Out on the Edge: Is Lady Gaga a Role Model?

Popular culture has recently been taken over by a woman by the name of “Lady Gaga.” Born Stefani Germanotta, this performer has become a symbol of complete self-expression and freedom from social conventions to her fans, and has been held up as a role model.  As she said herself, “The truth is what I’m a role model for is the ability to change culture,” and “I find it so important now to be a role model and a figure … most important is my connection with my fans and the connection that they breed with one another.” Given that her goals are such, it is essential to look beyond her basic message of freedom and to examine what kind of behavior the entirety of her work promotes, since it contains problematic messages regarding many important topics, including religion, sex, respect, and treatment of women.

There is a strong theme of violence and perversion in Lady Gaga’s work, usually of a sexual nature and usually toward women. Because this is a family-friendly publication, most of her material is too explicit to be specifically detailed here, but there is no shortage of instances of this attitude in her song lyrics and music videos. Many of her songs like “I Like it Rough” and “Animal” portray a woman as a victim who will do anything to satisfy her base desires, and her music videos like “Telephone” and “Bad Romance” repeatedly show someone being victimized, either by being violated, kidnapped, drugged, stripped, or even murdered. These videos are also often pornographic, from the terribly immodest outfits worn by Gaga and the other characters to the particular filming style, which often focuses on only one part of a woman’s body. Combine this with explicit dancing, and the picture of an objectified woman is complete.

Lady Gaga also chooses to trespass into religious territory and frequently abuses specifically Catholic and Christian figures or symbols in her work, often while including satanic themes and imagery. In the music video for “Alejandro,” Gaga eats a rosary while dressed in a red latex nun’s habit and wears inverted crosses. In “Judas,” Gaga retells the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, featuring a scene in which Gaga (as Mary Magdalene) washes the feet of both Jesus and Judas as they sit together as equals in a hot tub. She also wears multiple outfits that feature crosses in inappropriate ways, dances sexually in a blue top that showcases an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and wears a blue mantle reminiscent of traditional depictions of Mary, the Mother of God, all while singing about how much she loves Judas. Gaga (who was raised a Catholic and now identifies herself as a Christian) intentionally released this music video on Easter Sunday, making her blasphemy even more deliberate.

Lady Gaga’s work is full of contradictions, as she frequently makes positive statements on important issues, but encourages the opposite negative behavior in her music videos and songs. This is particularly evident in her dealings with the issues of bullying and feminism, since even though she calls herself a feminist and actively campaigns against bullying, her work consistently glorifies depictions of bullying and abuse of women. Even her call to be happy to be “Born this Way” is contradictory, since she’s created a new persona for herself, even with a new name. According to her, “Lady Gaga is my name. If you know me, and you call me Stefani, you don’t really know me at all.” Gaga also glamorized suicide in her song “Princess Die,” and she recently smoked marijuana onstage during a concert in Amsterdam, saying it encourages her work: “I want you to know it has totally changed my life … It has been a totally spiritual experience for me with my music.” Even her new “Fame” perfume is problematic, since it’s intended to make you smell like, as Gaga put it, an “expensive hooker.”

If you think that no one is really going to think of her as a positive role model, think again. In a recent article, a blogger said that, after much struggle and denial, she learned to accept Lady Gaga as a role model for today’s women and girls. Why? Because she “isn’t afraid to act smart, dress for herself, focus on things other than her body, be odd, and have a sick name.” The blogger adds that her name even teaches women and girls that it is OK to be a lady! This could not make less sense, since the behavior she models is overwhelmingly negative. We have a responsibility as Catholics to recognize the dangerous messages that fill Gaga’s work, and in doing so, we should refuse to listen to her music or support her in any way. She once said, “I want women and men to feel empowered by a deeper and more psychotic part of themselves. The part they’re always trying desperately to hide. I want that to become something that they cherish.” Certainly Lady Gaga is a role model; there is no question about that. But she is anything but a positive one.

Rebecca Smith

By

Rebecca Smith is a music teacher at two Catholic elementary schools, and currently serves as an organist, choir director and cantor for two Catholic parishes. She can be reached at rebeccasmith.rcc@gmail.com.

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  • lifewarrior_staygolden

    Thank you so much! I agree 100%!!!! I do NOT understand how any parent could let their children listen to her music, let alone be an “example” or role model. We have 6 children, 3 in their teens, and we all enjoy a wide variety of music, including a lot of pop and alternative rock, but I do not EVER let her music play in our home or vehicle, and my kids feel the same way. This woman needs some serious prayers!

  • Daniel

    I do not agree with this at all! See I love her music and have for years, and I am still a Christian actually her music has actually strengthened my relationship with my Savior, Jesus. Through her music she does not encourage this, she is telling her story through a graphic way because sometimes that makes the message stronger. Also, she dances the way she does cause that is the way dancers dance now and days, on so you think you can dance, there are some very personal moves that happen and yet that is a family show. Another thing, in the song judas, she is talking about you can’t who you fall in love with even if they are a Judas you don’t choose who you fall in love with, even if they are a devil. Born this way, yes her name is stefani germanotta but many people change their names for the music industry, in all types of genres. So saying that she is contradictory is just ridiculous. Just like me, my name is Daniel but if you really know me I am Danny or danno because those names are me and not Daniel. If you call me Daniel, you don’t really know me, just like her, they started as nicknames and are now who we really are. And to be honest marijuana is legal where she smoked it so would have a problem if she drank alcohol at her concerts and said it helped her with her music? Many artists, writers, and singers even drink of smoke because it helps their artistry. And makes their artistry as beautiful as it is. JFK Rowling drank a glass of wine while writing and Edgar Allan Poe was crazy but he is known as one of the greatest poets of all time

  • hipoffthecrite

    Ms Smith, you seemed to have done extensive research on Ms Gaga to find information that not even her fans are aware of. It seems like you have a personal vendetta against Lady Gaga. Instead of determining whether Lady Gaga is a positive role model or not; why not look at some of the flaws in the Roman Catholic church? The church’s willingness to cover up the perverted sexual acts of its priests is more alarming in my opinion.There are hundreds of little boys whose lives are forever tainted by the acts of their priests. What about the fact that most Roman Catholic couples use contraceptives and do not adhere to the age old rule of abstaining except when there is a desire to procreate? Isn’t this a blatant disregard to Roman Catholicism or are they being typical logically thinking human beings in the modern world? What has the church done to address this in the modern age? At least Lady Gaga is being honest, she is who she is. Instead of targeting an honest person, I say write more about reforming the ills of the church and focus less on being judgmental of a fellow musician. Wasn’t it Jesus who said ‘Judge not, lest you be judged?’ Wasn’t it Paul who said we should ‘circumcise our hearts?” Let us focus LESS on others and focus more on being positive figures of society. Lady Gaga may have controversial music, but at least she is not molesting children nor committing incest. Those are issues that you should tackle because they are prevalent in the church and are yet to be addressed.

  • Sk

    Rebecca, I agree with you. She is not a role model but does have music that has a “stick in your head” quality and a dance beat. She shocks to get attention as all stars do, especially musicians. Shock is not a problem, but violating and encouraging others to violate the 10 commandments is a problem. (That is a very simple test which even small children can use to quickly determine if something is to be avoided) Her musical ability has been used for her own gratification and gain, which is what she promotes. This is not something I wish to promote in my life, so we avoid her as much as possible.

  • chaco

    “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will find teachers who only tickle their ears with fables to avoid the Truth.” (II Tim. 4: 3-4). Gaga is just one such “Ear tickling” teacher. Don’t challenge them; wait for them to challenge your values, then ask; “Are you preaching to me – Trying to tell me how to live ? That will make them the Bad Guy trying to push their ways on you. If they respectfully ask your opinion (“Don’t cast your pearls to swine” Mt. 7: 6), tell them that what seperates us from animals is that we can reason about what is best for ourselves & the Common Good. And if they try to accuse all priests of perversion, tell them to educate themselves about the much smaller % of cases against priests as compared to authority figures in public education and other denominations. Facts are different than media hype. [ "Ya gotta treat people Jes like ya do mules; Don't try ta drive 'em, Jes leave the gate open a mite & let 'em bust in." ]

  • TheMilkMonster

    Daniel,

    I do not see how her music helps your relationship with God(I have never heard her music and I can’t say if it is good or not.) I do agree that there are family movies with very personal moves, but to me what I read here is that she does the dancing while wearing a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which to me(a catholic) is very wrong because it is disrespecting the Sacred Heart. I also think that saying that Judas is equal to God is VERY WRONG. Because if that is true that would say that either God is just a human and not divine or that Judas is a god and all powerful like God is. and what do think God is going to say to Lady Gaga when her judgement comes…”come on in Gaga and and sit down here in Heaven because you Blasphemed Me and compared My Son as an equal to Judas the one who betrayed Him.” or is it going to be “Lady Gaga you blasphemed Me and disrespected my Son and for that you are condemned to Hell.”? Please don’t think that I know what God will say because I am not God and I do not know Lady Gaga, but from what I read she is on the wrong path.

  • jsterce

    It sounds as if with your knowledge you’re in an excellent position, hipoffthecrite, to help some Catholics recognize where they’ve gone astray and amend their ways to be more in line with what the Church has always taught, and I hope you do. In this article, though, Ms Smith is taking a critical look at a popular figure and her influence on so many minds through music, which is a perfectly valid area of research. Especially because, while you hail Lady Gaga for her honesty, the reality cannot be further from the truth, as it is precisely the nature of her mixed messages, many of which are detailed in this article, that are so confusing to people. You point to Catholics who have lost their way and drifted away from the Church, but you must realize this happens slowly, step by slow step, in part as minds are confused and misguided by looking to confused role models for guidance. You ask us to focus LESS on others and more on being positive figures ourselves. And you’re absolutely right. In fact, if you reread Ms Smith’s article, you’ll see that’s exactly what she’s advocating as well–that we stop focusing so much on confused pop figures like Lady Gaga, whose value as a role model is more than questionable, and whose messages are confused if not directly harmful, and refocus on our own lives and on our walk as Catholics.

  • Richard III

    You’re absolutely right, Ms. Smith, that blogger’s post makes ZERO sense! “She has a sick name”, her stage name is the LEAST sick thing about her! “She teaches that it’s OK to be a lady”. of course it’s OK to be a lady! It’s more than OK, in fact, it is, or should be, mandatory to be a lady! (a REAL lady that is, which I doubt Ms. Germanotta can teach) “Focuses on things other than her body”, don’t even get me started. Great post.

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