Monday, November 23, 2009

Lady Gaga: Danse Macabre

Lady Gaga's outfit at last night's American Music Awards really caught my eye:

With her white, ethereal outfit and bone-mask she is the personification of Death: of the pretty Mexican Catrinas in their elegant dresses...

...the worship of Santa Muerte...

...both who take their ultimate inspiration from the ancient Aztec goddess of the Underworld, Mictecacihuatl.

Such anthropomorphous images of Death are ancient archetypes that are burnt into our collective memory. It does not matter that the majority of people in the audience do not make the specific connection. All that matters is that Gaga tap into that immortal current, something she does as well as her forerunners, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, and Marilyn Manson.

This is not the first foray of Lady Gaga into the world of death-related iconography, as she simulated fatally bleeding in a performance at the VMAs earlier this year, sparking a wave of "blood-stained chic" that infected the fashion runways. Her lyrics and music videos are also chock-full of morbid imagery, especially in homage to the works of Alfred Hitchcock:

"I want your psycho
Your vertigo stick
Want you in my rear window
Baby you're sick "
-- Bad Romance

Gaga is the antidote to the oft-antiseptic world of teen music, the necessary shadow-side of Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, et al. Her performances are communal and cathartic thanatic rituals allowing the public to process the publicly-televised death spirals of performers like Amy Winehouse and Lindsey Lohan. Performances like her blood-splattered VMA rendition of "Paparazzi" pretty much spell it out, are almost accusatory against the very audience she entertains.

My first instinct is to believe that by so consciously appropriating these symbols, she is immune from/protecting herself against her own self-immolation in the spotlight of fame; however, remembering the many celebrities who have consciously courted the iconography of death and have themselves died young, I'm not 100% sure on that point.

In a future post, I will look at female representations of death in the comic book medium; I was going to include it in this one, but I think the topic deserved a special focus.

But as a preview, I wanted to show the character that, for me, resonates the most with Gaga's AMA outfit, Silver Banshee:

A banshee, of course, is known for her outstanding vocal abilities.


  1. ooooo

    Now I feel better about watching the AMA's, I learned a little something. Still wish I hadn't flipped back for the Adam Lambert performance though.

  2. Haw! I saw that performance and thought her outfit looked like the result of HRGiger's Alien mating with a white artifical christmas tree!

  3. Anonymous9:51 AM

    I actually have some respect for Lady GaGa. I like how she somewhat loathes pop culture and bashes it via her music, and attacks the fashion industry by wearing her ridiculous outfits. Showing everyone that that they are, indeed, sheep/slaves to trends. Yet, she relies on it for her daily bread.

    Am I stating the obvious or am I looking into things too deeply?

  4. Tyger: My first thot was Worst. Alien. Costume. EVER.

  5. You know when Lady Gaga first came about I was ready to dismiss her as just another dance/pop music star. Her first singles on the radio did not impress me. Actually that Poker Face song still gets on my nerves. But then I started to notice this wierd sort of parrallel between the imagery she uses with a lot of superhero and totemic/mythological images. And now I find her sort of oddly fascinating. I am curious where she is going with all of this.
    Am I the only one that sees the vague superheroine look of some of her outfits?