Why The Brouhaha Over Gaga?

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To quote a lawyer friend of mine:

It’s hard to be innovative when someone else got there first.

In Hollywood the attention span is very, very short. Unfortunate, because also super short is the list of genuinely new ideas to come out of pop culture lately. With everyone trying to get noticed (and the scourge that is reality TV bolstering their efforts) it’s tricky to come up with something novel.

Meanwhile, the egregiousness of a celebrity’s behavior is always in direct proportion to their status on the Pay Attention Chart. The less important you are, the more outlandish the crimes (or misdemeanors) you can commit and get away with are. On the other hand, if you’re very, very famous and you do something stupid, silly, or ridiculous, you’ll obviously generate far more press and people will more readily think you’re a jerk. I know this is pretty obvious stuff, which is why I’m still flummoxed about these aftershock-type reactions to Lady Gaga’s alterna-gender iteration Jo Calderone, who appeared at Sunday’s VMA’s. Why is his/her shtick such a shticking point for everyone?

Monday morning we read all the headlines. Everyone was in a rush to list the Ten Things You Missed and the Five Worst Moments, etc, of what turned out to be an erratic but cool evening. We got the scoop. We know how Adam Levine feels. (I still think Lil Wayne could cuss less and remain every bit as effective – but that’s just me).

Yet, the Jo Calderone discussion continues. This is beyond recaps – people are still emphatically stating just how unoriginal and uninspired a creation he is. To which I say, not only was it all four days ago (which is a nuclear winter in Hollywood time) but also – why is the question of Jo’s originality even at issue? (That’s what’s uninspired and unoriginal, if you ask me.)

I watched and thought perhaps Jo went on too long, but what doesn’t in pop culture? Whose act couldn’t be shortened by two minutes to maximum benefit? I thought it was a departure for her –  and let’s acknowledge the stakes were pretty high – but at no point did I say shame on you! That was a ripoff! Largely because clearly she wasn’t trying to do something nobody’s seen before. I immediately recalled Annie Lennox in drag at the Grammys – but does anyone honestly believe Gaga wasn’t aware of that too? Do people think she was trying to pull the wool over our eyes?  Two days later everyone else produces those same photos of Lennox. Only the images are being treated like they’re the Dead Sea Scrolls unearthed finally after furious excavation – so indignant charges of fraud and copycatting can be levelled Gaga’s way. But where, on her website or on Oprah or anywhere did Lady Gaga claim to be an original? When did she declare that she was the first of anything? Matter of fact, she brought Brian May on stage — his band spawned her name.

So why then is everyone so eager to shout “phoney” and “thief”?

I have never posted a comment on an article. But I am fascinated by what readers/viewers/users have to say so I love to read them. And I cannot help but notice that when someone makes a living as a singer/provocateur nowadays, they’re invariably under fire for stealing. And you can’t copyright controversy, can you? Did Madonna? Heavens no. I think she’s astonishing, but I also recognize that she just got there first as far as our collective memory is concerned. Lady Gaga doesn’t claim to be the first for the simple reason that someone else came before her. Several someones, in fact. Clearly she owes a huge debt to Madonna –  but does she claim otherwise? Furthermore doesn’t Madonna owe a huge debt to everyone from Greta Garbo on down? It’s all cyclical and thus impossible to call anything original. Which is why all the comments and all the criticisms seem inane to me.  It was a silly gag that went on too long but I’m pretty sure Gaga’s not trying to patent anything. She’s just trying to sell records and maybe even promote awareness for a few important social causes. Sound like anyone else we know?

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