Lady Gaga and the religion of style

Jeremy Biles on Religion Dispatches thinks that the conspiracy theorist are right, just not in the way they think. Lady Gaga uses religious symbols and occult imagery deliberately to say…nothing.

Biles says that some folks like to delve deeply into use of symbols to find the hidden message:

In revealing the esoteric meanings of Lady Gaga’s prodigious and fascinatingly outré productions, VC (The Vigilant Citizen) highlights images and gestures suggesting the artist’s connection with the Illuminati, a term used today to designate a secret group believed by some to shape world affairs through governments and front organizations. Pop stars like Jay-Z and political behemoths including Barack Obama and members of the Bush family have been cited in connection with the cult. But it is perhaps Lady Gaga who draws the most attention for her regular and conspicuous displays of symbolism associated with the Illuminati.

Not so fast, Biles says. Her use of symbol is deliberate but she is both making fun of and aggressively using the tools and symbols to generate nothing more than fame. A “simulated person.”

A conspiratorial reading of such “occult” signs is tempting and, frankly, fun. In the face of so much “evidence,” it is easy to see why so many people find this interpretation engrossing, even if not always convincing.

Lady Gaga is no puppet for the Illuminati. She is a highly charismatic and multitalented figure whose symbol-laden presentations 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.

Sociologist of religion Max Weber defined charisma as a quality that sets people apart from the ordinary, so much that they can come to be regarded as divine. One may argue about whether the charismatic Lady Gaga’s talent for devising compelling spectacles is divine in origin. What cannot be disputed is the fact that she has captivated the mass imagination, setting her on a fame trajectory that may eclipse even that of Michael Jackson. She has done this by fashioning a simultaneously protean and distinctive image of herself.

And in a very real sense, Lady Gaga just is image—she is all persona, all spectacle, all surface. French philosopher Jean Baudrillard might have called her “hyperreal”—a term in the postmodernist lexicon that refers to the simulation that conceals the secret that “there is no longer any reality or truth beneath the simulated image.”

Biles claim is that Lady Gaga shows us that in today’s world, signs and symbols mean nothing. What matters is style.

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