Queen of misfits

SMU Film and Media Arts Professor Sean Griffin talks about Lady Gaga and her public personna.

Contributing Writer

Given today’s celebrity culture, one would think, “What sane person would wear a meat dress?” It’s a good question. Fashion has become synonymous with fame, but Angeline Jolie wouldn’t be caught dead wearing beef earrings to the Oscars. And Rihanna could never pull off a red carpet appearance showing up in an egg.

Such antics are reserved for one person. And she’s a Lady.

“What makes Lady Gaga interesting is that she’s so explicitly artificial,” observes Sean Griffin, a professor at Southern Methodist University where he chairs the division of film and media arts. “She has this weird dichotomy that on a certain level she’s very genuine and authentic in her emotional outreach, but then there’s the very public plastic image on display.”

Griffin, who has taught a class on lesbian and gay film and video (before Gaga burst onto the pop culture landscape), has considered how her particular iconic status has struck a different cord from many celebrities before her while harkening to those who paved the way.

And on a personal level, he wonders: What makes Gaga so important, especially to her queer fans and the community in large?

“Her impact is that she’s been so upfront and proud about supporting gay rights and so much so that it’s almost a part of her image, her brand even,” Griffin says.

That brand has encouraged all of society’s misfits, whoever they may be, to celebrate that status. In turn, this has created a win-win situation for Gaga — and whether it’s a shrewd move or happy accident, everyone from the pretty and rich to the quirky and minimum-waged can join in on the party. Everyone has hang-ups, Griffin says, but Gaga is one of the few high-profile heroes telling them that’s all right.

“She plays up her outsider, non-conventional status, saying she was this dorky kid who didn’t know how to fit in,” Griffin says. “But then she brilliantly balances that with her outrageous outfits playing her public role [and] we don’t really see the real Gaga. You could even say she’s more artificial than Madonna.”

Read the full story.

# # #