“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga (2009)

While I think Lady Gaga is quite talented (and one of the most musically versatile performers to come down the pike in the last decade), there’s something about the cult of personality that surrounded her immediately after she blew up that rubbed me the wrong way.

As I’m sure you know if you’re reading this, Gaga quickly developed an army of “monsters”, devoted fans who bought every single and clung to every word she uttered. Much of that army (or at least a very vocal portion) consisted of young queer men. While I appreciated Gaga’s “be yourself” message (in addition to her clear support of queerness), there was an element of her persona that assisted in reinforcing the stereotype of queer men as being effeminate and dramatic and while that’s all good if that’s what you are, it’s not a place where I see any representation of myself. It’s the dominant narrative in pop culture when it comes to queer maleness, and I don’t think it should be. I also think a lot of young gay men that don’t fit in with the typical narrative either drive themselves further into the closet because they don’t see themselves in pop culture’s representation of people like them, or they become less of their true selves because they believe assimilation is the only way that they can survive within the queer community (and just for the record, I am using the words “gay” and “queer” interchangeably.)

Maybe a few months before “Bad Romance” came out, I remember complaining on Facebook about Gaga’s ubiquity and wondering why just about every queer man I knew was…uh, gaga over her. I specifically remember one response that came from another queer man, maybe ten years older than me, who said something to the effect of “oh, just give in.” Which is interesting and disappointing: someone doesn’t share your fandom of an artist whose overarching ethos is based on proud individuality and you’re telling them to assimilate? It brought to mind every time I’ve been told I’m not queer enough (not to mention every time I’ve been told I’m not Black enough) and left a very bitter taste in my mouth.

“Bad Romance” is good enough to make me put that bitterness aside. And that says a lot.

Also, for what it’s worth, I’ve softened on Gaga a fair amount. But for a while, I thought of her the way a lot of people think of Dave Matthews Band, for example. They say they dislike the artist, but their real dislike is for the vocal element of the fanbase.

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