Nice to meet you, Jo Calderone.
Lady Gaga introduced the broader world to her masculine alter ego, Jo Calderone, in a revved-up, raw performance of "You and I" at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday. Clothed in Brooks Brothers and Dior Homme, smoking, drinking, snarling and eventually, singing with characterstic Gaga gusto, Calderone was mesmerizing. (Did you catch the looks on the faces of Justin Bieber and Britney Spears in the audience?)
Gaga's "little monsters"-- her fans --- all saw this coming. But the rest of us may have wondered where this not-so-charming, yet fascinating,guy came from.
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Lady Gaga has courted controversy for so long, they should be common-law married by now. But despite all the rumors of plagiarism, massive plastic surgery, and lip-synching phoniness, one particularly nasty bit of gossip has plagued Gaga from the beginning. That she was, originally, a man.
Gaga's drag queen-inspired stage persona (and fierce support of the LGBT community) has led many to question her gender origins, going so far as to offer up photo "proof."
So what does Gaga do? She takes it on full force, coyly introducing "Jo Calderone" for a photo shoot in the September 2010 issue of the Japanese edition of Vogue Hommes. "Jo" is all slicked back hair, dangling cigarette, and perma-sneer - a perfect "in your face" to the haters. Though she kept silent on the topic, her fans knew the score. And this month he graces the cover of her newest single "You and I."
It was a gusty move to be sure, but Gaga is never content to half-do anything. So last night she took it several notches further - dragging (no pun intended) Jo to the largest stage she could find - the MTV Video Music Awards - and made "him" sing and dance for the world.
For the entire show, she never once fell out character, even as she accepted the Best Female Video Award ("because Gaga isn't here"), and lurched about like she had a bad back and ill-fitting underwear -- a far cry from the lithe Gaga who usually dances her way through performances like a cross between a Russian gymnast and Janet Jackson.
There's in your face, then there's in your living room.
It says a lot about Gaga's approach to her music and her politics - she's not defensive and she's not overcompensating. She really doesn't care what you think. (Though what you think sure has made her a lot of money.)
It's worth pointing out that while Gaga won the new "Best Video with a Message" award for "Born this Way," her message is sort of that there is no message: Are you gay? Straight? Male? Female? Transgender? Who cares?
In a world where extemeism is on the rise, and in a country where we spend days and weeks debating what's "normal" Gaga says "Why does it matter? Can't we move on?"
There's an old anecdote that a reporter once asked "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry why, in the 24th century, there was no cure for Captain Jean-Luc Picard's baldness. Roddenberry's answer?
"By the 24th century, no one will care."
Lead the way, Gaga...