Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bullying, Lady Gaga, and Celebrity Intervention

One of many Gaga-inspired signs at the 2009 National Equality March

I, like I assume most people are, am a little confused by Lady Gaga. I mean... duh. I tend to ignore her horrible ditties like "Judas" and "Just Dance," but I really honestly enjoy a lot of her music and have actually really enjoyed the fanatical joy that fills gay men when her music comes on. It's like the time I saw Justin Bieber in concert--I was totally amused and enjoyed his set because the rabidly fanatical 12 year old girls reacting to him were just so amusing.

Anyway, my friends and I have talked about Gaga, and we're all sort of at the same place with her. Sometimes listening to her in interviews I feel totally disconnected from her because she can be so, so pretentious (while other times her pretension feels justified), we tend to agree that we love what she has done for the LGBT community. While not perfect, I think she is certainly one of the most vocal and influential celebrities on the issue of LGBT rights and equality and that takes a lot of courage. She turned down a lucrative deal with Target because of their questionable donation history to anti-LGBT causes. She has continually offered her celebrity to LGBT-themed events, and she seems to honestly feel incredibly obligated toward to her gay fans, especially for young fans for whom pop culture can be one of their earliest outlets of inspiration and affirmation when they feel like their identities must remain hidden.

I'm often skeptical of celebrities who use their fame for causes, I know they do a lot of good work but it tends to also benefit their careers (I once wrote an Aristotelian critique of Bono for a Philosophy paper in high school), but despite my confusion with Lady Gaga, I'm really glad that she does what she does. In the wake of another young suicide, that of Jamey Rodemeyer, she recently performed "Hair" as a tribute to him at a concert and was visibly moved by his memory:

Further back, she performed a cover of "Imagine" with lyrics changed to reflect on Matthew Shepherd's death at a HRC dinner in 2009.

Currently, Lady Gaga is advocating for legislation that will make bullying a hate crime. And when you think about the scary, right-wing reactions to anti-gay bullying, saying that it's natural or that teaching children not to bully is pushing some "gay agenda," this kind of legislation is important. It's not just violent hate crimes against other people that are killing gay teens (or perceived gay teens), it's violent, coercive bullying that is destroying young lives by convincing children that their only way out of misery is through suicide. I am glad that so many people are standing up to anti-gay bullying in the wake of all these tragedies, but I am very grateful that Lady Gaga is using her fame for good. This is celebrity intervention at its best.

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