pop goes the world: watching gaga

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  24 May 2012, Thursday

 Watching Gaga

When I saw my officemate Noy the day after he watched the Lady Gaga concert the first night, I asked: “So, have you sprouted demon horns and a tail yet?”

“Not yet,” he said cheerfully, “but the concert was great! I’m now a fan because of her showmanship and talent. I am unashamedly admitting that I like her.” This from a man who doesn’t listen to anything recorded after the ‘90s.

Lady Gaga concert poster for Manila leg, 2012. Image here.

Christian groups of various denominations denounced the schlock-shock songstress primarily based on the imagery in the music video of her song “Judas”, which they found offensive to their faith.

Intercessors for the Philippines deemed that Lady Gaga was promoting “Satanic rituals” in the video while the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ Commission on Youth said that Lady Gaga’s “brand of entertainment violates the tenets of Christianity” and that the youth “are being corrupted” by her.

Protesters gonna protest. Image here.

Artists who use their art to evoke reactions such as shock and rage, whether from personal conviction or for the sake of publicity, have been condemned by religious organizations throughout history, with the likes of pop singer Madonna, she of the ‘roidular arms, accused of “satanic provocation” for her hits “Like a Virgin” and “Like A Prayer”.

Here at home and more recently, painter Mideo Cruz’s “Politeismo” was also considered satanic. Now the furor has sputtered out, as was inevitable. What was gained or lost by the protesters and the churches? That particular flap blew over, and now the narrow-minded go on to the next scandal.

Religions operate tax-free and under an umbrella of near-untouchability and reverence, a result of cultural norms related to tradition and superstition. It’s pretty good business – see how the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, has endured as an economic institution for a couple of thousand years, give or take a few centuries of persecution.

Time brings about change. Technological advances in communication have made information exchange easier and faster; exposure to new ideas is happening at a speedier rate than ever before. Ideologies that rely upon control of its members will feel threatened, and the knee-jerk reaction is to ban or prevent that which they fear.

Various Islamic governments, for example, have banned forms of self-expression such as trendy haircuts for men and extreme fashion, forcing their citizens to conform to a strict set of guidelines in such matters.

As long as no laws are broken, why prevent other people from expressing their creativity and artists from plying their craft? If you are offended by their content, it’s simple – be like those three monkeys and don’t watch, don’t look, don’t listen. Why impose your own beliefs upon others who do not share them?

Is your faith so weak that it requires strengthening by preventing other people from watching an oddly-dressed woman make a living by singing redundant and insipid lyrics to shallow bubblegum pop music?

I don’t listen to Lady Gaga’s music because it’s not the kind I enjoy. But I defend her performance in this country and the right of others to spend their money on tickets to watch her, because one of the foundations of a true democracy is freedom of speech and expression.

Lady Gaga sports gaga-licious hair upon her arrival in Manila. Image here.

For this reason I also defend the protests mounted by these religious groups. Walang basagan ng trip, as long as they do not prevent the events they object to from taking place, in the same way their own religious affairs are not interfered with.

But it is ridiculous that the Pasay City government sent people to monitor the Lady Gaga concert on the first night. Perhaps political pressure was brought to bear; still, it was a puerile move and an insult to common sense and a waste of time and resources. Now, those I find offensive. Ours is a secular government, with separation of church and state embodied in the Constitution. Let it act like one.

But hey, those monitors got to watch an international star for free! Where can I get a gig like that?

Noy saw the entire concert and survived unscathed, as far as I can tell. He has gotten over the excitement already and is back to playing disco on his laptop, and is no more evil and satanic than usual.

I am still keeping an eye on his head and butt, though. Just in case. *** 

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