‘Up heaven’s stairway to gold /
Mine myself like coal’: Conclusion
Gaga’s creative intension with ARTPOP was to ‘bring the music industry into a new age; an age where art drives pop and the artist once again is in control of the “icon”.’ (Gaga, 2013e) Through the album’s scope of cultural narratives, from pop icons at the mercy of media discourses to anti-phallogocentric anthems and sexualised space adventures, Gaga not only considers the cultural forces affecting the ‘blonde pop icon’ but lays out a path to cultural emancipation for her and, by connection, all women.
This path to empowerment also further develops Gaga’s explorations of the constraining cultural effects of phallocentric photology and the empowering, radical nature of darkness found throughout her work. Building upon the use of light as a cultural force by patriarchal media to construct ideologically centric media personae, Gaga’s conceptualisation of light as a cultural power that constrains female agency intimately relates phallocentric photology to the objectifying abilities of the male gaze. Whether she is a ‘blonde pop icon’ trapped within the sights of the paparazzi lens or a pop star on stage unable to identify with her personal self due to the cultural complexities of her media ‘aura’, Gaga portrays photological dominance as culturally pernicious to both women and their cultural emancipation.
Thus, the only cultural space available to the ‘blonde pop icon’ in search of her emancipation is the dark. In the darkness, the cultural female body cannot be constrained or objectified because it can no longer be conceived; she is inside herself. Gaga’s music draws upon the imagery of the night, of outer space or the dance floor but these metaphors primarily serve as cultural projections for the empowering darkness that exists within the female self. The very darkness that women have ‘internalized’ (Cixous, 2010; 1944) now signifies their liberation from phallocentric photology as Gaga’s protagonists realise the radical feminine potential within them. Free from the male gaze that is unable to penetrate a cultural rebellion that emanates from within, the ‘blonde pop icon’ is free to challenge and overthrow the phallogocentric rules of society that have constrained her, even the ‘founding metaphor of Western philosophy’ (Goldman, 1998; 14) that ensures the oppositional nature of light and dark. While this ability can be utilised to erase key cultural differences such as race, as Gaga has attempted in the guise of cultural empowerment for minority identities, female emancipation from phallocentric discourses must primarily come from within each individual. Only the ‘blonde pop icon’ can emancipate herself.
Crucially, ARTPOP’s intention as a liberating cultural text for the ‘blonde pop icon’ does not aim to withdraw her from culture but instead empower her to control her own agency within the scope of phallocentric media discourses. Just as any deconstructive analysis of a cultural structure will reveal its intrinsic rules as artificially constructed, the only choice left to the critic is to continue ‘using the system’ while recognising it as ‘unstable’. (Klages, 2006; 60-61) Similarly Gaga’s awareness of the culturally constructed nature of the ‘blonde pop icon’ does not lead her to a rejection of the identity – instead she has been famously quoted as arguing “Gaga is a lie” (Paglia quoting Gaga, 2010) – but instead to a subversive course of action that aims to restore the cultural autonomy of the icon.
Gaga’s empowerment of the ‘blonde pop icon’ as a cultural identity typically manipulated by light is outlined in ‘Artpop’ as Gaga sings, ‘The colour palette you choose could profit you’. (2013d; 1.51-1.59) Although light has been utilised by phallocentric media discourses to construct and manipulate the ‘blonde pop icon’ to function as a patriarchal ideologue, Gaga argues that to liberate herself she must be willing to once again step into the light. No longer restricted by a logocentrist perception of the world, the ‘blonde pop icon’ must now claim light as her own, just as she done with her own darkness, in order to liberate herself from the control of phallocentric photology. Whilst light has ‘traditionally [been] the province of the masculine, never the feminine’, (Goldman, 1998; 15) the ‘blonde pop icon’s newly-realised cultural potential empowers her to challenge the male-ownership of light, radically transforming it through cultural hybridisation into a uniquely feminine ‘perverse hue’. (2013d; 1.39-.143) Anti-phallogocentrism contests the cultural dualities inscribed by patriarchal discourses as the ‘blonde pop icon’ realises she need neither be simply light nor simply darkness; she is inherently both.
Gaga, Lady (2013d) ‘Artpop’, Track 8 from the album ARTPOP. Written by Stefani Germanotta, Paul Blair, Dino Zisis and Nick Monson. Produced by Stefani Germanotta and Paul Blair, co-produced by Dino Zisis and Nick Monson. (California: Interscope Records.)
Gaga, Lady (2013e) ARTPOP press release statement. Originally posted to facebook.com/ladygaga, 12.07.13. URL: on.fb.me/134jaa5. (Accessed on 13.07.13)
Gaga, Lady (2013i) ‘Dope’, Track 13 from the album ARTPOP. Written by Stefani Germanotta, Paul Blair, Nick Monson and Dino Zisis. Produced by Rick Rubin and Lady Gaga. (California: Interscope Records.)
Goldman, Jane (1998) The Feminist Aesthetics of Virginia Woolf. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.)
Klages, Mary (2006) Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed. (London & New York: Continuum.)
Paglia, Camille (2010) ‘What’s sex go to do with it?’, originally published in The Sunday Times, 12.09.10. Electronic version cited: thetim.es/13dAvKQ. (Accessed on 04.08.13)