I just watched the new Lady Gaga music video for “Born this Way,” and I’d like to ask for everyone to stop calling the song a Madonna knock off. The ancestry of the song and the video can be traced back to Madonna, but so what? For me, there are clear moments of homage to “Vogue” and “Express Yourself” in both the song and the video, but the video also looks like something that film maker Matthew Barney would have put in his Cremaster Cycle.
Gaga’s work on this song and in this video builds on the foundation that Madonna laid in the late 80s and early 90s, but her imagery is more overtly erotic and androgynous, a nod to the slow but sure queering of everything that we’ve come to accept as “normative.” And her lyrics rely less on coded messages and more on direct action. Yes, it all feels familiar, but in the same way that a circumstance in a Brecht play feels familiar and then suddenly gets turned on its ear by some Verfremdungs effekt technique.
I’m not some crazed fan, and I certainly don’t consider myself one of her little “monsters.” But lay off Lady Gaga, people, and enjoy the bounce that the song puts in your step.