[UPDATE: a revised version of this paper was presented at the “Nonhuman Turn” conference in Milwaukee, May 2012. A screencast video of the complete presentation is available here: Object-Oriented Gaga.]
Abstract for Shane Denson’s talk at “Cultural Distinctions Remediated: Beyond the High, the Low, and the Middle” (Leibniz University of Hannover, 15-17 December 2011):
Lady Gaga’s Mainstream Queer: A Serial Media Remix
Shane Denson (American Studies, Hannover)
In this paper, I propose looking at Lady Gaga as a “serial figure”—as a persona that, not unlike Batman, Frankenstein, Dracula, or Tarzan, is serially instantiated across a variety of media, repeatedly restaged and remixed through an interplay of repetition and variation, thus embodying seriality as a plurimedial interface between trajectories of continuity and discontinuity. As was the case with classic serial figures, whose liminal, double, or secret identities broker traffic between disparate—diegetic and extradiegetic, i.e. medial—times and spaces, so too does Lady Gaga articulate together various media (music, video, fashion, social media) and various sociocultural spheres, values, and identifications (mainstream, alternative, kitsch, pop/art, straight, queer). In this sense, Gaga may be seen to follow in the line of Elvis, David Bowie, and Madonna, among others. Setting these stars in relation to iconic fictional characters shaped by their many transitions between literature, film, radio, television, and digital media promises to shed light on the changing medial contours of contemporary popularity. Serial figures define a nexus of seriality and mediality, and by straddling the divide between medial “inside” and “outside” (e.g. between diegesis and framing medium, fiction and the “real world”), they are able to track media transformations over time and offer up images of the interconnected processes of medial and cultural change. This ability is grounded, then, in the inherent “queerness” of serial figures, which Lady Gaga transforms from a medial condition into an explicit ideology, one which sits uneasily between the mainstream and the exceptional. As a serial figure, I propose, Lady Gaga may be an image of our contemporary convergence culture itself.