Have we reached a tipping point in the Lady Gaga saga? A backlash has already gathered steam in the gay community. Among her supposed heartland of gay men, there’s growing evidence of fans starting to turn on her — many of whom feel she has no right to declare herself as the ambassador of ‘queer culture’.
Gaga, to be fair, didn’t have to try hard to be accepted as a ‘gay icon’. There’s a certain mainstream gay sensibility that tends to adopt blonde female pop stars as their own, and her relentless tweeting about gay rights, the impassioned stance against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the US military and yes, I suppose the dresses too, earned her a place as a credible advocate. But recently, the wheels seem to be falling off, and sadly not from that ridiculous motorbike.
It started with the release of Born This Way. Any song built up with such a torrent of pre-publicity (my favourite tweet from that week: “Can’t wait for tomorrow’s exclusive reveal of the barcode!”) has to be pretty incredible to not get crushed under the weight of its own expectation. And it misfired on all levels.
The gay blogosphere soon exploded into a flurry of backlash and counter-backlash, based mainly on a sense of disappointment with the song. At least that’s how it started. But as the world lived with Born This Way, a deeper disquiet began to emerge, and the heavy-handed way that the song assumed stewardship of an entire portion of humanity began to breed real resentment, from the forums to the dancefloor to the word on the street.
Fact of matter: most gay people don’t consider themselves to be freaks and outsiders, as is suggested in the lyrics, but perfectly normal people whose sexual preferences just happen to be wired a certain way. And they won’t thank you for attempting to lead a Pied Piper march back into the ghetto with all the subtlety of a diamond-encrusted sledgehammer.
Of course, when there are still gay teen suicides, same-sex couples being ejected, and we clearly haven’t won all of the battles against homophobia. But we’re a lot closer to the dream where sexual orientation doesn’t define a person, but is a quality of their personality no more or less significant than their political affiliation or the colour of their hair. As we march towards true equality, the whole idea of a ‘gay culture’ becomes more and more meaningless as the world accepts the truth that gay people aren’t all the same. In the face of that, Born This Way was at best a backward step, in the middle a touch cynical and, at worst, downright offensive.
It’s a shame because it was the first real misstep in an otherwise faultlessly judged career. But if Gaga really has alienated her most loyal fans, she may yet have more to worry about than a few religious zealots picketing her shows.