A great cultural transgressor, Lady Gaga is also a very deliberate product of her time.
I'm captivated by Lady Gaga. I don't know whether I love her or hate her, and I can't explain why I'm hanging on every utterance in a Barbara Walters interview. But this doesn't matter. The very fact that I'm tossing around words like 'genius', 'freak', 'icon' and 'phoney' in my attempts to describe her, means that I am just one person amongst millions of people in the world who cannot deny the cult of Gaga.
Lady Gaga is everything we are, and everything we are not. As she plays into the freak within us all, referring affectionately to her notoriously intense fanbase as "little monsters", our role in the creation of the 'celebrity freak' is obvious. For us, nothing is ever too outrageous, too incomprehensible. In fact, if Gaga was to act in any way 'normal', that would be truly shocking.
Placing all negative connotations of the word 'freak' aside, Gaga has several characteristics long associated with the freakish body.
1. She is a figure of excess, testing the boundaries of acceptable, or even comprehensible behaviour.
2. She is a plastic body, constantly changing and evolving. She is also confined to her body, and judged intensely by it.
3. She holds a place of undying public fascination.
Earlier this year, when the 25-year-old, New York-born popstar arrived at the Grammy Awards inside a giant egg, two things sprung to mind. Firstly, "Can she breathe?" And secondly, "Is this Michael Jackson in his hyperbaric chamber all over again?"
MJ's was a drastic publicity stunt, a monument to the immortality of celebrity, and his fear of contamination by the public. Perhaps Lady Gaga's choice to appear in a giant egg-womb was actually a means of communicating a similar sense of being untouchable, immortal, and being always, reborn.
Existing in the in-between, Gaga, like Jackson, has also been the subject of conspiracy regarding sexuality and gender. Did we think that categorising Lady Gaga as a hemaphrodite would explain her intrigue? Did we think that knowing intimate details of Jackson's sex organs would make him any easier to classify? Surely there is something 'freakish' in that desire to know.
As Lady Gaga slept through her first night in Sydney, clutching a string of pearls, complaining of being terribly lonely, a slew of fans - her little monsters waited outside her hotel in the cold.
In Lady Gaga, the 21st century has created a "Monster," and in us, she has fostered something far scarier; our own intense fascination with her. Love her or loathe her, Gaga knows what we want. Shock us, and we will love you. Act like a weirdo and make us all wish that we too could be weirdos. Even just for a day.
If all the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players, then who exactly is the freak in this sideshow?
Is it us, or is it her?
After her surprise sets at Nevermind and Arq last night she will play at the Sydney Town Hall this Wednesday. I envy anyone who is attending.
Words: Bianca Georgiou