Hey friends. Before we get started, be warned. I'm going to bring up human trafficking again.
This is an in-depth description and analysis of Lady GaGa's music video for Bad Romance. It is long. It is detailed. The beginning is my analysis, so that you can get the benefit of my opinion without having to wade through a lengthy detailed description of the video, including some racy stuff (especially for my sweet readers who are of a more sensitive disposition). But for those of you who want to see a break-down of what flashes by quickly on the video (there's a link to it in Part 2 if you simply want to see what I'm talking about) or would rather read a description than actually see the writing bodies, I'll include it. But my analysis is here in part one, because I think a social and (though it pains me to call this "art") artistic phenomena of this caliber deserves attention. Below is a brief synopsis and my analysis, then I will warn you before I go on to the description of the video.
The storyline of a the music video can be put in one sentence: GaGa is drugged and kidnapped by supermodels, and then sold as a sex slave to a member of the Russian mafia, whom she horrifically murders prior to her going to bed with him. In an unsurprisingly post-modern surrealist vogue (with a hint of Where the Wild Things Are), the story is depicted, featuring motifs of zombies, strippers, starvation, drug overdosage, torture, human trafficking, rape, and murder.
I realize that this sounds like an extreme reaction to an albeit extremely bizarre music video made by a bizarre artist for a bizarre song. After all, what kind of music video do I expect to go with lyrics such as, "I want your ugly/I want your disease/I want your everything/As long as it's free"? Indeed, a close look at the words to this catchy song would make any non-masochistic person cringe, if they have even a single wholesome bone in their body. Perhaps most people, like me, heard only, "I want your love...something something...you and I could write a bad romance...la la la...I want your love..." with well-timed rhythmic changes and a technicized, moody, upbeat melody. My obsessive compulsive need to know all the words to a song led me to looking up the lyrics...which promptly ruined the song for me. It glamorizes a "bad romance," and equalizes "love," with revenge and sex, and explicitly separates "love" from any closeness outside the physical by saying, "I want your love/I don't wanna be friends." What does that even mean?
It also should come as no surprise that a pop-culture music video would practically be soft porn, including strip-tease dancing, a lap dance, and a lot of near-naked, apparently pain-ridden, writhing bodies. Sadly, we're hardly surprised at this anymore, and possibly especially from someone as "edgy" as Lady GaGa.
For the clothes that ARE featured, this music video has taken the most grotesque and, frankly, ugly aspects of haute couture (which, truthfully, isn't really that hard, considering the current trends of the couture industry today) and utilizes them as I suppose they are intended, to sear our sense of beauty and style even further from the traditional, and make us that much more accustomed to tolerating, nay, celebrating the horrific. People have mixed feelings about the morbidity of wearing entire dead animals (such as a fur stole with the head still on--which GaGa does, a polar bear) but at least a form of beauty can still be found in the pelt of an animal. This video takes a mutated, deep-cave dead bat and wears it as a hair bow. How can we watch this and not be sickened?
Sexual promiscuity is clearly a "given" in our society today. Even to those of us who loathe that lifestyle, it comes as no surprise. It is also already acceptable (apparently even applaudable?) to portray prostitution, eroticism and stripping such as was formerly constrained to so-called "gentlemen's" clubs and the grimier sides of town. Porn is commonplace now, and fashion and pop culture have long glorified such things, and again, to be shocked at the broad acceptance of such things is now antiquated.
What this music video does (and again, I realize this is not by any means the first video to do this) is add to those "acceptable" vices the likes of human trafficking, rape, and torture. Fashion has long favored the inordinately thin body of a model, but this shows an absolutely emaciated and obviously unhealthy body, celebrating the pain and the death and agony surrounding it. The "prettiest" (by which I mean the nearest to traditionally acceptable beauty) scene in the whole video is when GaGa is dancing in black sheer lingerie with crystals and black beads strewn and flying through the air as the Russian Mob sit around her and apparently "bids" for her. It is clear through the video that she's a prisoner, and this is not a case of where she's selling her body because SHE chose to--which ought to be disgusting enough--but she's being sold in the most despicable trade known to man!
I could continue, but I will stop my analysis here. Below is the description of the video.
WARNING: DESCRIPTION IS TRUE TO VIDEO, AND THEREFORE CONTAINS VERY ADULT THEMES.
Every scene takes place in the same large, white-tiled room, with booths and cages along one wall (apparently for cage dancers) and stark lighting. It’s usually smoky.
Queen & Cronies:
This scene is brief and creepy. The music is highly distorted in the tradition of the “mad genius” at the organ or a Halloween scary mansion. The camera focuses us on GaGa, surrounded by black clad thugs in various stages of undress with strange piercings, masks, and many tattoos in evidence and gogo-booted leggy dancers with white masks and surrealist white leotard-like costumes strewn about the floor with legs on display, some on the floor, some draped against walls, one or two in a bathtub. There is also a dog (reminiscent of the “Pokerface” video intro) and various touches of gold here and there—apparently beer cans, chunky necklaces on the women, and GaGa herself, dressed in a mini-skirt, long sleeved coat, seated on a white throne with bizarre glasses that become the close up of the shot, and we see they are made of razor blades.
No one moves as the camera moves in and we look at the strange “evil mastermind” –esque close up of GaGa with these glasses and her chain-metal type coat, and heavily powdered face. The room is slightly smoky and everything is stark except the touches of color—any skin, hair, etc. is powdered into a grayish version of itself, except the black and the gold.
If we look for any beauty in this sickeningly eerie scene, it is only in the details—pearls on one dancer’s neck, intricate designs on the throne, in the masks, and GaGa’s strange finger decorations—a sort of gold netting over each black-painted fingernail. The distorted music is interrupted as GaGa hits a button on her ipod player (mounted ipod, large black speakers and some sort of controller and next to the throne in the scene) and the music of “Bad Romance” begins.
Light slowly filters through slit-windows into a white-tiled room that looks like a mix between a morgue, a crematorium, a gas chamber, and a tanning room. We see coffin-like space-age structures lined up against a wall, one labeled with a red cross and “Monster.” We see a window as of a door that labels the room “Bath Haus of GaGa.”
The coffin/tanning beds open and out climb vinyl clad dancers and GaGa, entirely covered except chins and mouths, with cartoonish crown/spikes in place of hair (part of the vinyl suit). The light evidentially disturbed these zombies, as they begin a jerky, bothered dance as the music builds. The scenes begin to break up and be interrupted with shots of other scenes, and each successive shot shows the zombie dance to becoming more choreographed and regular, with unified clapping. Shots of a single zombie here and there show them creeping around and twitching like insects scuttling from the light. Very clearly visible backbones—grotesquely emphasized.
As the camera cuts from this scene to the OD scene, The zombies seem to writhe more and more in unified pain with the OD GaGa.
GaGa is alone in a large, white-tiled room. The light is painful, and the only fixtures other than high slit windows in the walls are a starkly geometric bathtub and a strip-dancing cage and poles against the wall. Slightly pinkish hair very mussed and tangled and standing out like she just woke up, a distorted pair of stacked very high heels, and a white stripper sheer shirt and shorts with opaque crosses over her nipples, GaGa emerges from a bathtub, lifting her let to show the water streaming down, with ear-buds in and dancing in a similarly jerky fashion to the zombies, with washed out powdered skin and face and lips. The only darkness in this scene are her eyes. She has huge contact lenses in that make her irises seem to cover much more of her eyes than usual. (These lenses are illegal in the US, btw.)
Every consecutive cut to this scene shows GaGa staring at the camera with fingers twitching and not blinking except with an exaggerated jerk. It becomes clear that the jerky movement is not the same as the “zombies” but more reminiscent of an overdose of some kind. Eventually two women come in wearing nurse-like tunics, sleeveless, also sheer, and they pull GaGa struggling from the bathtub. GaGa is held sitting on the side of the tub, her shirt and dress sheer enough we can see even her tattoos visibly through it. They rip her shirt from her, and she covers herself (we don’t see anything) and they stand before her as she writhes for a moment, exposing herself to them (but not the camera).
They force GaGa’s head back and hold her mouth open, forcing her to drink some clear liquid out of a crystal goblet. From other camera shots of various bottles, we can assume it is vodka. They hold her head in such a way as she is forced to swallow. It is apparently painful to drink. When we cut back to this scene again, she’s back in the bathtub, still writhing.
In the white room, but not starkly lit is GaGa looks almost normal, with slightly scrunched hair, down, large black sunglasses, and a tight black body suit, with a mini-skirt over top. The only skin showing is her hands and face under the sunglasses. She is looking into an ornate, white-framed mirror, and an tilted crown is on her head, also black, similar to the one the zombie costumes have. It is something like Alice in Wonderland or Where the Wild Things Are would have.
Naked Tears/Caged Dancer:
This storyline begins as the OD victim is apparently writing in pain after her shirt is ripped off. It shows a completely nude, hair simple and short with what looks like an oversized bow in it, and little or no makeup except a slightly smeared visage as would be if she had cried all her makeup off. Her eyes are bloodshot. The scene fluctuates between being a well lit close up, and heavily shadowed or backlit shot with her body literally looking like a naked caged emphasized backbone (looking emaciated). We see in a close up that what appeared earlier to be a bow on her head (her only decoration other than tattoos) is actually a dead, flesh-colored bat. She screams and weeps in brief close-up shots.
A group of the white-leotard and pearl draped female dancers from before (remember the go-go boots?) are ripping a seemingly burlap cloth off a crystal-bead crowned GaGa, who is also wearing boots now. She is fighting them, and the cloth/coat is covered in bold black scribbled words, like “Kill,” “Fetish,” “Please” and other things we can’t read. They finally rip the coat off her, and we see by the lining that it’s actually a Burberry designer jacket, and GaGa is wearing nothing but a crystal-beaded tankini-type front and sheer and silver panties. She and the women begin a provocative dance in front of a group of men who appear to be Russian Mafia. At one point she is thrown to the front of the group and she crawls to a man with a metal jaw-cover and she performs a lap dance on him. Various shots of the man pouring a glass of vodka on ice as the women perform in front of the group. One of the men has a furless cat that we see close up growling as GaGa dances, now without her crown, with eyes unobscured for the first time, and her hair flowing loose. The man she did a lap dance on apparently bids, a price showing up on a row of computers, and he apparently “buys” GaGa.
Black Lingerie and Crystals:
GaGa is in the center of a circle of the men (still apparently Russian Mafia) wearing black lingerie and black and crystal bead necklaces. Her hair is loose and in soft curls, and she wears a metal mask that obscures the sides of her face but not her eyes or her features. Crystals are suspended in the air as she dances in the middle of the circle and the camera spirals around her. She is literally draped with strings of large, chunky crystals.
Black Lingerie and Silver Metal:
In the same black lingerie as above, but now with a silver metal structure that grips her body and then is a frame for five metal circles that encompass her body reaching from the top of her head behind her, circling to her knees in front of her, she stands unmoving in the center of the white room. She has on large sunglasses. The circles switch up positions in different shots, like an orbit model.
Fashion: Haute Couture:
In the same white room, but not as starkly lit, GaGa has a weird two-bun matted hairstyle, and wears one of the bizarre 2010 structured dresses that has high shoulders, shaped sleeves, and balloons from her waist but only comes to the top of her thighs. Her legs are covered in the same glittery gold and silver metallic as the dress, and her shoes are the same material, strangely molded and high, being high-heels but coming up to her calf in their shape. In this costume she lies strewn against a wall and struts across the floor, and as the camera zooms in we get more detail of the costume, seeing it looks almost snake-skin in design, and there are tints of green and copper in the creases and shadows.
Polar Bear and White Lingerie:
She struts across the white tile room toward an ornately white-framed bed set against one wall and lamps and side tables. The metal-jawed man, still in his black shirt and suit and with his glass of vodka waits for her. White antelope heads are mounted on the wall behind him. She pulls off her long draping dress that is apparently a whole polar bear skin (the head was dragging close to the camera as she walked across the floor) He begins to take his shirt off and swigs his vodka. GaGa is wearing white frame sunglasses and starkly burgundy lipstick.
She pulls her coat off, getting the full attention of the man, and we see a white sheer thong and bra set from the back and she pauses, spreading her hands to invite him to look at her. Standing back to the camera in the white thong and bra, with hands on her hips, she watches as the bed and area around it, including the man, suddenly catch on fire and burn. She carelessly looks away and has the coat draped over one shoulder as the fire behind her burns the bedroom scene. The coat and everything burns around GaGa.
GaGa and a group of dancers lay on the floor, all facing the camera, all with one arm extended in the same direction. They pound on the floor and begin to dance provocatively as the camera cuts back and forth between their writhing, sensual dance and GaGa approaching the man on the bed. Their costumes are variations on red stripper-style outfits, with lace, vinyl, and cutouts, all in the same bright red. Some of them are wearing black patent leather gloves or boots. Everyone but GaGa is wearing a mask. The dancers begin to mimic the white zombies from earlier and do the same jerky-clapping dance.
Lying across the charred remains of the bed and bedroom, GaGa calmly smokes a cigarette as the music from the song ends and the creepy music from before begins again. She is now in black lacy lingerie, and speared with soot. Mounted on her bra is apparently a flame-thrower, and she looks bored, staring at the ceiling as she reclines next to the charred body of the man, only recognizable by themetal jaw. Her flame-thrower shoots out sparks as the camera fades to black.
Where has any sense of right and wrong gone in America? What can possibly possess our culture that they find this, even this, beautiful?