Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts


The Controversial Anthropology of Lady Gaga

posted by Mark D. Roberts
lady-gaga-5.jpg

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.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(4)
post a comment
Bill Goff

posted February 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm


When I heard Lady Gaga sing this at the Music Awards Ceremony on TV I didn’t catch all the words. I think I was distracted by her appearance which seemed bizarre as usual. In particular I didn’t notice her theological references. She seems to be saying that God created everyone they way they are with specific reference to race, nationality, and gender preference. Most likely Christians will agree about the race and nationality coming from God, but disagree about gender preference. I believe that God created everything and affirmed that his creation was good. I have come to believe that people with different gender preferences were created by God as much as I was. Of course our choices can distort and destroy God’s intention for our lives as happened with our first parents.
After reading your Daily Reflection today on “Lavish Forgiveness, Lavish Love” in reference to Luke 7:36-50 it strikes me that Lady Gaga is like the extravagant woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. I think Lady Gaga is the kind of woman who was repelled by the judgmental religious leaders of her day but strongly attracted to Jesus.



report abuse
 

Mark D. Roberts

posted February 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm


Thanks, Bill, for your comment. Yes, it’s an interesting thought. If Jesus were here today, he’d probably be hanging out with the Lady Gagas in this world, rather than the religious leaders like, um, well, me. Hmmmmm.



report abuse
 

Ray

posted February 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm


I really like the confidence and self-acceptance. The lyrics are uplifting and positive. I don’t think you’d find too many kids becoming suicidal after listening to this song.
Since we’re analyzing this from an anthropological, philosophical/theological perspective, (thanks, Professor Roberts) I’ll just say this…
Line one defines the world view. “It doesn’t matter whether you love him or capital H-I-M.” That pretty much describes Israel’s behavior from the time they left Egypt. They were constantly tempted to accept all of the “hims” of the world as morally equivalent with the uniquely sovereign “HIM” who created them and made a holy covenant with their fathers.
One other observation. The repeated reference to being “born this way” is troublesome. On one hand, it affirms that each individual, being created by God (“cause he made you perfect, babe”…), has intrinsic value. I wholeheartedly agree. On the other hand, the statement seems to be used as an excuse to follow self-centered desires, particularly with regard to sexuality. “God makes no mistakes” is a true statement. But God did not create us in our fallen state. Just sayin…



report abuse
 

David O'Dell

posted February 28, 2011 at 10:06 am


I like her, and I like the song. It reminds me of the old dicso that invited me to dance to! you aren’t alone there.
Considering the number of kids who kill themselves over the guilt they feel for being gay, or the cruelty of other kids who are influenced to see being gay as defective/wrong/sinful, not to mention the many more kids who live in depression and misery from being picked on but thankfully do not try to end their lives because of this pain, I think the song is a great affirmation that could be EXACLTY what they, and the bullies, need to hear, and we should welcome.
If it helps a single kid not see themselves as damaged/sinful for who they are, and to not internalize the “love the sinner hate the sin” cliche that has hurt so many people, and not go jump off a bridge or take a bottle of pills, then the song will have proven its value. It will be the reasonsiblity of the theologians and scholars of the church to re-evaluate their stand on this issue the same way they did on issues such as slavery, and the role of women. Happily, more and more denominations and Christians of every tradition are doing so.
Lady Gaga is outlandish, but she writes a good song, one can understand her words, and for a lot of kids out there, those words are exactly what they need to hear.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Mark D. Roberts. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 2:09:11pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Conclusions
In this series on the death of Jesus, I have presented four different perspectives on why Jesus had to die: Roman, Jewish, Jesus’, and Early Christian. I believe that each of these points of view has merit, and that we cannot fully understand the necessity of Jesus’ death without taking them all

posted 2:47:39am Apr. 11, 2011 | read full post »

Sunday Inspiration from the High Calling
Can We Find God in the City? Psalm 48:1-14 Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever,

posted 2:05:51am Apr. 10, 2011 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? The Perspective of the First Christians, Part 3
An Act and Symbol of Love Perhaps one of the most startling of the early Christian interpretations of the cross was that it was all about love. It’s easy in our day, when crosses are religious symbols, attractive ornaments, and trendy jewelry to associate the cross with love. But, in the first

posted 2:41:47am Apr. 08, 2011 | read full post »

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? The Perspective of the First Christians, Part 2
The Means of Reconciliation In my last post, I examined one of the very earliest Christian statements of the purpose of Jesus’ death. According to the tradition encapsulated in 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus died “for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” (15:3). Yet this text doesn’t expl

posted 2:30:03am Apr. 07, 2011 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.