For those of you who haven’t yet seen the video for Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, be warned: it will rewire your brain in ways that you may be uncomfortable with. Lady Gaga isn’t interesting because she is artificial - every pop diva is artificial. Lady Gaga is interesting because she feels no compulsion to make her artifice approachable or relatable. Britney Spears eventually turned out to be insane, of course, but before her public and very messy meltdown, she worked hard to present herself as a genuine role model. Girls in 1999 looked up to Britney Spears, in the same way that girls today adore Miley Cyrus. Lady Gaga isn’t like that. Her persona is entirely based on spectacle, and very little of who she actually is shines through. It isn’t that she doesn’t care what people think of her, and it isn’t that she doesn’t want people to like her. She just doesn’t care if they relate to her. Nobody wants to be Lady Gaga; as far as I can tell, no one even wants to know Lady Gaga. They just love how strange she is. Some bands release concept albums. Lady Gaga is a concept person. In this way, she’s not entirely unlike Megan Fox. (Bear with me here.) Lynn Hirshberg published a surprisingly-absorbing profile of Fox in The New York Times Magazine a couple weeks ago, and the whole thing is worth a read, but I’m going to cull a few excerpts:
For all her raunchy talk, Fox is surprisingly dainty and ladylike. She took ballet for much of her childhood, and she has a natural stillness and grace. She’s not warm or particularly friendly and doesn’t seem at all interested in small talk. Instead, she’s self-contained and a bit wary. She will answer any question, but she resists true dialogue. With Fox, it’s not a conversation but a presentation… “It’s been a crazy year. I’ve learned that being a celebrity is like being a sacrificial lamb. At some point, no matter how high the pedestal that they put you on, they’re going to tear you down. And I created a character as an offering for the sacrifice. I’m not willing to give my true self up. It’s a testament to my real personality that I would go so far as to make up another personality to give to the world. The reality is, I’m hidden amongst all the insanity. Nobody can find me.”… Unlike, say, Jennifer Aniston, Fox’s tabloid narrative is not tied to what guy she happens to be dating. The women who read Us don’t identify with Fox. She’s too extreme.There are, it turns out, a surprising number of parallels between Gaga and Fox. Both have older analogous counterparts who were once viewed as wild, but have since gained enough critical respect to become the emeriti of their fields (Christina Aguilera and Angelina Jolie). Both deliver a well-made-but-soulless product that’s impressive in a technical but not (Fox’s looks are so pristine they seem engineered, while Gaga’s hooks actually are engineered). Both are beautiful, but in an intimidating, untouchable way. And both are entirely self-created, and they owe their rises to their almost uncanny ability to manipulate various forms of media. The real question, of course, is whether they’ll have staying power or not. I certainly don’t know that answer, although I’d be more inclined to bet on Gaga than Fox. Fox is beautiful, but I don’t get the sense she has much more in her bag (certainly not much acting ability). But Gaga has proved so far to have roomy metaphorical sleeves, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few more tricks hidden up there.