Lady Gaga, for all the things that can be said about her, is doing something interesting with disability. Ruth D’R. sent in these images from a recent photoshoot:
(I included this last one beacuse I thought it might be referencing mental illness.)
We’ve featured Gaga’s video for Papparazi before (to highlight it’s sexualized violence), but I thought it was worth re-using in this context because it, too, has disability imagery:
She kept the disability theme at the VMA awards:
So, what do you think? Do you think Gaga is trying to make some kind of statement? Or is she just trying to be edgy and doesn’t really care about the issue? (As seems to be common in fashion.)
Is she simply sexualizing disability? And is that good or bad?
Is the overall effect to make people with disabilities seem empowered? Or, as in the very first image, helpless?
Might she be trying to problematize the “normal,” as she does in many ways but, in this case, normal bodies? Does it work, given her conformity to norms of attractiveness (both body and face)?
Or… since Gaga is known for being just-plain-weird, does that mean that her adoption of these props is an attempt to be weird (as in: wheelchairs and walking with a limp are weird and so I’ll do them to be weird)? Even if that is true, does pushing them into view normalize them? Heighten their weirdness? Both? Or does it depend on the viewer?
For more analysis, read also this blog post over at Bitch magazine written by Annaham (someone who actually knows something about disability studies).
For more on disability and representation, see our posts on the model, Victoria, what does a sexy disabled man look like?, Britain’s disabled model competition, dolls with Down’s Syndrome, a nude calendar featuring Paralympic athletes, the misery of wheelchairs, the disabled girls video game, little people in commercials, and the international symbol.Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and Gender, a textbook. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.