A Bad Romance: Lady Gaga and the Return of the Divine Monster

In: Monstrous manifestations: Realities and the Imaginings of the Monster

In the Middles Ages a monster was often considered a prodigy and a sign of the divine power of God, and it was not until the eighteenth century that the monster turned into a freak and was put on display to horrify and amuse audiences. Scholars from the field of disability studies have claimed that the understanding of the so-called freak as ‘abnormal’ is a socially constructed discourse, and suggested the less degrading term extraordinarity instead. This chapter adapts this theoretical approach and examines how the role of the monster has acquired new significations in modern societies. It claims that the monstrous body can actually be considered extraordinary rather than ‘disabled’ and wrong. Today this shift makes it possible for a pop star to be worshipped as a monster in mainstream pop culture. Based on Lady Gaga’s music video ‘Bad Romance,’ this chapter investigates how Gaga transgress dichotomies through her performances and establishes a new kind of bodily discourse in which monstrosity and beauty go hand in hand. By analysing the visual aesthetics in the video, I show how Gaga imitates and manages to stay recognisable in a heterosexual matrix and normative body discourses, while deconstructing them from the inside with her crippled spine, enormous eyes, spastic movements and the ‘rah rah ah-ah-ah’ monster sound. The thesis of this investigation is that Lady Gaga offers us a glimpse of a possible future where the monster is no longer tied to the freak show, where deviations from the normative beauty discourse is a prodigious plus, and where we are all invited to the Monster Ball.

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