A recent course at the University of South Carolina titled “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” drew a lot of attention. But it appears that Lady Gaga herself has an interest in the sociology of fame. Here is part of the conversation Lady Gaga had with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes:
“You’ve studied the fame of other people, how they got it, how they kept it and how they lost it,” Cooper remarked.
“The sociology of fame and how to maintain a certain privacy without, feeling like you’re withholding anything from your fans. My philosophy is that if I am open with them about everything, and yet I art direct every moment of my life, I can maintain a sort of privacy in a way. I maintain a certain soulfulness that I have yet to give,” Lady Gaga said.
The pressures of maintaining fame and the deadly price other superstars have paid for it are frequent themes in Lady Gaga’s performances. At the MTV Video Music Awards she shocked the audience by the ending of her song “Paparazzi.” Drenched in blood and hanging above the stage, she resembled a blond icon dying before our eyes.
“That’s what everyone wants to know, right? ‘What’s she gonna look like when she dies? What’s she gonna look like when she’s overdosed?’ on whatever they think I’m overdosing on? Everybody wants to see the decay of the superstar,” Lady Gaga said.
“Do you think people wanna see your decay?” Cooper asked.
“What? Of course they do! They wanna see me fail, they wanna see me fall on stage, they wanna see me vomiting out of a nightclub. I mean, isn’t that the age that we live in? That we wanna see people who have it all lose it all? I mean, it’s dramatic,” she replied.
“And then climb their way back,” Cooper remarked.
“Right. It’s a movie. And yet I just am not like that on my own time. I’m not a vomit-in-the-club kind of girl,” she said.
A few questions come to mind:
1. Would sociologists agree that the cycle that celebrities go through (rise to stardom, decline, comeback attempt) is “the sociology of fame?”
2. Does this mean that Lady Gaga is simply playing a role for her fans and for others? If she is so aware of how the script goes, is she doing anything original or authentic? She suggests she “art direct[s] every moment of [her] life” but also claims she is still able to maintain a private side. A classic front-stage/back-stage Erving Goffman explanation.
2a. If she knows that the decay is coming, will she choose to initiate it herself or at least push in a certain direction to maintain some control over it?
2b. There could be some interesting material in thinking about the entertainment or spectacle that Lady Gaga offers and why this is attractive to people.
3. What did Lady Gaga think of having a sociology class named after her (even though the class was about popular music in general)? Is this when she started thinking about “the sociology of fame”?