By Karlee Robinson
Consider the multiple elements of your personality — those you share with some and not with others. What would you do if your audience were the world? Lady Gaga vocalizes the pressure artists feel in justifying, dividing and overall compromising their identity. It’s time we as fans realize what we’re asking of our muses.
In Lady Gaga’s new Netflix original documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” released Sept. 22, the five-time grammy award winner singer/songwriter explores the turbulent experience of doing “the opposite of what everyone thinks [she’s] going to do.” Her broad explanation behind the direction and ambition of her music underlies the pressure public expectation puts on artists. We demand that artists remain authentic, while entertaining us with shocking new dynamics. Gaga’s documentary provides insight to the taxing stress of personal accountability. Fans create expectations too high to reasonably maintain, restricting artists to a lifestyle bound by the limitations our opinions set.
The documentary foreshadows and covers Gaga’s performance at the 2017 Super Bowl. During a period following her separation with then-fiance Taylor Kinney, Gaga contemplates the correlation between personal sadness and musical success.
“When I sold 10 million records, I lost Matt. When I sold 30 million records, I lose Luke. I get the movie, I lose Taylor. It’s like a turnover.”
The polarity between depression of loss and ecstasy of success divides Gaga’s identity in ways beyond those that the public sees. Additionally managing conditions like fibromyalgia, the young artist had no choice but to blur the facade of Gaga into the reality of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. This is reflected in her latest album, “Joanne.” Before, Gaga based her image on things that the average person can’t relate to. Now, she displays a raw representation of what’s most important to her: family. Gaga grew tired of juggling two images, however essential both may have been to her collective self in the past.
“Joanne,” the album title, is also a single written in dedication to Gaga’s late aunt, Joanne. A young artist herself, Joanne passed almost 40 years ago from complications with lupus. In an interview with Darryl Pinckney from the New York Times, Gaga explained how losing her aunt had one of the most powerful influences on her family that she’d ever seen. While Gaga never portrayed her family as especially sentimental, in an emotional scene where Gaga shares “Joanne” with her grandmother, viewers observe their intimate grieving.
Gaga traced her family’s scars, searching for anecdotes of their loyalty. In one scene, Gaga is shown looking through Joanne’s old notes and doodles with her grandmother.
“Hear what I’m not saying. Don’t be fooled. I wear a mask. A thousand masks. So I play the game. The glittering but empty parade of the masks.”
This poem, read aloud in the album, is one of Gaga’s aunt’s. Joanne describes how fans limited her artistic expression, and asks to be released by deeper consideration of what lies beneath her “masks.”
Gaga’s music has intrinsic personability, and serves as a form of self-care and growth for the artist. Gaga’s music is a reflection of what she needs, and it seems she currently craves introspection, space, self-realized individuality and regrounding in her family roots. I say this because Gaga’s image and music has evolved from outward glamour to one of self-reflection. Because Gaga considers family the pedestal of her identity, “Joanne” could be interpreted as the transition from the fabricated images artists are forced to embody into a more genuine and intimate persona.
“Gaga: Five Foot Two” provides answers behind the current direction of the young artist’s music. Gaga questions to what extent we are only that which our peers see in us. She’s clearly concerned with the contingency of future happiness and with the amount of personal happiness we vest in others; both are worries her fans can easily relate to. However, Gaga proves through action that while we can’t deny the influence of others, we can control the extent to which we allow them to control us. You don’t have to be who your peers view you to be. You can change your image, explore new interests, answer to different priorities, etc. You don’t need to justify the flux of self-image, if you understand self-image to reflect self-understanding.
Gaga is an artist — collectively, a multifaceted woman of many talents and unknown elements. Above all else, though, she maintains, “I am Joanne; I am my father’s daughter.”