We’re Plastic but We Still Have Fun

I’m not a Lady GaGa fan and I think I’ll never be: her pop music, though strongly influenced by David Bowie and the Queen, is not appealing to me; her avant-garde sense of fashion is extremely interesting, but I don’t like her trying too hard to catch the media’s attention and to shock. I’m not her fan but it cannot be denied that she’s the hottest pop sensation out there, because she is talented and she perfectly manages her image, using clothes [1], make-up and extravagant hairstyles which always hit the mark.

A friend of mine asked me to watch her latest music video, Paparazzi, and to tell him my thoughts. Well, I was so impressed by what I saw! Paparazzi is directed by Jonas Akerlund, one of my favourite video directors [2], whose unique mix of glamour, dirt, decadence, death and beauty perfectly turns Lady GaGa’s song in images. This is a video about the pursue of fame [3], so it contains autobiographical hints.

The video is shot like a short movie, so it opens and closes with credits. The first scenes are set in a beautiful mansion, decorated by statues and colums, and in a bedroom, where objects are scattered all around a bed.

Lady GaGa and her lover (the Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard) are lying on a bed and smooching. The camera captures every detail around the bed – some bills with Lady GaGa’s face and Beats by Dr. Dre headphones – and of her outfit. In this scene, she’s wearing a white corset and a feather-trimmed robe, rhinestone necklaces, Glovedup patent leather fingerless gloves and Christian Dior rings.

In the following scene, the action is set on a balcony. The blonde singer and her lover are still making out, but this time some paparazzi start taking pictures of them. The lover is conscious of their presence and he even asks her to smile at them. They start fighting and she falls from the balaustrade, hitting the ground. Paparazzi immediately surround her bloody body and continue taking pictures (this is a reference to the cynicism of the media). The first part of the video finishes with a fall, which has a double meaning: not only physical, but also symbolic (GaGa is not the it girl anymore, now she’s dead).

It looks like her death has been staged: she wears a Thierry Mugler decorated bustier and pearls around her neck, which she didn’t have before the fall. She’s even wearing square mirrored sunglasses. This shot reminds me of Helmut Newton’s 79 Central Park West, taken in 1977, where a beautiful and naked blonde girl is lying – dead – on a terrace.

What happens after death? We don’t know, but Lady GaGa makes her (apparent) last journey by falling towards a vortex. The final shot of this scene is a clear homage to the sublime opening credits by Saul Bass from Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo. The same reference can be found in other scenes of the video.

Her death was obviously apparent, so here she is again, sitting on a wheelchair but ready to kick back. In this scene, she enters her tacky mansion (full of gold details, marble floors, big bunches of flowers, velvet chairs) with tuxedo-clad boys (her handymen?). Her outfit is hilarious: she’s wearing a leopard jumpsuit, a leather jacket with padded shoulders, studs and chains, round-framed sunglasses, Balmain studded sandals and a Betony Vernon for Swarovski red rhinestone collar with a white cross on it. This is a nightmare from the hair rock era!

She takes away her clothes and something gorgeous appears beneath. In this scene she tries to walk with the use of crutches and she’s wearing the infamous robot costume and helmet by Thierry Mugler. This is one of the most interesting moments of the video: she’s compared to a robot and this marks her renewal and re-birth after the apparent death. The metal corset could also be a reference to Maria, the female robot in Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang, who is the wicked symbol of capitalism trying to crush the working class. In the movie, the robot is created as a mechanical double of Maria, the heroine of the working class, with the purpose of creating chaos among the workers. The borders between woman and machine blur, and the false prophetess causes the workers’ revolt. In the case of Paparazzi, GaGa wearing a robot costume could also be a victim of capitalism and of a greedy society which has turned her into something inhuman.

The metal costume she’s wearing is iconic, one of the most famous and influential pieces by the visionary French designer: it was made famous by the model Emma Sjoberg, who wore it in George Michael’s Too Funky music video in 1992 and it was also seen on Helena Christensen (portrayed by Herb Ritts). Gisele Bundchen wore a slightly different version in the 2006 Pirelli calendar, shot by Mert and Marcus.

The central part of the video sees Lady GaGa making out with three blonde boys, who actually look like girls.

I think they are a mix of Duff McKagan, the Guns n’ Roses bassist, and Bill Kaulitz, the Tokio Hotel frontman.

Lady GaGa is not a natural born dancer, but there is a short dance sequence in the video. It is set in a ballroom, with colums and marble floors, stuccoed ceiling and a huge chandelier. In this case, she’s wearing a white Boudicca Couture jumpsuit with black ruffles at the hip and on the shoulder.

The references to Vertigo and the theme of the fall can be found everywhere in the video. Check the picture above: a housemaid lies dead on the floor and the image really pays homage to the playbill of the film by Hitchcock. Glimpses of beautiful women’s dead bodies appear in the central part of the video: it is not clear who they are, but this reminds me of Izima Kaoru and Melanie Pullen’s works, who have staged death for their fashion shots.

The third part of the video is the revenge of the formerly dead singer. I hate her outfit here (a mice-printed yellow jumpsuit by Jeremy Scott, from the fall/winter 2009 collection), but it’s funny and suits her. GaGa is sitting on a sofa with her lover: he’s reading a newspaper and is sporting a metal patch on an eye, and she’s sipping tea from her famous purple teacup. She serves him some Neuro Sonic and puts some powder poison in it. The lover immediately dies, she calls 911 and confesses her crime. In this scene she’s sporting a bizarre lip make-up: the black lipstick is applied on the central part of the lips and this resembles the make-up of a geisha. Her Mickey-Mouse sunglasses are by Jeremy Scott for Linda Farrow.

They were seen on Natalia Vodianova, shot by Mario Testino for Vogue UK (May 2008 issue).

These sunglasses are not the only creation by Scott which pays homage to Mickey Mouse. He designed a Mickey Mouse helmet for Right to Bear Arms, from the spring/summer 2007 collection. This helmet (mixing war and childhood memories) reminds me of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket: the protagonist, Joker (Matthew Modine), is a soldier/journalist, who has written Born to Kill on his helmet, but has also a peace sign on it; in the final scene, after killing of a young Vietnamite soldier girl, he and his mates walk the streets of Hue City singing the Mickey Mouse March.

The last part of the video symbolizes Lady GaGa’s comeback: the headlines of the magazines are all about her, even if she’s handcuffed and brought away by the police. The outfit she wears in this scene is incredible: she’s pantless but wearing a Gloved Up lame jacket and a chain corset. Her hairstyle is like a braided tower, her sunglasses are vintage Versace [4] and her spiked ring is similar to the Noir ring seen on Rihanna.

The final scene sees Lady GaGa posing for her mugshot [5]. Here she’s joking in front of the camera and doing the naughty girl.

The metal panier dress she’s wearing comes from Dolce & Gabbana spring/summer 2007 collection, inspired to Mugler’s sexy robot theme.

Lady GaGa is not my favourite singer, but as long as she experiments with visual arts and fashion, I’ll admire her fearlessness.

 

 

[1] She is said to design herself her stage clothes, but she is influenced by designers like Martin Margiela, Thierry Mugler and Hussein Chalayan. As for her hairstyles, Paris Hilton has often sported Gaga’s trademark hairbow, and Nicole Richie channeled her straight mane in a photoshoot for Black Book.

[2] I liked Spun, the film he directed in 2002, but he shows his full potential in music videos. The most famous (and controversial) videos he has directed are Smack My Bitch Up by the Prodigy, Ray of Light and American Life by Madonna (the censored version – which protests against war – is amazing), My Favourite Game by the Cardigans, Beautiful by Christina Aguilera and Country Girl by the Primal Scream.

[3] GaGa’s debut album, The Fame, is about how anyone can feel famous, about pop art and the media. I think this is a clever and up-to-date concept, because contemporary society is dominated by the media. Everything can be caught by the paparazzi’s cameras, so anyone can become famous if he/she attracts their attention. Just think of the celebrities (Nicole Richie, Paris and Nicky Hilton and many others) who have become famous without an apparent reason. This is also a self-observation, because Lady GaGa has become so famous thanks to the attention of the media.

[4] She uses these shield sunglasses in real life, too. She also wore them in Just Dance music video, shot by Melina, heavily influenced by David LaChapelle and Terry Richardson’s advertising campaigns for Sisley.

[5] She’s glamourous in this scene, but check the mugshots of some celebrities (Kimora Lee Simmons and Paris Hilton, for example): they looked hot even in prison.

Source, source and source.

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26 comments

  1. Wow. I had never seen this video so far, but I have to say it: it is really stunning. So many suggestions…

    Not a fan of her music too (a part from the catchy Boney-M esque “Pokerface”) but her visual style is really impressive.

    Nice review!

    1. Very creepy indeed! I loved it, a sort of Lord of the Flies meets Lemony Snicket😉 The singer with the face painted as a skeleton reminds me of Tre Allegri Ragazzi Morti, an awesome Italian indie rock band: Davide, Enrico and Luca always wear skeleton masks during their live performances, music videos and interviews!

    1. Right! Tre Allegri Ragazzi Morti always introduce their live shows describing it as “l’incredibile spetaculo de la vida, l’incredibile spetaculo de la muerte”, so the reference to death is very present in their imagery.
      The hair metal boys are quite creepy, imo: they’re so skinny, they really look like Kaulitz😦 On the other hand, GaGa has explained she likes boys who look like girls😉

  2. Me ignorante come al solito commento in italiano.
    L’avevo già scritto sul mio blog quello che penso di questa “artista”: non mi piace, non mi piace come canta, come tenta di ballare nè come si acconcia…probabilmente sarà una delle tante donne all’avanguardia poco comprese dalle sue contemporanee, chissà, ma io non riesco proprio a capire perchè si debba necessariamente finire nel volgare e nell’eccesso per avere successo con una canzone…!!
    baciotto!

    1. Questo infatti secondo me è il suo punto debole, ed è il motivo principale per cui non piace nemmeno a me. Non penso sia necessario andare in giro in mutande per essere apprezzate come cantanti o per mettersi in mostra. Così facendo, fa passare in secondo piano il suo talento musicale, che è piuttosto notevole. Io porto sempre come esempio Beyoncè, che è bella, ha talento, ma non si è mai spogliata (nei video o dal vivo) per sottolineare il suo essere sexy. La sua è classe, il comportamento di Lady GaGa…mah…è sgomitare per un posticino in prima fila.

  3. I don’t really like her because she’s always trying too hard and pushing to be under the spotlight, but her debut album is impressive! Her music is easy, funny pop, really nice to listen to (and she’s got a good voice, too, even if in some songs – for example in ‘Summerboy’ – she sounds like Gwen Stefani). I think she’s really different from Britney, because she’s truly a musician (she studied in one of the most famous music schools in New York and, before starting her career as a singer, she wrote lyrics for Britney, Fergie, Pussycat Dolls and Akon). She’s not the product of some producer, but it seems like she’s completely self-conscious about her music, her image and her career, and this is a plus, imo.

    1. I’m probably wrong, but I think they are a limited edition and so very hard to find. In any case, why don’t you contact Linda Farrow Vintage customer service? I’m sure they’ll give you the info you need.

  4. Omg, I totally saw the Duff McKagan thing as well when I saw it, a great blog. Lady Gaga is a true pop culture icon!

    1. She has got the amazing ability to take all the latest underground trends and to make them mainstream. She is not original (she has copied many of her outfits from designers who are not very famous – take the bubble costume first seen on Hussein Chalayan’s runway), but she knows for sure how to keep the medias’ attention on her.

  5. Have you considered the resemblance between the Mugler robot costume and the robot Maria from the film Metropolis? In Paparazzi, Lady Gaga is a victim of the same capitalism that promotes her to mythic status in the video. Capitalism turns her into something less than human.

    1. Thanks a lot for the suggestion!
      I’ve added in the text, because Mugler costume really resembles the female robot in Metropolis and because her role somehow mirrors GaGa’s in that part of the video.

  6. “I don’t like her trying too hard to catch the media’s attention and to shock”

    I agree completely. I have no problem with a diverse set of personalities, but going to ridiculous levels for the sake of shock value and the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” cop-out is a major turn-off.

    That’s primarily the same reason I have no use for the creators of “South Park.” When your primary intention is to vex the MPAA (which is radically different than it occurring as an unintended consequence), you’ve proven you aren’t worth my time.

    1. I couldn’t have said it with better words. Agree 100% I’ve never watched South Park for the exact same reason you’ve explained in the comment. When something “outrageous” is pointless and useless, because its only goal is arousing the media’s attention, is trash to me.

  7. Thanks for this info. But you got one wrong the blonde guys are The Sunset Triplets they are not from Guns N’ Roses or anything they have their own band Snake O’ Eden. Btw their names are Kelii Swede he is the vocalist, Izzy Swede is the bassist, Rock Swede is the keyboardist. They are from Sweeden.🙂

    1. I just wrote they REMIND me of a member of the Guns ‘n Roses and of Bill Kaulitz. Thanks for letting me know their exact identity.

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