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Gaga, Chelsea and Manhood

Gaga, Chelsea and Manhood

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Published by Tom Matlack
Why Lady Gaga and Chelsea Handler are Good for Men
Why Lady Gaga and Chelsea Handler are Good for Men

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Published by: Tom Matlack on Jul 01, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Gaga, Chelsea,and Manhood
Lady Gaga and ChelseaHandler are good for men.
Sometimes pop culture actually gets it right. By that I mean culturalicons can tap into something so foreign, so crazy, so insane that itactually wakes us up to a deeper truth about ourselves through our cult worship of the stars themselves. We don’t quite know what’shappening until it’s too late.Let me digress. One of the most influential books I ever read as ateenager was Thomas Kuhn’s
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
. I know: a real pageturner. But what I found fascinatingabout the book was the how Kuhn explains the way knowledge, evenin science, is not absolute. Truth is a moving target and subject togroupthink, or as Kuhn calls it, a paradigm shift. We all believe theearth is flat—and that is our truth—until one day somebody sailsacross the Atlantic. That piece of data is a fly in the ointment of theexisting belief structure. Once there are enough data pointscontradicting the existing paradigm, the entire edifice of what is truthhas to change to a new paradigm, whether a round earth or an earththat orbits the sun or the theory of relativity.Of course what is true of science is true of everything else too. That’swhy I have always been suspect of those who lay claim to first-handknowledge of eternal
. I really believe that supposed facts are allrelative and we are always one anomaly in the data away from havingto rethink everything.Which brings me to my two new favorite paradigm shifters, LadyGaga and Chelsea Handler. Ask even their fans why they love themand they come up with a wide range of bizarre answers. Thefollowing, I would argue, is based on our collective intuition that thesewomen have got something right that we all know too but have beenmissing for way too long.♦◊♦Any discussion of what it means to be a man involves what it meansto be a woman. We define ourselves in large part via this inextricabledance of being male and female. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, andtransgender people are, perhaps, the most impacted by the rigidhistoric definitions of gender.As we have tried to foster a nationwide discussion about what it
means to be a good father, son, husband, worker, and man, we havecome back again and again to how we relate to women through sexand relationships and the various ways men treat women well and notso well. It has become very clear that defining manhood in isolation isa futile exercise without the context of considering changingconceptions of what it means to be a woman.So to talk about manhood it seems we have to be willing to talk aboutwomanhood. And just like men are at a point of profound transition,so too are women. We have these relatively traditional vestiges of what it means to be feminine propagated by mainstream media, porn,and even politics. But under the surface there is a revolution going onagainst the very basis of those beliefs.I saw Lady Gaga at Radio Music Hall when she was just on the cuspof breaking out (you can read about that here,“Poker Face: Don’tAsk, Don’t Tell”). One of the things I loved most about her is that sheis not traditionally beautiful. She is frankly weird looking even beforeall the performance art and make-up. What I also loved about her then and still do now is that at the core of all the insanity is anamazing voice. Check out this a capella version of her song “BornThis Way” and tell me the woman doesn’t put Madonna to shame:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Gp5Dr4p7E&feature=player_embeddedI also recently watchedthe 60 minutes segment in which Gagaexplains her “little monsters.”Her message is really for all of us,especially girls and women, who don’t fit into the traditionalstereotypes of what it is to be female. She calls herself, and us byproxy, the “freaks.” In other words, the anomaly in the scientific theoryabout truth that has worn down at the edges so much that it is nolonger working because, well, most of us no longer feel like we fit in.Her message is one of encouraging her audience to embrace their freak nature, to accept who they are with radical honesty, and therebyfind the superstar hidden within.Yes she is a brilliant choreographer of her own fame through insanefashion, half-naked performance, and self-promotion taken to theextreme. But all the swirl of activity, I would argue, is needed to break

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