Finally! I get to feel relevant. Lady Gaga’s latest epic, “Alejandro,” premiered online at noon today. I watched it twice, took a hot shower, watched it again as I ate my lunch and am now writing this. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish and post before I have to go to work in a couple hours.
“Alejandro” is a visually stunning and erotic commentary on gender roles in our society, specifically the institutionalized on-going assault on male sexuality. Gaga’s previous videos have addressed women as the objects of patriarchal control, but men, particularly gay men, are not immune to this oppression either. Certainly human beings of the male persuasion enjoy a privileged status in this world, whether they realize it or not, but as George Orwell has testified and any dominatrix will tell you, holding the superior position does not always mean you are in control.
The song itself speaks of a modern conflict between male sexuality and female. Its main character is a woman who refuses to commit to any man, regardless of how committed he is to her. This is reflected in the video’s opening scenes, where Gaga is posed like some kind of mad scientist or general as her men dance before her, while those at her side are encased by strings. This applies the foundation of the video – the usurping of male control within sex and relationships – which then visually discusses what a man is left with when he can no longer can keep a thumb on his woman.
As is frequent in Gaga’s videos, all her dancers are male, but here there is a specific reason. The choreography is aggressive, yet vulnerable. It speaks of connections that men want to make with each other, but are forced to enact them as conflicts and rivalries. Even when the motions become sexual – a striking moment when the men take their partners, straddle them and then force them to floor with a resounding roar in time with the music – there is still a heavy presence of dominance and submission, the implication that there is no benefit to the relationship if one is not the victor, that a man is not a man if cannot dominate another. All this enacted in front of screen flickering with scenes of violence and war.
Then the video moves to the bedroom, though it more resembles barracks. Here the dancers are allowed more freedom of movement despite the fact that many of them are strapped to the bed post, dressed in black briefs and black patented high heels. Gaga appears with simple makeup and plain, nude-colored lingerie, as she simulates copulation with several of them, but taking on roles of both the giver and receiver. The movements are still aggressive, but with brighter lighting and an emphasis on the fluidity and beauty of the movement, there is less angst. This is a scene of sexuality stripped of societal constructs, where men and women can take on any role they choose, while at the same time acknowledging that no matter what we choose or refuse we are all enslaved by sex as part of our nature.
“Alejandro” points its finger at two primary culprits for this crime upon men, and those are religion and the military. The dancers are the soldiers, posing and marching in military formation (though as the video progresses, their movements become more and more feminized), and when not naked, garbed in uniform reminiscent of fascist governments. Gaga poses herself as the symbol for religion, which is not new imagery for her, however in this sense her presence is never superior. When she appears dressed in a cape resembling Vatican attire complete with a red cross concealing her crotch, she is presented like martyr, sacrificed for men and to men at the same time, running in contrast to the video’s opening scene. Here, instead taking out their aggression on each other, they take it out on her, which at moments she seems to pull away from and at others she welcomes. This can be interpreted in a lot of ways. If Gaga is strictly religion here, then what is happening is the destruction of it, both knocking it down a few pegs so that it no longer can control sexuality, and also perhaps how it has been corrupted to do the controlling in the first place. If she is representing womanhood, then she is expressing both how woman suffer for how men have been sculpted to be, and what women can do to change it.
Gaga is a very spiritual woman, and while she was raised Catholic, I don’t think she adheres to any specific religion anymore. I think her God is sex, and I think that’s who the character in this scene is supposed to be. She stands before images of violence, in the midst of angry frustrated men, and shows she’s willing to take it, and then turns it around on them to show them they have to know how to take it back. She’s teaching them how to be free.
By then the end of the video we are returned its first images which now make much more sense. The dancer’s have the uniform hats and guns, but their fishnets and heels as well, showing that they can possess masculine and feminine attributes and still be whole and content. The video ends with her dress as a vinyl red nun, who then disintegrates seemingly from the inside out but with the effect of ruined film. The image is heavy-handed, but at the same time shows its artifice. Its as though she’s saying, “My work here is done.”
This video is so pitch perfect I could probably talk about it for hours. Or just run around dancing. Nevermind the funeral that starts the video, who is it that we are grieving? Matthew Shephard? The Pope? Or is it far more abstract? Are we supposed to grieve at all, or rather acknowledge that in order to change some things have to die. Right now we exist in the cold, monochromatic world of the video, a perpetual winter. I think Gaga would agree with me when I say its time for spring.