Lady Gaga as (dis)simulacrum of monstrosity

Celebrity Studies 6 (2):231-246 (2015)
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Lady Gaga’s celebrity DNA revolves around the notion of monstrosity, an extensively researched concept in postmodern cultural studies. The analysis that is offered in this paper is largely informed by Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of monstrosity, as well as by their approach to the study of sign-systems that was deployed in A Thousand Plateaus. By drawing on biographical and archival visual data, with a focus on the relatively underexplored live show, an elucidation is afforded of what is really monstrous about Lady Gaga. The main argument put forward is that monstrosity as sign seeks to appropriate the horizon of unlimited semiosis as radical alterity and openness to signifying possibilities. In this context it is held that Gaga effectively delimits her unique semioscape; however, any claims to monstrosity are undercut by the inherent limits of a representationalist approach in sufficiently engulfing this concept. Gaga is monstrous for her community insofar as she demands of her fans to project their semiosic horizon onto her as a simulacrum of infinite semiosis. However, this simulacrum may only be evinced in a feigned manner as a (dis)simulacrum. The analysis of imagery from seminal live shows during 2011–2012 shows that Gaga’s presumed monstrosity is more akin to hyperdifferentiation as simultaneous employment of heterogeneous and potentially dissonant inter pares cultural representations. The article concludes with a problematisation of audience effects in the light of Gaga’s adoption of a schematic and post-representationalist strategy in the event of her strategy’s emulation by competitive artists.
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