Bil Browning

Gaga's Multi-Pronged Tribute to Jamey Rodermeyer

Filed By Bil Browning | September 26, 2011 11:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History, Politics
Tags: anti-gay bullying, Jamey Rodemeyer, Lady Gaga, teen suicide

Lady Gaga's newest LGBT cause is teen bullying after Buffalo, New York teenager Jamey Rodermeyer died of suicide earlier this month Lady Gaga Special Edition BTW .jpgafter enduring months of anti-gay bullying. Rodermeyer, a big Gaga fan, sent his last tweet to the pop star:

@ladygaga bye mother monster, thank you for all you have done, paws up forever

Gaga has embraced Rodermeyer and is pushing for legislation to outlaw bulllying and last night she took her cause directly to the top when she attended a $35,800 a plate fundraising dinner at the home of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg with President Obama. Several LGBT organizations have decried Gaga's attempt to criminalize bullying, saying that it would be more harmful than helpful. There is already a federal bill pending in Congress - the Safe Schools Improvement Act (HR 1648/S. 506). The bill has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

According to a source present in the tent fundraiser, Gaga asked a question during the Q&A. She first thanked the president for what he's accomplished, then read from what she said was a letter from a fan about the suicide of another fan who had been subjected to bullying.

She thanked Obama for hosting his anti-bullying conference with Michelle Obama, and then made a general plea to everyone in the room, including the president, to do what they can to prevent bullying.

Obama thanked her, spoke about his administration's anti-bullying campaign, and then more generally about the importance of values and who we are as Americans.

Gaga also dedicated her song, "Hair," to the recently passed teen in a recent concert that included a video montage in his honor. Video is after the break.


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Her heart seems to be in the right place, but as always, her resulting actions and reactions are clumsy and over the top, sometime bridging on the hysterical. With anyone else, I'd feel fine believing that they'd get it eventually, but Gaga has been made essentially untouchable by her army of Monsters. There's no constructive criticism going back to her to help her evolve and mature in the role she's chosen to take. Everything that isn't praising her is "hate" from "haters".

So I guess until she magically discovers thoughtful nuance on her own, we'll just see more of this sort of unhelpful, well-intentioned stuff from her.

I think the important thing to remember about Lady Gaga is that she's a pop singer, not a college professor. Some nuance from her would be nice, and I'm sure she's capable of it, but I wouldn't expect her to show the same degree of nuance as someone with a doctorate in sociology. I'm not saying that because I doubt her intelligence (which I don't), but because that's not really her role.

What she is doing is using her enormous popularity to call attention to GLBT issues and is winning a lot of hearts and minds in the process. A professor who teaches gay and lesbian studies at Harvard may help enrich our understanding in a big way, but a song like "Born This Way" in many ways has a lot more power to influence the general public.

That is a valid role that is contradictory to the reality of her self-perception and the perception of her fans. What that tells me is that IF Gaga's role is to lack awareness and nuance, but blunder through as a pop star generally does, then people should stop hailing her as the "greatest ally of our time" or one of the greatest activists of the contemporary scene. If she's not, then why treat her as such?

If she describes herself as a thoughtful leader of the "freaks and monsters" and the avant garde--"Mother Monster" as it were--then doesn't that blitz out the "but she's just a pop star" excuse?

Is that the break we give Michele Bacchman when she tells millions of people that HPV vaccine causes mental retardation and then says "Well, I'm not a scientist." No. When people decide that they want to talk about something on a specific level--a political debate, a fundraiser with the POTUS, as a voice for a people--they take on the responsibility for being well informed, and if they aren't, the consequences make them and their cause look foolish.

It seems awfully inconsistent to praise her for being an intelligent and gutsy activist at the same level as others, but then excuse her gaffes by diminishing her responsibility to insight and awareness because "it's not her role". Is she a contemporary social revolutionary when she does well? Is she "just a pop star" when she messes up? If you're going to take on the role as the voice of a movement, no matter who you are, it seems that part of that responsibility is doing your research and developing yourself. You can't have it both ways.

Responsible activism is not a costume.