Lady Gaga and Marketing the Esoteric

Lady Gaga captivates those interested in the power of celebrity. But her persona goes beyond what is typically associated with simple pop-stardom. Given the imagery used in her public presentation, she has been suspected of being involved with the Illuminati and various expressions of the occult, causing many to consider the possibility of a secret Lady Gaga religious affiliation. However, her “symbol-laden presentations” writes Jeremy Biles, “are evidence not of occult involvements, but of a strategic, effective, and very canny self-display centering obsessively on one concern: fame and the mechanisms that produce and support it.” Biles argues that Lady Gaga may simply be about image: “all persona, all spectacle, all surface.” The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, notes Biles, “might have called her ‘hyperreal.’” This classification taps in to the postmodern argument that symbols and images are merely simulations which conceal the startling existential conclusion that there is nothing of substance beneath what is believed to represent some deeper truth. When considering the various occult images used by Lady Gaga, one must consider that these are “part of the total simulation [emphasis added] called ‘Lady Gaga,’” amounting to “surface style,” according to Biles. In the end, if one attempts to locate the wizard behind the curtain, one finds a vacuum of meaning. While many continue to suspect cryptic allusions to archaic occult practices or secret societies, others view her posturing as just that—Lady Gaga effectively manipulates fandom to create and sustain a cult of personality which encourages and cultivates the innumerable mythologies often attached to celebrity. This is nothing new, of course. Groups such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and jazz musician Sun Ra, have all incorporated esoteric themes and symbols into their music and imagery. And while some musicians may very well own the meaning behind the symbols, others often market the illusion of the dark and fantastic to consumers who seek excitement. Recalling Baudrillard’s concept of “simulacra and simulation” Biles dismisses any possibility of esotericism, wizardry, or “shadowy conspiracy at work,” stating that “Lady Gaga is no puppet, mindlessly executing a secret agendum; she is a self-styled, self-aware, and charismatic mannequin—an artificial person—who knows how to exploit, extend, and exacerbate the contemporary zeitgeist in her exploration and cultivation of fame.” According to this article (and various socio-cultural theorists), in the end, power is no longer held in symbols and images, but in “style.” Read the full article here.

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