Lady Gaga – Gagaism: From Pop Cultural Phenomenon and Why it Needs to Stop

I respect Lady Gaga. I sort of like her, but she’s never been my cup of tea. I do understand why people would like her, and respect that. However, sometimes things are just… too much.

There is never a day I browse through some of the comments on YouTube or comments on any website, where there isn’t someone comparing ANY artist/musician/group to Lady Gaga. “That’s so Gaga” they say. It was cute the first few couple of months when Lady Gaga exploded into the worldwide pop culture scene and became everyone’s fave Monster Queen. She was… kinda queer, and weird, and here to stay.

Her theatricality was alluring in a pop music scene where we had forgotten about performances. There is more to performing live than just singing and looking hot. There needs to be presence, and Lady Gaga seemed like an exciting proposal. She had that engaging aura that could grab you once you were flicking through channels and just happened to come across MTV’s VMAs. That energy flowing through fire in her eyes, just like Britney in her own MTV VMA presentation [1] when she simply shocked us with skin-colored tight pants, looking at the audience as she rose from the floor and said “ooh, I did it again.

Of course, Madonna did it from the get-go, as she frolicked on stage of the first ever VMAs singing Like a Virgin [1] — it was screechy and awkward but it got people talking at the time, and got them for more. What would she do next? What could she possibly do? She wasn’t quite ready for the theatrics, but she managed to capture the audience with her manly-suited electric strut as she put her microphone between that tight corset in Express Yourself [1] while humping the air. It was magnetic.

Then Vogue happened.

The visuals, the tightly bound breasts that were about to pop out at any minute,  the people on stage, and that presence. Madonna was sizzling in that performance, but she didn’t become the Queen of Pop by mere single performances. It was the hard work through the years that put her on top for almost two decades. Two decades in the world of pop where the lifespan of a star is usually five years, in which we usually move on to the next big thing. It was two decades in which one didn’t need to stand up and defend Madonna because her presence was not to be disputed.

Of course, Britney didn’t have the same luck. Five years after the killer Oops, I Did it Again performance, she was already divorced after a shotgun wedding, married again, and with her first child. By 2007, Britney was making headlines for being dragged in an ambulance and shaving her head. Britney was a cultural phenomenon in her prime, but it was never called Britneyism or Spearsism. She didn’t call her fans her Little Monsters, it was never such madness… but her fall from grace was written on the wall. Fans of Spears had to stand up and defend their idol now, her title of Pop Princess was in question and there were a bunch of wannabes who tried to become the next best thing but were burnt even faster.

But then it was 2008, and Lady Gaga exploded with The Fame. With composition skills, production, vocals and theatrics, Lady Gaga seemed like a winning combination. Everyone was talking about her, marveling at her outrageous sense of style for the good or for the bad puns. It’s not yet five years since she took stand on the world stage, yet people revere her like she’s a god among gods.


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

19 Responses

  1. Red says:

    Nice article, Amy!!

    “In all honesty, there wouldn’t be any problems if fans didn’t keep giving hyperbole like this to their idol, but to them there’s nothing before or after Lady Gaga”

    I think this quote nails it perfectly. As you know, I’m a pretty big Gaga fan. But even I can’t stand some of the fans sometimes. It’s becoming unbearable to read comments on YouTube anymore, whether it be a Gaga video or a Slipknot song. Somehow, someway, Gaga/Twilight/Bieber are always being brought into the conversation.

    Loved that you included the 2009 VMA performance. I was away for military training when Gaga broke through, so if I remember correctly, that performance was one of the first times (if not the very first) that I saw Gaga. That, my friend, was love at first sight. :)

    • amy says:

      @Red, I know you are ;D

      I read YouTube comments to get a sense of what people are thinking, but I always end up saying why I even bother. LOL

      To be honest with everyone, it’s not only Gaga/Twilight/Bieber alone any longer… there’s those horrible message of “Like if you are listening this ten years later” or 2011, or whatever other version. The internet is getting out of hand LOL

      I also love that VMA performance, I think it was the first one I saw. I remember my friend in Toronto try to get me hook on Gaga when the MV for Poker Face came out, but I just didn’t like it. xD But when I saw this performance, I thought she was good and started paying more attention. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else from Gaga that has gotten me the same or similar reaction, though.

      Have you seen her live?

      • Red says:

        @amy, I haven’t. She came to Omaha back in March, but I was already over in Iraq. Hopefully I can catch her sometime when I get back!

        • amy says:

          @Red, I’m hoping for a Latin American tour xD despite all the criticism, I do want to see her show live.

        • Rodrigo says:

          @amy, And despite this article you write, you still hope to attend a Lady Gaga concert, lol. I’m sure she’ll come. If Bieber and Spears are coming, Gaga might as well pop up.

        • amy says:

          @Rodrigo, psh – my dislike for the fanbase has nothing to do with my interest to see Gaga live. Unless… fans are going to be saying “that’s so Gaga” through it all.

  2. Roxanne says:

    I agree that the subject wouldn’t be so over blown if it wasn’t for the ‘fanatism’. Not the ‘fans’, fanatism. I disagree that the article is to be directed at a single artist (Gaga or otherwise). This should be an article about how obssessive fanatism leads to distorition of thought, complete denial of anything that isn’t their obssession and the obnoxinous, misconstrued idea that any one else who does anything remotely similar to their idol is either copying or a wannabe. Nevermind that plenty others have done it before and plenty more will do it after.

    This is a matter of being mature enough to distinguish between admiring and obssesssing. One thing is to love your idol and admire the positive things they do. Another is to convert that love into a form of veneration. We all have role models in our lives, beacons of inspiration that guide us, but there’s a fine line from there to much darker feelings.

    A lot of these people don’t even realise it but it’s a bit of a sickness. It’s not healthy at all. I have special beef with the Beliebers. Those not only obssess to the point of making me feel homicidal but to top it all off they’re mostly comprised of pre-teen girls. This is exactly why it’s useless to watch shows like the VMA’s and the MTV Movie Awards anymore. People don’t care who did it best but how many times they voted for their favorites. I’ve even seen artists on twitter giving out prices to users who vote the most in random contests, just feeding the sickness.

    It’s gotten way out of control. When the Justin Beiber 3D-movie wins “Most Jaw Dropping Moment” award over 127 Hours… you know something in the world has gone wrong.

    • amy says:

      @Roxanne, I had to pick Lady Gaga because she’s the most name-dropped on anything that might be remotely interesting… like seeing “that’s so Gaga” comments on Bjork’s Oceania MV when… that was released so long ago.

      I think it’s interesting that all these artists are getting compared to Gaga (Lee Hyori at one point, Laure Shang, Aguilera, 2NE1, etc), but they never get compared to each other.

      Justin Bieber is something different, he’s phenomenon is just creating mass hysteria. And yes, his fans also populate all the net with i *heart* bieber messages… but we never read “oh, Super Junior is so Bieber” LOL at least I haven’t found those… yet.

      Maybe it’s because we outgrew MTV — I never knew that could happen — but the MTV Movie Awards just never arose above its first few years. The VMAs, however, are such a pity. Not only because its lost its “cool” popularity tag, but because they have actually changed their voting to let people vote. Even worse this year, they’ve gotten rid of the Breakthrough MV category.

      You can be a fan… okay, a crazy fan, but one must always have a sense of perspective. With naming different fanaticism, it just makes it all the more crazy.

      • Rodrigo says:

        @amy, But you seem to be mostly poking against American singers with crazy ass fanbases – that’s kind of a good topic, but an easy one to do. You could easily talk about the asian singers and their fanbases. Based on the little of what I’ve learned from knowing and talking to the Jennas and Julyssas of the world, korean/japanese pop/rock fans can be just as batshit crazy/hyper as the americans who worship singers and franchises we consider to be shitty like Gaga, Bieber, Twilight, etc.

        inb4 “You’re an asshole.”

        And the VMAs jumped the shark after Britney and Madonna kissed.

        • amy says:

          @Rodrigo, true. But you won’t find a Jrock fan poking into one of Gaga’s music videos saying “this is so Gackt” LOL or something like that. At least, I haven’t run into it.

          J-music and Asian music in general is still in subculture status, and they stick to their own environments when it comes to talking. So you’ll only find them in said music videos on YouTube, or their own message boards.

          American pop culture, however – as many like to point out, is everywhere. So whenever something not American pops up on the YouTube frontpage, someone always brings up Gaga.

        • amy says:

          @Rodrigo, oh – by the way. This also stems from the Kpop crazies. It’s either, Kpop fans fighting with Jpop fans (maybe kinda like Harry Potter/Twilight) LOL And there’s also the Kpop crazies within the Kpop… fighting over things like which girl group is better, SNSD or 2NE1. LindzerDinzerTV did her Kpop101 on the color and names of the fan thing.

          But that’s almost regular fanaticism… like U vs. Alianza Lima. LOL But you’ll never see one 2NE1 fan in a SNSD MV saying “this is so 2NE1” because it is (of my knowledge) impossible to draw similarities with both groups. They are just clashing concepts.

          So yeah… there are the types of crazies… but the fact that there’s a term for Gagaism. LOL it’s just… pretty disturbing.

  3. ghost says:

    Wasn’t it really popular to say “Oh my Gaga” in China at a moment? I wonder if that died down…

    It’s a crazy world now, not even Michael Jackson had a MJism or Michaelism or anything like it, and Michael had some really crazy times – mass hysteria an all. But it never had a name. Wonder who was the first one to get a name. Is it possible that Bieber, Twilight and Gaga that started this whole crazy business?

    • amy says:

      @ghost, I don’t know the status of the “Oh my Gaga” comments. There used to be a show too… I think. LOL

      I don’t know what’s the origin of the crazy, though. xD

  4. ghost says:

    I think the internet has made everyone crazy… or maybe it’s just made sharing your opinion a lot easier and that’s why we get all this nonsensical comments about any topic. And due to our internet culture of “the more hits you get, the better ranking, the more money” we get all these so called journalists who thrive on trolling.

    E! and Entertainment Weekly are perfect examples of that.

    Maybe even IMDb, though… it still has some useful information if you skip their forums.

    • amy says:

      @ghost, yeah – it shouldn’t be the quantity of the comments, but the quality. Sometimes I don’t even know why I bother going through comments…

      I think some of the CNN posts are also thriving on trolling. It’s a pity really that news outlets need this type of game.

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