Aug 8, 2011

An Alejandro Analysis

(Note: I know it's belated, the Alejandro video came out ages ago, but I wrote this at the time and didn't have anywhere to post it -- now I do.)

Lady Gaga’s most recent video, “Alejandro”, is a flight from her usual fare of Warholian Americana-style pop and into cold Slavic sadomasochism with a touch of Nazi erotica. From what I can glean of the plot, Gaga is the sinister black-lace spider Queen of a post-apocalyptic castle/industrial warehouse where gay Adonii with black bowl-cuts and boots dance for her pleasure. She is icy and distant, but still enthralled with her dancers. She is not only a Queen, but a Madonna: cut from shots of her in a crimson rubber nun’s habit writhing in bed, to her in white underwear and dagger heels being ravaged and rolled by the Adonii on army-style cots, black ropes twisted tight across flawlessly albino bodies. There is conflict and hate, self-hate and plenty of passion in this scene. At the end of the video, the red-rubber Catholic Gaga has her chaste upturned snow-white face seared and distorted in chemical burns and the film dissolves away. As she is petrified with indecision lying on the bed, a motionless guard in black-leather military bondage sits at the foot with a gold-chrome pistol held between his legs.

Now, this is a lot to digest even for a Gaga disciple. At first, the video seems like an extremely fashionable orchestration of images with no central theme except controversy (the Lady boldly tackles sex, death, and the Catholic Church in under nine minutes). However, for all its unsettling vagueries, the video is still coherently Gaga. It is still her brand of immaculate pop, just stone-cold immaculate (more Americana would have been comforting, solidifying her image further, but innovative artists make a point to defy all convention -- even if it is their own). And the video does have a theme, the one that was advertized: Lady Gaga’s relationship with her gay fans. She is their Queen (unconscious wordplay on the gay epithet, maybe? I still can’t pin down exactly how genius Gaga knows she is), she lords over them and watches them worship her, but still cannot connect with them in a physical, human way. They strain against each other, but with trapped, tortured expressions – it is an impossible effort. Not only is she a woman and therefore unwanted by them, she has also made herself into an image and so cannot exist or relate as a simply living, breathing person to anybody. She is GAGA, a god, a savior, their commodity (in another scene, she is tossed from man to man in a brawl-style circle). The symbolism of Lady Gaga as a nun shows forbidden longing. No matter how much she may want one of her bowl-cut gays, the fact remains that he would rather bunk up with Fernando or Roberto than smooth down the shaking snake-white flesh of Queen Gaga. She loathes her own fantasies about the army cots, and yet is obsessed and conflicted by them. In the end, she succumbs and is destroyed.

The perfect ending touch to the video is the sequence of black-and-white flashing shots, with Gaga in beautifully flared and shapely black, strutting down two lines of marching gay militants and snapping her fingers like a 1920's showgirl. It is the floor show from The Rocky Horror Picture Show reincarnate, played to an “empty house in the middle of the night”; in this case, a clean and chic post-apocalyptic wasteland. The marching/dancing performance with gays in uniform is a manifestation of Gaga’s triumph over her conflicted feelings. And, just like in Rocky Horror, the whole thing collapses into an orgy by the end and all will is absolved in pleasure. Though even as Gaga is undulating over one of her splayed white dancers, she’s singing “I’m not your babe, I’m not your babe…” Her giving into pleasure is only a temporary flight into madness. It is all a fantasy. In the end, we see that she is still lying on her bed, racked with indecision forever, a perfect image of a Madonna all wrapped up in skin-tight red rubber with a black rosary clenched in her fingers.

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