Posts Tagged ‘simulacra’

ARIN6903: Lady Gaga as the embodiment of remediation

September 15, 2010

Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga is big. Very big.  Six million Twitter followers, 17 million Facebook friends, 15 million album and 51 singles sales (The Guardian: 2010), hundreds of millions of YouTube views….and so on.

The music itself is standard catchy modern pop – it’s nothing that unique to write home about. What makes her stand out are all the extra things that come with the music – the outlandish outfits (meat dress anyone?), the constant profession of being an outsider, the spectacle of her live performances and most importantly, her mastery of many different forms of media in which she brings her fans with her into the vortex of fame.

Lady Gaga Meat Dress

Lady Gaga Meat Dress

Her success is due to this mastery of media, without which she would still be plain ol’ Stefani Joanne Germanotta.  The success is not due to the music which is rather bland and formulaic.  She does have a beautiful voice, which you can sense watching her pre-fame performances, but this gets lost in the hype machine.

Gaga is so heavily stylised and has appropriated from so many genres, icons and cultural references that it’s hard to know who the woman behind the mask is. But that’s just the way she likes it in her quest to become a modern icon. Feminist icon Camille Paglia last week weighed in to the debate, calling Gaga a “ruthless recycler of other people’s work”. (Paglia, 2010)

It’s for these reasons that Gaga makes for a fascinating study for media theorists curious about her impact on pop culture, media and society in general.

This brings me to the concept of “remediation” as espoused by Bolter and Grusin which I want to extend here to an individual, rather than simply media forms. Gaga is everywhere, constantly in the press for her latest controversial outfit or performance. She has transcended the archetype of the female pop singer to become almost her own medium and is increasingly hypermediated whilst she remediates pop music. She perfectly fits what Bolter and Grusin identify as a desire to get to the real via hypermediation (1999). She states that Lady Gaga is not a character, but is her real self.

Gaga references fame and media constantly in her own media artefacts – her breakthrough album was called The Fame Monster, its big hits included Paparazzi and Telephone and her latest song is called Living on the Radio, as though she recognises she is nothing without the media she so heavily employs.  She has multiple websites which are all cross-referenced and embedded with different media types showcasing her presence on other websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. She also has a massive merchandising operation.

Lady Gaga's hypermediated website

Lady Gaga's hypermediated website

Elle Bedard writes that “Sometimes she resembles other pop stars, sometimes a character from Japanese animation, or a Roy Lichtenstein print.”(2010:1)

Just some of the influences she has appropriated as she constructs her identity are:

Surrealism in the form of the meat dress she wore this week, her past outfit featuring a lobster headpiece and, come to think of it, pretty much most of her creative output

Madonna, mostly via her fashion choices, prolific output and ubiquituity

Grace Jones via her stage costumes

Queen via her choice of name inspired by their 80s hit Radio Gaga.

Andy Warhol who she has acknowledged as an influence and refers to when discussing aspects of fame

Gaga Pop Art magazine cover

Gaga Pop Art magazine cover

For those of us old and cynical enough to recognise the endless cultural references she makes, the hypermediation is quite obvious and almost jarring – I believe for this group of people the “real” that is attempted is not achieved. For her younger fans, this is all completely new and I think that they experience Gaga as “real”. Awareness of this mediation is just not part of the experience for them, it is invisible.

Adding to the debate by exploring Gaga as a character or an individual, Bedard quotes Baudrillard to assert that Gaga is “pure simulacrum, “a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.”  Put differently, Lady Gaga does not exist.” (2010: 1)

Gaga is a one-woman media industry and it’s hard to believe she really only came to prominence in the last two years. I’m beginning to wonder how many clones of herself she has just to manage her overwhelming media presence.


Bedard, E. (2010) “Can’t Read My Poker Face”: The Postmodern Aesthetic & Mimesis of Lady Gaga
Accessed from:
Last accessed: 15 September 2010

Bolter, J.D. & Grusin, R.A. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media, Cambridge, Mass;  London: MIT Press

Paglia, C. (2010) Lady Gaga and the death of sex
Accessed from:
Last accessed 15 September 2010

The Guardian (2010) Pass notes, No 2,843: Lady Gaga
Accessed from:
Last accessed: 15 September 2010

Other reading

Gaga Stigmata – theoretical analysis of all things Gaga