Lady Gaga’s Telephone Video – A Pop-Culture Play Land


With her new video for the single Telephone, Lady Gaga blends art, consumerism, sex, violence, media,  and a little Beyoncé and creates a smart and refreshing nod to post-modern surrealism.  Directed by Jonas Åkerlund, the cultural references abound in this beautifully photgraphed and controversial video.  They are so plentiful that MTV.com has provided you with not one, but two pop-cultural cheat sheets to help you over-analyze the video—first premiering on MTV and then later rumored to have been banned from the network.  

For its part, MTV.com is reporting that the video has not been banned from MTV and will continue to run on the station (when and if they do decide to actually play music videos). If MTV had banned the video, it is arguable to whether they would have been justified.  The network regularly features girl on girl violence (and even guy on girl violence, i.e. Snooki’s lament), girl on girl kissing, blurred nudity, and blatant product placement.  I mean seriously, all this can happen in one segment of the Real World.  The Lady Gaga video does all this, but in an old is new again way that should please her fan base.  If you are not sufficiently offended, Gaga also gives you a crotch shot, barely covered mammaries, a mass murder, heavy lesbian innuendo, and blatant nods to S&M.  Perhaps the most offensive thing about the video to some circles will be its obvious feminist critque.

The video goes far beyond I am woman hear me roar; its more like I am woman watch me use equal parts sex and violence to erase male social, cultural, and economic dominance…or to just kill.  Tyrese’s character objectified a woman patron and is shortly there after poisoned to death.  Black widow indeed.  Goodbye hegemonic masculinity; hello girl on girl make out session and tortuously high stiletto boots…right?  Perhaps not so barrier breaking after all , nevertheless the experts have plenty of content to analyze, under a feminist critique.

Gaga channels everyone from Gwen Stefani and Madonna to Michael Jackson and  Marilyn Manson.  Beyoncé gets in on the fun giving us a little Bettie Page and fueling rumors that she will indeed be our next Wonder Woman.  We also get a little Thelma & Louise action, a lot of Quentin Tarantino, and I seeing the influence of Baltimore film director John Waters (Cry Baby, Hairspray, as well. 

What else rocks about this video?  The fashion.  The shoes alone are worth a watching the entire almost ten minute long video at least twice. The video showcases everything from literally smoking spectacles (which chic, crazy, and ironic).  If cigarettes are indeed currency in jail, then the shades Gaga is rocking are like jailhouse Gucci. Also, be sure to checkout Gaga’s black and white graphic suit and insanely large fedora.  Beyoncé rocks a yellow strapless patent leather number with a matching cowgirl hat that is just fashion eye candy.

This video is what Madonna would have done today, if she weren’t heavy into yoga, Kabbalah, and mothering orphans.  Its not safe, but its critique of social norms is so deafeningly loud its goes beyond simply courting controversy.  I think maybe Gaga was looking to get banned?  I mean the rumors will definitely help the songs popularity and raise curiosity about the video. 

So what did you think? Does Telephone ring your bell or gravely offend you?  Is Lady Gaga diva or devil?  Did Lady Gaga manage to make Beyoncé interesting or at least not so safe?  Was this pop-culture commentary or overkill?

Thoughts.

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3 Comments

  1. I agree with you. Lady Gaga is certainly channeling Madonna, Gwen Stefani, and definitely paying homage and or evoking the Tarantino spirit with a little Drag Queen Diva thrown in there to for complete eclectic wonder. I certainly believe she was looking to get banned, I mean she busted on the scene attempting to be a controversial figure. One thing that I’ve noticed, however, is that like Timaya (the YouTube video blogger- real name Qaadir Howard) suggested that Gaga is the same pop artist using popular UNDERGROUND GLBTQ themes. Taking all the themes away, she’s just another artist such as the aforementioned female pioneers of modern pop culture (circa 1980s on). As for what she’s done for Beyonce- she’s still a boring artist that has catchy tunes to me. She gets some credit for being apart of the video but she was still quite safe in the video. Take note of how she was “bleeped” when saying “motherf*cker”. She’s still same ol’ Beyonce. I’m not as bored but still bored nonetheless!

  2. […] celibacy contradicts her sexualized image and lyrics.  Her music video for the hit dance single Telephone  features a full frontal crotch shot; a move that does not exactly inspire modesty. Gaga, who is […]

  3. […] Gaga’s Telephone video filled with bondage, sex, and Quentin Tarantino references felt risky and subversive less […]


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