Did you know Lady Gaga wrote a song about the murder of Trayvon Martin? You wouldn’t if you heard it either because it’s kind of just about Lady Gaga being sad about…something, I guess. She’s sad that she heard gunshots close to where she used to chill with someone. Also there are no leaders. It’s a trite mess trying to feign topicality, by which I mean it’s a Lady Gaga song.
Lady Gaga performed at the Superbowl Halftime Show! That I’m sure you’re aware of. She Spider-Man-ed all over the place and performed “Telephone” without the more interesting “Telephone” singer. She also sang one of the parts of “Born This Way” (an after-school special in song form) that doesn’t refer to Asian Americans the same way your racist uncle does. At the end she caught a football. It was colorful and flamboyant and empty, by which I mean it was a Lady Gaga performance.
In case you can’t tell, I am not at all a fan of Lady Gaga. Perhaps you’re asking “why,” wondering if it’s safe to proffer that all queer folks like the same shit. I’m happy to answer that for you. I dislike Lady Gaga because Lady Gaga is safe, vacant, low-stakes allyship masquerading as revolution. Though she gained prominence speaking out against homophobia, she has always done so in the sort of stupid un-risky way that you normally see on signs carried by white people at protests who are somehow convinced if we just love each other a little more Trump will magically evaporate and Bannon will turn back into whatever deep sea freak fish he was before Breitbart fairy godmother-ed his ass into human form. Lady Gaga is the kid at your high school who was always so proud to participate in the Day of Silence but started talking at lunch.
If you need any proof of how few risks “Mother Monster” is willing to take for the values she claims to fight for, that Superbowl show is a prime example. Do you know artists don’t get paid to perform at the Halftime Show? They don’t. They do it for exposure. However, that means that there’s no financial risk to turning your performance into a protest or a political statement. So, while Lady Gaga might have just been doing what she was asked by staying relatively apolitical (and, no, I refuse to accept “gay people are human beings” as a meaningful political statement), I think it might have been nice to support her fanbase by saying something about the Vice President who supports an arcane medieval form of fake medicine that ultimately tells young gay Americans that God will hate you less if you kill yourself than if you live a productive life as a queer person. I think it would have been pretty lit if she had even played that vague Trayvon Martin song, especially because the Superbowl was on what would have been his 22nd birthday.
Instead she played it safe. She did what Gaga does. And she was praised by conservative pundits like Tomi Lahren (Tami Lauren? Toni Lutheran? Tooti Lawman?) for not being as “divisive” (read: Black) as Beyoncé was last year. Do you remember that? That was a great show. It was a meaningful show. It was a performance that used the platform of the Superbowl to say something important and to publicly refuse to bow to a venomous status quo. But even in a game defined by how many members of one franchise were open fans of our white nationalist-in-chief, Lady Gaga figured she had nothing to say other than that she thinks it’s chill if you’re born the way you are.
Now some people would disagree. Some people would say that Gaga changed the lyrics to “Born this Way” as a shot at Mike Pence. Newsweek ran a piece entitled “Lady Gaga’s Superbowl Performance Was Not Explicitly Political, But It Was Political Nonetheless.”
Fuck that noise.
It’s nearly impossible to not be slightly political in America right now, no matter what you’re talking about. I don’t need Lady Gaga sneaking low-key political rhetoric into her performance. That’s cowardly and it’s not the sort of statement that anyone needs right now. There are people in this country who don’t have the opportunity to not be political. Their bodies are political. The color of their skin is political. They are killed for being explicitly political in ways they never chose. So don’t tell me you’re taking a stand by only being outspokenly progressive in ways that might fly over Tomi Lahren’s (Timmy Lantern? Tony London?) head. That’s not good enough right now. Quiet, timid allyship is no good right now.
As a queer man, I hope Lady Gaga knows I don’t give a shit if she thinks it’s cool that I was born the way I was born. I don’t care if anyone does. Apparently, despite Mike Pence’s best anti-scientific efforts, there isn’t much we can do about it. What I do care about is that this government doesn’t make it harder for me to live my life, and easier for me to suffer, because of how I was born. Someone telling me I’m beautiful just the way I am is not worth a ton to me if I need to worry about an executive robbing me of the right to live my life. It might seem like a petty distinction but if Lady Gaga wants to take a stand she needs to learn the difference between demanding love and acceptance, and demanding change. And she needs to make her demands loudly and proudly, even if tickets for her Joanne tour are gonna go on sale the next day.