While her albums sell plenty of copies, rockstar Lady Gaga is much better known for her high-level costumes, outrageous music videos and controversial stage antics. In fact, this has become par for the course for Gaga, in such a way that adding one more extreme public act to her resume should be a surprise to exactly no one. However, her most recent performance at this year’s SXSW, has certainly brought the critics running and a great deal of ire from certain camps in regards to how the Mother Monster is displaying her “art” and engaging her audience. In fact, other celebrities are questioning her responsibility as an icon and hero for young women, something that Gaga has repeatedly stated that she wishes to be.
During her SXSW performance, Lady Gaga hired a female performance artist to join her on stage where she was singing and playing drums. At a certain point in the song, the young woman stuck her fingers in her mouth and began reproducing the actions of someone trying to make herself vomit. One thing lead to another and the young woman began to puke copious amounts of green fluid all over the singing Lady Gaga. This action continued throughout the song.
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There was an immediate Internet response. Lady Gaga’s whole career thrives on this: immediate response. Twitter was ablaze with talk about “Gaga getting puked on! Ew! I can’t believe it!” and all kinds of shocked and horrified reactions. But that was not what recording artist and X-Factor judge, Demi Lovato calmly released into the twitterverse. Ms. Lovato, a recovering bulimic and addict, saw this in a much different light.
In her first missive, Lovato candidly remarked, “Sad… As if we didn’t have enough people glamorizing eat [sic] disorders already. Bottom line, it’s not “cool” or “artsy” at all.”
This statement catalyzed a gigantic twitter debate between Lovato and many of Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters,” rushing to her defense, trying to tell Lovato that it wasn’t trying to glorify an eating disorder, what the rockstar was doing was simply an artistic performance. Lovato’s response? “Putting the word ART in it isn’t a free card to do whatever you want without consequences.”
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Lady Gaga’s own SXSW speech, given within days of the performance, only strengthens Lovato’s arguments about Gaga’s irresponsibility. In a press conference more dramatic than the twitter wars her fans were waging against Ms. Lovato, Gaga proceeded to rip into fellow songstress Katy Perry for her aesthetics, threaten to quit the music business, brag about her own success and discuss her “ugly” obsession/need to make herself ugly based on societal standards of beauty. Another big performance, taking nothing seriously, all ego.
Paradoxically, Lovato is not the only one who has struggled with eating disorders. It seems that just a few months back, Lady Gaga too, came forward with her eating disorder. So then was it appropriate or responsible for this depiction to be part of Gaga’s show? Was it, as Gaga and her Little Monsters argue, “just art” or was it a glorification of a violent action that women like Lady Gaga and Demi Lovato have enacted upon their own bodies? Lovato takes the action seriously. Gaga doesn’t seem to. The “art” label seems to pass it off as an entertainment piece much like a sideshow act. At the end of the day, one can at least say that the Mother Monster has done what she’s best at- created a new form of borderline offensive media entertainment: Bulimia-sploitation. Lovato, in her own way, has at least allowed us to reconsider these performances and what is involved.
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