Lady Gaga and the VMA's normal extremes

LOS ANGELES – It’s a strange day when the most normally dressed, well-behaved artist at an awards show is Britney Spears.

Sunday night showcased the 2011 MTV VMA Awards show held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. Because of the nature and prestige of the VMAs, creativity and artistic freedom is expected – and even looked forward to – during the show.

However, one artist (can you guess who?) once again pushed the extreme envelope a little too far (if that’s even possible, at this point). Or maybe she tried something that was so predictably unpredictable that fans were not amused.

Lady Gaga appeared as her alter ego and male counterpart, Jo Calderone, stepping out in full drag – clothes, wig, make-up, false sideburns, fake tan, the works.

I guess the next most shocking thing to do after you’ve tried changing your outfit a hundred times is changing your gender.

Referring to herself as a man and continually apologizing for the fact that Lady Gaga was “not here,” she/he stayed in character the entire evening, and even went as far as using the men’s restroom.

She was completely committed to selling herself as a dude.

I don’t know how I feel about the entire Lady Gaga phenomenon. On the one hand, I think she’s one of the most talented and creative artists out there today. She’s not a copycat of anyone, although some would argue that her music sounds eerily similar to that of pop superstar Madonna. She is continually stretching, inventing, discovering and exploiting herself.

On the other hand…

I don’t know where the lines should be drawn when it comes to artistic expression. I think there should be some self-imposed boundaries. It’s difficult to say that anything goes if you’re in the entertainment business – that you can say anything, be anything and do anything you want. It reminds me of Cee-Lo’s profane song that so many in the entertainment business rallied behind, saying it should be up to him to be as creative as he wants, that writing expletives in a song falls under freedom of speech.

Maybe. But I don’t know where “artistry” should end and ethics should begin. That’s a blurry line for many in the business.

On the subject of Gaga, many fans and media personalities were actually disappointed in her character.

“People originally embraced Gaga because, in all her quirkiness, she was authentic in that she didn’t fit in,” says Fox News producer Edward Paige. “But stepping outside the more comfortable vixen role could hurt her. Does MTV or its throngs of little-girl fans want a diva that looks like Ralph Macchio doing a Lenny Bruce routine? I doubt it.”

I agree with this statement except for one opinion: I highly doubt Gaga’s main focal audience is “throngs of little girls.”

There were plenty of other stars who stepped out in crazy outfits that seemed “so last year,” including Katy Perry, who sported a yellow block on her violet head of hair. Gaga is still one step ahead of the competition, although I’m not sure how long her acts will continue to impress. At some point, I’d like to see her completely natural, as herself. But maybe she’s forgotten who that is?

What were your thoughts on the VMAs or Gaga’s drag-king look? Were you amused or offended? How do you think artists’ behavior is changing the way we view artistic expression?

Leave a comment encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.