Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

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Yes, rock star Lady Gaga has an anthropology. No, I don’t mean that she’s been digging around in the dirt, looking for remnants of ancient societies, or studying tribes in far away jungles. I’m not implying that Lady Gaga is an anthropologist, in these senses. Rather, I’m saying that she has an anthropology, that is, a philosophical/theological understanding of what it means to be a human being. (The English word anthropology comes from the Greek that means “an understanding of man.”)

Of course Lady Gaga doesn’t write philosophical treatises. Rather, she writes and performs music, and with considerable success. Her most recent single, “Born This Way,” for example, is the fastest selling single in iTunes history. Given the relative newness of iTunes, I would assume that this might make “Born This Way” the fastest selling single in history . . . period. Has any other single in human history sold more than a million copies in its first five days of release?

“Born This Way” is not only popular, but also controversial. Sir Elton John has proclaimed it to be the new “gay anthem.” He’s not just reading between the lines here. Consider this passage from the song:

Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby you were born this way
No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to survive

As you can well imagine, lines like this don’t sit well with religious and/or social conservatives.

Beginning with today’s blog post, I want to examine the anthropology of Lady Gaga. (And, yes, give what I’ve been able to discover online, she did write the lyrics of “Born This Way.”) I want to think seriously about the claims she’s making about human nature. You’d be right to imagine that I’m not fully in agreement with her views. But you might be surprised to discover that I think she is not entirely out to lunch, either.

Before I analyze the lyrics of “Born This Way,” I’ll print them here so you can think about them for yourself. (You don’t really need a transcript for this song, however, because Lady Gaga is unusually clear in her enunciation. You can actually understand what she’s singing when you listen to the song, the sound of which reminds me of disco tunes that once invited me to dance.)

It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
‘Cause you were born this way, baby

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir
“There’s nothin wrong with lovin who you are”
She said, “’cause he made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way

Ooo there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Ooo there ain’t no other way
Baby, I was born this way
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag – just be a queen
Don’t be a drag – just be a queen
Don’t be a drag – just be a queen
Don’t be!

Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth
A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah [Italian for: My love needs faith, yeah! At least I think so.]

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
‘Cause baby you were born this way
No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to be brave

I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!  

Tomorrow, I’ll do some thinking about the anthropology of this song. Meanwhile, I want to thank Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today, whose Faith and Reason blog brought this song to my attention.

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