the suzi parker files

Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Lady Gaga: The Left’s Answer to Sarah Palin?

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Hey, Lady Gaga, are you considering a run for office?

As Jakob Hooks, a 15-year-old in Little Rock recently told me, “Lady Gaga should be president.”

There is that pesky age problem. She’s 24. The Constitution states someone must be 35 to run for president. But the influence of Lady Gaga on pop culture, and now, the political landscape cannot be underestimated.

Lady Gaga, with her ingenious costumes, surreal videos, and burning pianos, is among the world’s biggest celebrities. She has 14 million Facebook followers to Sarah Palin’s 2 million and President Barack Obama’s 10 million. On Twitter, Lady Gaga logs 5.2 million followers to Palin’s 211,000 followers.

In June, Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, landed on Forbes Magazine’s 2010 celebrity power list. She was No. 4 behind Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce Knowles and movie producer James Cameron. Lady Gaga’s worth: $62 million. Her social and Web rank: No. 1.

On Tuesday, Lady Gaga racked up 13 MTV video music award nominations — a record that tops video music icons Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Lady Gaga may be just the social media foil the left needs to confront Palin. The two 21st-century social media stars possess startling similarities.

Palin dubs her conservative female supporters Mama Grizzlies and asks them to defend her like a mother bear would a cub. New York native Lady Gaga collects Little Monsters — fans who vehemently guard and promote Mama Monster with Twitter and Facebook posts.

Palin and Lady Gaga are devoted to their followers, keeping them updated frequently via social media tools. Within minutes of either posting, thousands have commented and retweeted.

Not to be shallow, but both women are known for their individual, striking looks and brands.

When Palin arrived on the political scene in 2008, women clamored for a pair of glasses like hers. They got their hair cut like hers. Gaga fans spend hours cultivating wigs to resemble hers and even wear dangerous contact lenses to re-create an anime look from her “Bad Romance” video.

Lady Gaga, like savvy Palin, uses her celebrity and social media platform to her advantage. On Wednesday, after a federal judge struck down California’s same-sex marriage ban, she wrote via Facebook:

“At the moments notice of PROP 8 DEATH I instantly began to write music. BUBBLE DREAMS FOREVER! FULL EQUALITY! THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING! REJOICE and CELEBRATE gay communities and straight all over the world. Our voices are being heard! Loud! SCREAM LOUD AMERICANOS!”

Last weekend, she dipped her toe — no, make that full body immersion — into Arizona’s controversial political waters, particularly its tough anti-illegal immigration law.

Before her Saturday night Monster Ball concert in Phoenix, Lady Gaga put a message on her Facebook page: “The Monster Ball is by nature a protest: A youth church experience to speak out and celebrate against all forms of discrimination + prejudice. Tonight we will continue to actively protest social and political injustices in Arizona. We will sing, we will stand up, + we will be heard.” Nearly 34,000 people like this comment, and she has created a roaring online debate about immigration.

Lady Gaga didn’t stop with a post. At her concert, she lashed out at Arizona’s immigration legislation with “Stop SB 1070” written on her arm. SB 1070 is Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked parts of the law, including a requirement that police determine the status of those suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Controversy continues around SB 1070, and Lady Gaga seized the moment. “I got a phone call from a couple really big rock and rollers, big pop stars, big rap artists, and they said, ‘We’d like you to boycott Arizona . . . because of SB 1070,’ ” Lady Gaga said to the 14,000 Little Monsters. Several music acts — Kanye West, Rage Against the Machine and Sonic Youth — have boycotted the state.

According to The Arizona Republic, Lady Gaga said, “Do you really think that us dumb [expletive] pop stars are going to collapse the economy of Arizona?” She added, “We have to be active. We have to protest . . . I will yell and I will scream louder. I will hold you, and we will hold each other, and we will peaceably protest this state.”

Granted, they weren’t exactly the talking points of a stateswoman but when Lady Gaga speaks, her fans listen and act.

“She’s in a unique position in popular culture,” says Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University in New York City. “She is widely popular with a big segment of the population even more so than Madonna was 20 years ago. Being a celebrity with YouTube and all of the social media is more powerful than it has been in the past.”

Levinson, author of “New New Media,” says that Lady Gaga’s remarks in Arizona will have an impact.

“When you have someone like Lady Gaga speaking out on it, it may give some people reason to reconsider their position,” Levinson says. “When you had John Lennon singing give peace a chance, more people were turned against the war. A pop icon can be much more persuasive in politics than a politician. She is doing a great service to the Democratic process.”

Lady Gaga recently took on Westboro Baptist Church, the anti-gay hate group based in Kansas, when they picketed her St. Louis concert in July. She told her fans via her social media outlets to ignore the group as they entered the Monster Ball. LGBT advocates have called her a “warrior” for their issues. Last October, she addressed thousands of gay-rights activists at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. and has supported HIV/AIDS awareness.

Palin and Lady Gaga have one issue they agree on — sexual abstinence. Lady Gaga reportedly says in a September Vanity Fair interview, “I have this weird thing that if I sleep with someone, they’re going to take my creativity through my vagina. . . . I’m mostly celibate now.”

The girl power of Palin and Lady Gaga reaches and activates demographics that are not often widely tapped politically. While Palin continuously stirs chords among blue-collar women, Gaga rouses teens and 20-somethings — one of the groups least receptive to political messaging.

When the Founding Fathers spoke of a healthy democracy’s need for a “marketplace of ideas,” it’s unlikely they envisioned the debate being led by a sexy caribou slayer on one end and piano-torching songstress on the other.


Written by suziparker1313

March 6, 2011 at 10:40 pm

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