4 months ago
It was supposed to be her week.
Lady Gaga made an honest, empathetic, and sincere statement on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Sure, she didn’t actually risk anything or commit herself to doing anything, but she did truly speak from the heart. And she continued to rack up rave reviews for her new movie, A Star Is Born, bringing her closer and closer to that most rare and elusive prize, The EGOT.
But then Taylor Swift, America’s f–king sweetheart, that adult who still looks like she’s playing the Sunflower in the 2nd grade school play, actually went out on a limb and made a difference.
What’s a poor all-around entertainer supposed to do?
Lady Gaga’s Oct . 4 appearance on Colbert’s show came on the evening before the feral national scream that was the Kavanaugh vote.
She needed to say something at the time: Everything in her public history and her own private experience compelled her to make a meaningful statement.
Did Gaga announce she was sacrificing a day of film promotion to go down to D.C. on the day of the Kavanaugh vote, and risk arrest like Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski would? Did she announce she was playing benefits for Democratic midterm candidates she supposedly supports in close races?
Instead, Gaga delivered a sensitive, articulate, and genuinely moving speech about the mind, heart, and fears of sexual assault survivors. It was a powerful collection of words that will surely play extremely well with Academy Awards Voters.
Now, that sounds like something a cynical a-hole would write. But these are extremely turbulent times; and empathy and words of support, though important, are not nearly as important as using platforms to work towards actual results. Yes, Gaga, you did take a stance, but I think it is extremely unlikely that your words, as heartfelt as they were, changed one single mind or one single vote.
My God, do you know what times we live in? I need you to recognize that things we thought could never happen here may very actually happen. Gaga, we are (very) roughly of the same generation, and we grew up taking certain freedoms for granted: the freedom to worship or not worship as we choose, to love and lust for whomever we choose, to go to the polls with relative ease, and to read about these things truthfully where and when we want. We assumed, rather stupidly, that these rights and these freedoms were permanent. Yet we may live to see unimaginable things, the opposite of the fantasies of progress and brotherhood we mistakenly presumed the future would bring.
Gaga, I know how important that EGOT thing is to you (my god, was that even a thing before they started making jokes about it on 30 Rock?), and I know that you have to make absolutely sure that you don’t misstep and alienate any potential allies in the Academy (much less potential movie ticket buyers). This is a delicate balance indeed – How can I seem to care, without caring so much that people will think they have another Jane Fonda on their hands? – but by delivering a meatless, risk-free statement, you have done nothing for the well-being of the very people who made you who you are.
Listen, Gaga, I am sure you meant what you said to Mr. Colbert, but you never said, “I will risk this in order to achieve that.” You didn’t even pretend that you were going to lift a finger or dedicate a minute or an hour to working for change.
Now, you need to perform.
Let us also note that in the past, before you inhaled the cool fog of True Stardom (not just the ersatz, fools’ gold of Pop Music Stardom), you have given generously of your time and talent. I would be extremely remiss not to note that you gave an original song to the powerful documentary about Campus Rape, The Hunting Ground.
But we need you now, Gaga. We need actions, not words (or words that inspire action, regardless of the cost). This “action” could come in the form of benefits (or at the very least, meaningful public endorsements) for candidates running in the midterms; it could come by making your instantly recognizable face visible at important public moments of protest (as Schumer did).
We need you to take a risk in order to protect the constituency who embraced you, defined you, and made you who you are. See, your entire genesis, by which I mean the entire idea of Gaga, was about empowering the disenfranchised, empowering the friendless, empowering the social outcast, empowering the bullied, empowering those picked last in gym and first for titty twisters. You said to these people, “You are stars, I am your star, I am you, you are loved, you are beautiful, you are someone.”
These people, your people, have so very, very much at stake in the next election. As you certainly know, the abrogation of women’s reproductive rights is just the start.
Gaga, in the second year of Trump’s second term when Washington strips anti-discrimination protection from the LGBTQ community, from which many of your Little Monsters hail, you may ask yourself this: If I had spent one week in October of 2018 playing benefits to raise money for Democratic candidates running in the midterms, would things be different now?
Taylor Swift, that pale narcissus flower who is the natural destination of the pop mainstreaming of Lady Country in the Age of Idol, actually did the one single thing that you, Gaga, would never dream of doing in These Days of EGOT: Risk losing fans and pissing off promoters. She made a big, meaningful statement. She risked a significant part of her fan-base, much of which hails from red states, for the sake of doing the right thing.
Despite being no wider than an asparagus stalk, Taylor Swift cast a giant shadow, because she said something which committed herself to the idea of change in the midterms, regardless of the cost.
Gaga, I am sure your nightmare is picket lines outside the cinemas playing A Star Is Born (or even worse, an entire theatre chain dropping the film), so we can be goddamn sure that any statement you made on Colbert about the state of America would be tempered and shaped by that reality.
But Taylor Swift actually stepped up and risked losing fans, which, my god, was the last thing you wanted to do as you chased the EGOT like Gollum chasing the ring. She schooled you, Gaga.