed my bangs black. It's my new monsterlook. Let the mitosis of the future begin. Off to meet Judas".

    This "mitosis of the future" was a phrase she used in the BTW video, during the Manifesto of Mother Monster, in relation to the birth of the "New Race".

    Could this mitosis also relate to the mitosis within each person, the constant multiplication of identities and personae that grow within ourselves?

    If Gaga's simple act of dying her bangs black was part of a "mitosis of the future", then this suggests that we can all split our cells and multiply our identities.

    Gaga has clearly been in the midst of this mitosis for a while now - Stefani has split into Gaga, Yuyi, Jo and who knows how many other countless personae. However, they musn't be seen as lesser parts (or mutations) of Stefani Germanotta, but rather integral and innate parts of her being. She didn't create these alter-egos, these alter egos were born from deep inside her and they in turn create her.

    She was born this way, baby. But at the same time - with this physical manifestation of Jo - we are seeing Gaga's belief that "birth is not finite but infinite". The Manifesto of Mother Monster is being realised.

    Now, has anyone seen Gaga since Jo rocked up to the VMAs? I'm a bit worried about her..

  75. Also, i've lately been obsessed with the TV show "The United States of Tara", about a woman who suffers from DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, aka: Multiple Personality Disorder).

    The series sea-saws bewteen Tara embracing her "alters" (the term she gives to the multiple alter-egos that live within her and occasionally hi-jack her consciousness) and conversely, she tries to suppress and reject their existence.

    One of the episodes from the 3rd season shows Tara going into a cornfield to find one of her lost "alters", a child-like persona affectionately named "Chicken". This scene in the darkened cornfield immediately reminded me of the You and I video and this child-like alter-ego brought to mind the innocent Gaga we see at the piano in the middle of the cornfield. It also brought to mind the Gaga that we see struggling before the image of the icecream man and the doll.

    "The United States of Tara" is all about a woman trying to unravel the mysteries of her past and the deep psychological events that have led to this "splitting" of her identity, which in a way relates to the existence of Gaga's various personae and her journey from New York to Nebraska in the You and I video.

    In the video, she's come back to make amends with past love, her past selves, etc. Where does Jo Calderone fit into this? Which aspect of Gaga's past/psychological make-up does he represent/embody?

    Stefani gave birth to Gaga in order to escape insecurity and to realise her artistic potential (at least, this is what Gaga herself has suggested), so what is Jo's function? Or is this an irrelevant question - perhaps Jo just exists.

  76. That makes a lot of sense jacka. A couple of things occurred to me when reading your post.

    First, remember in the Born This Way video when you see Gaga giving birth to what appear to be Gaga heads (yet she describes them as wombs?) The brief scene where we see Gaga's body being attached to one of the heads while the other lay unoccupied? I always assumed those other heads simply represented infinite possibilities/births in a very general way. Now I'm wondering if this was meant to represent the birth of various Gaga persona "wombs" that have been incubating until recently.

    Second, a few months ago, Gaga did a photo shoot and interview with Harper's Bazaar. It was one of the last few photo shoots to feature the horned Gaga. In one of the photos, Gaga is depicted as a choir instructor posing for a photo with several choir girls, who are all Gaga as well. Mitosis of the future?

  77. I discussed Gaga's performance with several people, and I've looked up reactions to it online. A lot of people found Jo pretty annoying after "You and I," and they wanted Gaga to "change back."

    I agree that Jo was annoying halfway through the VMAs, but I think this was on purpose. His drunkenness, Jersey accent, and slow speaking is part of his personality. His upfront, in-your-face attitude made him seem like a douchebag. Gaga's personality is very similar. However, when you contrast the backstage photos from VMAs 2010 and VMAs 2011, you notice that there are way more pics of Jo with other celebrities in 2011. These celebrities embraced Jo as a spectacle and enjoyed his act. This suggests that a hyper-masculine, in-your-face MAN is acceptable in society, but if a female has those personality traits, society alienates her.

    The 2010 VMAs serves as an example because Gaga took pics mostly by herself. Maybe it was because of the meat dress, but even so, it went along with her strong message of Born this Way and her statements against DADT. Her mission in 2010 made many celebrities uncomfortable and pushed them away.

    Also, because Jo was annoying, I think that Jo's presence (and thus, Gaga's absence) reveals our need for Gaga at the VMAs. However, in the end, we did receive a performance from Gaga- a 2.5 hour performance. Others need to look at Jo's annoying-ness as a performance in order to understand why Jo was there and not Gaga.

  78. Inspired by Meghan B's question above re: the first instance of the phrase "born this way," here is a little Gaga/Jo "Born This Way" timeline:

    May 30, 2010 - Lady Gaga's SHOWstudio interview. Gaga says the movie about her life would be called Born This Way. (She also mentions in this interview that her new album is "pretty much" finished, and uses the phrase "electric chapel" when discussing the Monster Ball.)

    Aug. 25, 2010 - Nichola Formichetti posts PREVIEW - VOGUE HOMMES JAPAN 5 - INTRODUCING "JO CALDERONE." Jo says of Lady Gaga:
    I was a little nervous for Nick to start shooting. She said, 'Don't be baby, you were "born this way."'

    Aug. 26, 2010 - Jo Calderone tweets: "I am a man. I am a human being. I am me. And I was Born This Way."

    Sept. 12, 2010 - Lady Gaga wins the VMA for Video of the Year, officially announces new album title, sings part of "Born This Way," makes me cry.

    Aug. 28, 2011 - Jo Calderone accepts the VMA for Best Female Video for "Born This Way" on behalf of Lady Gaga. He concludes:
    "And it's true: it doesn't matter who you are—gay, straight, bi, lesbian, transgendered—you were born this way."

  79. This comment may lead to a whole other conversation, but Gaga tweeted today the first of five fashion films. In the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTiV9Obc9c4 we see "Nymph" (who has been previously referred to as Nature Gaga/Stefani in other analysis of You and I)

    LOVE GagaStigmata! It is not what one typical hears within the Monster community on Twitter. If interested, please follow me @GagaApostle

  80. Jon -

    I think it's relevant to this conversation, actually. In a post-Jo world, Gaga presents us with an extremely girly/girlish version of herself.

  81. Noelle,

    Very true. With these films coming in a five part series and assuming they were shot at the same time as the video, I wonder whether we will see Jo (or maybe even Yuyi) again.

  82. I love the juxtaposition of Jo & Nymph in the video. He's the perfect bad boyfriend for her: uncouth, chain-smoking, beer-swigging, self-absorbed, sullen, wild. She's a sick Calvin-Klein-model-type waif intensely needing a strong man: fresh, unadorned, innocent, sweet, open, wild. Their pairing is a perfect "pure/dirty" love.

  83. Jo has a striking resemblance to this person: http://privilegedandgoodlooking.tumblr.com/post/9544206105/albertinho-mariposima-you-know-that

  84. Well, in the Who's That Girl video, Annie Lennox poses as both a dark-haired man and a blonde woman, in a relationship with each other.

    I think Gaga is using that concept and developing it further.

  85. It is so good to see that Gaga herself is alive and well...and releasing Fashion shorts!

  86. Hello everybody, my name is Jo Calderone. Gaga you left me. GAGA! I'm a man, can't you see. I have feelings, just like any other man. It's alright, I get it. You're better than me. But I would just like to say, you're crazy. That's right, you,re fuckin' crazy. Treating me like that. I mean, you get into the bathtub and turn on the water, wearing your outfits, and everyone can see, the tap gets warmer, and the water still drips, I mean, C'MON! I mean, first of all it was all quirky - I was rather amused by the whole spectacle, but then THIS. I gotta get in there, you know what I mean? What can you do? I mean, I'm a guy, right? Just one of the guys? [beats chest] This is what I'm saying, when she c[omes], it's like she has to stop talking for a single second and just be... and I just don't know how to feel for just one minute...I gotta get in ther [sings song]

  87. When I was young, I gathered inspiration from the people around me, and one of the people I gained inspiration from was, BRITNEY SPEARS!!! She was an absolute legend, and taught me how to not only make fun of those around me, but those in the immediate third world countries that I could only dream of. She taught me how to be fearless (she taught us all how to be fearless), she's a living legend and I hearby present a bunch of 15-16 year olds to stand tribute to her ultimate awesomeness [cue song'n'dance routine]. Everybody stand the fuck up for...

  88. Enter the future Spice Girls

    Baby Spice: Have I got an award for you?

    Old Spice: You better get the fuck down this bitch. I'm 85 and don't give a fuck.

    Nature Spice: Psych!!!

    Old Spice: And the winner is ... wait for it ... Lady Gaga

    [the audience applauds]

    Enter Jo Calderone

    [[Wrestles trophy from Cloris Leachman [age 85]]

    Jo: I'm so happy to accept this award, because Gaga's not here, but I know she would like me to thank Nick Knight. And, if she were here, she would also like me to thank, her little monsters. And, if she were really, really here, she would also say that if she just found out that if she won best video with a message she would say that it is in fact all videos that have a fucking message, and finally, she would just like to say, that it doesn't matter who the fuck you are, whether you are gay, straight, bi, lesbian, transgender or lebanese even, you were fucking born this way.

  89. PS I Love You, Gaga Stigmata

  90. I'm joining the discussion late & I've only read some of it, so sorry if I'm repeating, but Meghan B--YES to Gaga & Jo as drag performances. This is one of the reasons I love Jo so much: he throws Gaga-as-drag into such sharp and obvious relief. This, to me, explains the confusedface on so many of the VMA attendees--if one's definition of drag, or even of gender as performance, doesn't extend beyond ballgown+biocock, or something similar, how could Gaga and Jo both be drag performances? Jo makes it difficult for viewers not to see gender as performance, at least as it relates to this body, but it's hard not to extrapolate. What's amazing, too, is that some media/some people didn't find Gaga-as-female credible (even though she's so very female), &, though it won't get talked about in the same way, those same people (& more people) won't find Jo credible as male (even though he's so very male). I think this double-drag works so well because the two gender performances are equally credible & incredible. It's markedly different than any kind of drag people can point to and say, this one's the real person & this one's the performance. Gaga refused to confirm or deny rumors that she had a penis before, & now she's made it actually cease to matter whether she has a penis or not. Which is so fucking incredible.

  91. Also you guys, I pointed out in my You and I essay that Jo uses the female spelling of "Jo" making "Jo Calderone" more of a drag name than a man's name, but Jo Facebooked on Wednesday, "Fuck you...I'm me. I'm Joe Calderone..." What are we to make of this?

  92. & props to Jarraxe for meta-Gaga to refer to the Gaga that encompasses all the personas. It's been hard to write about Gaga, specifically, now that Jo (and Yuyi) is a fully-realized person. I've been tempted to use Stefani's name, but we have no access to Stefani Germanotta. As far as we know, SG is an empty vessel for these characters--I don't think it makes sense to talk about her as the ruler of Gaga & Jo. I think meta-Gaga works.

  93. Sam,

    Regarding the name Jo: this comes from Gaga's middle name
    Joanne, which is her aunt's name; Gaga has stated in the past (I believe in the Google interview) that she prays to feminine figures including her aunt. Gaga said on many occasions that she and her band always end their prayer circle by saying Joanne's name.

    As is stated on the Gagapedia website, Calderone is the maiden name of one of her grandmothers. With this in mind, I would have to say that the use of "Joe" on her Facebook may simply have been a typo. Maybe not, maybe she was messing with the media; in the days following the VMAs, many reports spelled Jo with an e.

  94. I love what Meghan Vicks said:

    "I just love the beautiful irony and accuracy of Jo crying for Gaga to 'be real'".

    Classic Gaga, the Queen (King?) of contradiction. So many of her earlier interviews revolved tirelessly around the question: "Who is the real Gaga?". Again and again, she gave the answer: I'm right here!

    But then, Gaga, that trickster, gives us Jo.

    Who is the real Gaga? Gaga is. And yet so is Jo, and Yuyi and every single different and contrasting projection she thrusts in our face.

  95. This is absolutely fascinating. Just entered this discussion. WOW.
    It's occurred to me that Gaga is building a career that is more powerful and rich with genuine art than that of any pop star before her. Sure, people have done the same things (like dressing in drag). But her goals are obviously far more universal.
    Seeing her as Jo makes me wonder what we are going to see next year, and the year after that, and the next.
    I feel that this time, no one with an education can argue that Gaga is pulling bullshit to get attention. I feel that this is the most genuinely meaningful performance she has ever given, and from this point onward she is going to be officially known as more than a pop star.
    What I'm saying is obvious, but I am so enthralled by this subject that I feel the need to make some sort of concrete statement that we can all agree with. To make it seem more real, even though this performance made us all ask ourselves what Gaga's reality is, and if it even exists in a single form.

  96. "What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What's in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;"

    The debate of Jo/Joanne/Joe/Gaga/Stefani/Stephanie is another interesting one. In response to Sam stating, "We have no access to Stefani Germanotta", I am reminded that newspapers have quoted Gaga saying that she is weirded out by her lovers calling her Gaga, and would be called Stefani in that situation. Do her lovers have access to Stefani, while we only have access to Gaga? Has she not stated that Gaga IS Stefani is the same way that Yuyi IS Gaga? What's in a name? Gaga is made 'of the stuff' of Stefani. Its Stefani's hand, foot and arm...but Gaga's glove, stiletto and bangle.

    Do clothes define a character? Does a name?

    Coming back to the idea that for a fraction of a moment in Makeup, meta-Gaga shed her Gaga skin and became Jo. Did she become Jo when she called herself Jo, or when someone else called her by his name for the first time?

    Just my thoughts...(Loving the use of 'meta-Gaga')

  97. Also, I LOVE what the post above me from Anon states "What I'm saying is obvious, but...I feel the need to make some sort of concrete statement". Sometimes, saying it outloud makes it real. Was that the same with Jo? Did his name SPOKEN make him real?

  98. Matt D,

    In response to the question of clothes defining and/or shaping identity, I'd say yes they do. Isn't this what Hair is about?
    (If we think of hair as clothing I.e, form of expression)

    I do love your point, I am one that sees Stefani/Gaga/Jo/Yuyi et al as being one person with many forms.

    To everyone: Maybe that is the point of Jo et al, that as has been stated by Gaga and many here, we can become whatever and whomever we really believe ourselves to be. We were born this way.

  99. I would say that the questions about identity that we're struggling to definitely answer here are questions that Gaga wants us to struggle with. In fact, I would argue that she wants us to come to the conclusion that these questions simply cannot be answered in a conventional way.

    As many have stated before me, she is the master of contradiction. However, with Born This Way, I think she's trying to push us, mentally and culturally, beyond the notion of contradiction. A lot of her performance art, particularly her more recent work, echoes the sentiments of post-modernists who argue that there is no one reality. Rather than contradiction, they see a plurality of truths.

    The song 'Hair' certainly seems to indicate that hair, clothes, names, etc define a person. The lyric "I am my hair" makes that pretty clear. However, she has gone out of her way to complicate the interpretation of the song via her live performances. She's performed 'Hair' while trying on a variety of wigs, while bald and staring at a wig, while wearing a wig that's meant to look so long that it extends from the Eiffel tower to Gaga (see Taratata 'Hair' performance.)

    She has similarly gone out of her way to ensure that questions about her "real" self vs her personae are unanswerable. She has said many times that Gaga is just a nickname. That Gaga is Stephanie. However, she has also said that "becoming" Gaga freed her in many ways, which seems to contradict her assertion that Gaga is just a nickname. So far, she has been presenting Jo as a distinctly separate persona. Nonetheless, she has intentionally undermined the credibility of Jo as anyone other than Gaga.

    When Gaga tweeted the cover art for 'Yoü and I,' which depicts Jo Calderone smoking a cigarette, she wrote, "You will never find what you are looking for in love, if you don't love yourself." It seemed pretty clear at the time that she intended for us to think of Jo as part of her. She gave me the same impression when she performed 'Yoü and I' at the VMAs. The monologue and performance art aspect of it gave the distinct impression that Jo was not simply Gaga's alter-ego, but the fact that he performed a Lady Gaga song undermined that.

    It could be that Gaga, or meta-Gaga (glad you guys like that) is trying to portray Jo as an entity that is progressively coming into his own. That is, perhaps he started out as a metaphor for another side of Gaga, then progressed into an alter-ego, and is now progressing into a separate entity.

    However, I think it is more likely that Gaga simply wants us to be caught between two seemingly contradictory answers long enough for us to eventually accept both answers as true.

  100. By the way, one of the things that lead me towards this line of thinking was something I recently remembered her saying about her hair color (yes, I still believe the hair color is meant to be telling us something.)

    She said that she likes to think of any color other than blonde in her hair as a type of blonde. For example, it's not uncommon for people to think of yellow as an extension of blonde. However, Gaga pushes the limits of this extension. This is evidenced, as she has pointed out, in her song 'So Happy I Could Die' when she talks about her "lavender blonde." Recently (I wish I could remember the interview...possibly the Simi Selects interview in India?) she mentioned that she is taking the notion of other colors as an extension of blonde to the extreme by using black in her hair.

    Black as a type of blonde sounds absurd and impossible, but it fits within the framework of her Born This Way-era surrealism.

  101. Having spent a bit of time listening to some of her old songs and re-imagining them through being sung by Jo, I thought I'd have a look at some of the old music videos and replace Gaga with Jo.

    It sure changes the dynamic of the Alajandro video and the Bad Romance video is clearly dependent on Gender as we wouldn't have seen them selling Jo to the highest bidder.

  102. To what Jarraxe said, I want to state that Jo is what in Jungian psychology is considered as 'Animus'. 'Animus' is the masculine side of the 'Self'. If we see it like this, and we take on the Jungian archetypes (it's very curious to point out that Gaga was referencing the 'archetypes' when asked about her VMA performance prior to the show) then we can go further and make this an understatement: Stefani is the Self, the vessel of the many people(identities) that coexist within herself. Lady Gaga would be the 'Personae', a mask that the 'Self' uses to protect itself against the world prejudice. Jo would be the 'Animus'. Nymph (seen in her first fashion film) would be more of an 'Anima' (a further exploration of her feminity); Mother Monster could be identified as a whole different being when dissected from the whole Born This Way single video, acting as the 'Great Mother'(as we see her giving birth, while Gaga, the 'Personae', is the one we catch dancing with the others). What I really don't quite assimilate is which archetype Yüyi is being. Yüyi seems to be a very complex being, so I'm still investigating about these archetypes.

    So, Lady Gaga makes this album more invaluable than just a collection of experimental and boundary-pushing songs. She's making this, along with The Fame/The Fame Monster era (which emphasized the culture of the celebrity, its rise and its death as an obsessive fact in today's pop culture) one of the most cohesive, complete and deep work of art seen in these years.

  103. When I watch the first "Nymph" video, I just keep thinking I'm watching Stefani, not Gaga. It's black and white so we can't really tell what color her hair is. Could be teal, could be blonde, could be a very light brown. What color it actually is isn't the point - the point is she doesn't want us to know. I love the use of bugs/flies in the video - it struck me that perhaps we are watching Stefani be resurrected, or dancing from beyond the grave. Idk why, the bugs just made me think it was some kind of after-death or resurrection dance, like she's in a tomb or mausoleum or something where bugs are.

  104. The next thing we need is for Jo to do drag. Just because I want to read the resulting Stigmata conversation from that one. :)

  105. Did anyone notice Jo has none of Gaga's tattoos?
    As I watched Nymph, I saw a creature feral, looking at us with absolutely vacuous yet knowing eyes, daring us to consume her seeming fragile sweetness. It was like one of those terrible Calvin Klein ads taken to such extremes that it fell apart. She's like something wild, plucked from nature & beautiful just because she is, unsullied by the touch of modern man, and curious (perhaps hungry) for that touch, the perfect fuck-me fantasy. But the bugs are there, evidence & perhaps guardians of that wildness, & inextricable from her-- she can't be cleaned up a la Pretty Woman, and her eyes behind the exaggerated vacuousness warn us that she can't be tamed.

  106. I noticed the tattoo's had been covered. It's one of those clues that this wasn't just a "drag" performance, but more of an actor performing a role, IMO.

  107. what I meant by that last comment is that so much of the media seems obsessed with the simple fact that Gaga dressed as a man, "in drag", and completely missed the nuances of the overall performance. It's like they didn't even really listen to the monologue, or attach any real significance to Jo in the video, and the continuation of his story at the VMAs.

  108. Also its interesting to note the parallels of Jo's monologue with her V magazine memo previously. "Art is a lie. And every day I kill to make it true. It is my destiny to exist halfway between reality and fantasy at all times. They call me “theatrical,” but I posit profusely that I am theatre, and that theatre is me. I am a show with no intermission. It is this thing that summons me from the depths of reality and reminds me that the power of transformation is endless. That I (we) possess something magical and transformative inside —  a uniqueness and specialness waiting to be exiled from the depths of our identity. I have said before that I am a master of escapism, which many attribute to my wigs, performances, and my natural inclination to be grand, but perhaps that is also a lie. Maybe I am not escaping. Maybe I am just being. Being myself." Jo - "Maybe thats just who she really is!"

  109. I noticed right away that Jo has none of Gaga's tattoos, and neither does Yüyi. There are a couple of moments in the "Yoü and I" video where the editing really points this out for us (e.g. Yüyi stretches, raising her tattoo-free arms above her head, cut to the Nymph arching back, raising her tattooed arms above her head), as though to say, "Look here." The disappearing/reappearing tattoos seem to serve the notion that Jo and Yüyi are individuals separate from (meta-)Gaga, but it also suggests a kind of magic—a completeness of transformation.

  110. Thought.

    Same DNA, but Born This Way.

    Jo. Yüyi.Nymph. Gaga. Meta-Gaga. Stefani.

  111. Yesterday Harper's Bazaar released its September cover which is Gaga dressed as Nymph. The photos were taken on the set of You & I by Inez and Vinoodh who also shot the fashion films.

    What Gaga says in the interview is really interesting. When asked if she sees a difference between the "natural" look of the cover and what the media has come to see as typical Gaaga fashion, "I don't really view it as 'natural,'" she explains. "I think that artifice is the new reality. It's more about just being honest and sincere to the core of what you do. Whether I'm wearing lots of makeup or no makeup, I'm always the same person inside."

    Later she says, "It's just that my inventions are different. I often get asked about my artifice, but isn't fashion based on the idea that we can create a fantasy? ...I think what has been lovely about my relationship with the public is that they expect something unexpected from me."

    The full interview and photos can be read here: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/magazine/cover/

  112. This is really a fascinating discussion. I come into this as a recent Gaga convert (four obsessive weeks and counting ... the happy result of an all night whiskey, pot and YouTube session), and an even more recent discoverer of Gaga Stigmata, and although at this point I don't know if there is a whole lot more I could add (which hasn't been said far more eloquently by any number of contributors here) with reference to the VMA performance, I have a few thoughts which although still in the process of forming, I would like to mention here.

    The comment earlier from Professor Paw Paw regarding Dave Grohl being "the only one who seemed to get it" made me think that we had maybe already seen a similar mode of performance from Kurt Cobain, a mainstream popular artist who I would argue never put aside his performance. There are obvious parallels (e.g. Cobain performed a number of times in "drag" or in a wheelchair), and more subtle ones (Cobain was a trickster). Cobain's performance could also, I think, be described as a meditation on fame, albeit a reluctant and ultimately tragic one. I would also argue that as Nirvana almost single-handedly changed the mainstream popular music landscape in the early nineties, Gaga is performing the same necessary task in the present by bringing the underground to the mainstream with the key difference being that it is disguised as a mainstream entertainment. In any case, it is equally revolutionary.

    Also, I haven't had a chance to read everything here yet, so I apologize if this has been discussed elsewhere, but a quick point about the Born This Way album (and I am referring to the 17-track edition as being the definitive version). It's very hard to separate the music from the project - another poster somewhere in this site commented that the albums were almost like a side-note to the project - and I agree with this statement. The VMA performance highlights this superbly - You and I is, for me now, for better or for worse, inseparable from Jo.

    Now, in all honesty, I'm not a big pop fan. I have what I think are wide and varied tastes in music (which I won't bore you with here), although I in general tend toward music that is conceptual in nature, as opposed to performance-based (i.e. I react far more strongly to the emotion attached to ideas rather than to that which is well played or sung). After many listenings I'm convinced that this album is some kind of mad masterpiece, the OK Computer of pop so to speak. The reactions in the mainstream press are particularly interesting also - Gaga the performer is never out of the picture, so the music does not speak for itself - and even the positive reviews seem to be somewhat qualified with subtle disclaimers.

    My point, however, is this (and I may indeed not need to say this to that many people here): give this one some time and it'll blow your head off. Maybe not the first, second, third, fourth ...

  113. This is really a fascinating discussion. I come into this as a recent Gaga convert (four obsessive weeks and counting ... the happy result of an all night whiskey, pot and YouTube session), and an even more recent discoverer of Gaga Stigmata, and although at this point I don't know if there is a whole lot more I could add (which hasn't been said far more eloquently by any number of contributors here) with reference to the VMA performance, I have a few thoughts which although still in the process of forming, I would like to mention here.

    The comment earlier from Professor Paw Paw regarding Dave Grohl being "the only one who seemed to get it" made me think that we had maybe already seen a similar mode of performance from Kurt Cobain, a mainstream popular artist who I would argue never put aside his performance. There are obvious parallels (e.g. Cobain performed a number of times in "drag" or in a wheelchair), and more subtle ones (Cobain was a trickster). Cobain's performance could also, I think, be described as a meditation on fame, albeit a reluctant and ultimately tragic one. I would also argue that as Nirvana almost single-handedly changed the mainstream popular music landscape in the early nineties, Gaga is performing the same necessary task in the present by bringing the underground to the mainstream with the key difference being that it is disguised as a mainstream entertainment. In any case, it is equally revolutionary.

    Also, I haven't had a chance to read everything here yet, so I apologize if this has been discussed elsewhere, but a quick point about the Born This Way album (and I am referring to the 17-track edition as being the definitive version). It's very hard to separate the music from the project - another poster somewhere in this site commented that the albums were almost like a side-note to the project - and I agree with this statement. The VMA performance highlights this superbly - You and I is, for me now, for better or for worse, inseparable from Jo.

    Now, in all honesty, I'm not a big pop fan. I have what I think are wide and varied tastes in music (which I won't bore you with here), although I in general tend toward music that is conceptual in nature, as opposed to performance-based (i.e. I react far more strongly to the emotion attached to ideas rather than to that which is well played or sung). After many listenings I'm convinced that this album is some kind of mad masterpiece, the OK Computer of pop so to speak. The reactions in the mainstream press are particularly interesting also - Gaga the performer is never out of the picture, so the music does not speak for itself - and even the positive reviews seem to be somewhat qualified with subtle disclaimers.

    My point, however, is this (and I may indeed not need to say this to that many people here): give this one some time and it'll blow your head off. Maybe not the first, second, third, fourth ...

  114. I feel the same way about the album. I never thought about the Kurt Cobain parallels but it makes a lot of sense. I'd say Gaga herself though is, in many ways, the anti-Cobain.

    Rather than reluctantly famous, she essentially willed herself into being famous. Yes, she worked her ass off, but her attitude and drive turned her debut album into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Jo, on the other hand, is the anti-Gaga. By extension that makes him analogous to Kurt Cobain. They certainly seem to share a lot of traits. Much like Cobain, Jo's biggest goal seems to be to thoroughly piss off the mainstream and turn it on its head.

    Gaga has had a similar agenda, but she first decided to seduce the mainstream before blatantly subverting it. In contrast, Jo's debut performance was a giant middle finger to everything that has become mainstream in popular music.

    Pop is completely dominated by female artist right now, and the norm is electronic dance pop. Jo and 'Yoü and I' (particularly the version performed at the VMAs) couldn't be further from the established norm if they tried.

  115. August 28, 2011 10:44 PM Meghan
    In this post, Meghan commented on the fact that ONE time at the VMA's she heard Gaga, in her acceptance speech, say "me" which broke Jo's character. How is this contributing to anything about Jo or Gaga? Did she watch the performance looking for that ONE FLAW?? Sad for me, and all of us, that this person had to point that out. Does she perhaps want credit for finding it? Is she feeling superior as if she could have done a better job? She even said it affected her enjoyment of the performance. I want to cry because people like this are allowed in the conversation at all. I realize this post is not thought provoking either, though it is emotional, from tears. As a fan, I feel we should all look for the best in Gaga. The press does the job of pointing out flaws. Maybe Meghan should find a different place to point out Gaga's flaws.

  116. Hi Gagame, I appreciate that you're a passionate fan and that you're standing up for her, and I'd like you to know that, yes I'm one too. However I've got a slight bone that I'd just like to get of me chest, and that's that this forum here is for a good ol' fashioned full throttle discussion about m'lady. We can criticize, if need be, and sometimes that's necessary, her being equally two things to all people, and that. But we all love her here, or at least I do, that is, and a bit of healthy criticism is what keeps the discussion going sometimes (just as your input inspired this very commentolo). One more point before I hit the can, Meghan's comment was very accurate and insightful, and led to discussions abounding on this page, all about, my sweety, etc ...


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