She had all the makings of a one-hit-wonder. Exotic flare, dance club style, and a larger-than-life ego have launched her into stardom. In record speed, she solidified her identity as the leading lady of pop culture by attracting millions of fans who memorize her lyrics, emulate her style, and imbibe her passion.

Lady Gaga is not just a stage name; it's an alter ego, a tool the 25-year-old uses as she masters the art of fame. While she claims music is her first passion and eccentric style her vehicle for expression, consistency in playing the part enables her to continuously shock the world.

The loyalty of her fan base makes Lady Gaga's reign unlike any other. She refers to them as "Little Monsters." In return they call her "Mother Monster." It's a mutually beneficial relationship because millions of people—who vary in age, gender, nationality, socio-economic standing, and sexual orientation—cling to her words and yearn for her presence, as she responds by praising them for their individuality and exhorts them to unleash the superstar within.

"Tonight I want you to let go of all of your insecurities," says Lady Gaga, offering redemption to her devotees from middle school heartbreaks, confusion about self-identity, and mid-life crises. "I want you to reject anyone or anything that ever made you feel that you don't belong. Free yourself of these things tonight!" As she imparts these words and soothes her Little Monsters with song, they claim freedom from angst and awkwardness. Like a nursing mother, she promises them solace.

Such a close relationship with fans has never been seen before. Even Madonna's followers lacked the identification with their pop-star hero that Lady Gaga has secured in a fraction of the time.

The Art of Fame

How did this modern-day heroine reach this place? Like many celebrities, it began with a childhood dream and dedicated parents. Stefani Germanotta grew up in an affluent area of New York, attended Catholic schools, and began studying music and dance when she was 4.

Today, she is a classically trained pianist with a powerful voice. But, according to Lady Gaga, this isn't the only art form she has studied. In an interview with Anderson Cooper she offered this insight: "One of my greatest artworks is the art of fame. I'm a master of the art of fame."

This is evident in her similarity to pop-icon Madonna, whose notoriety was largely due to her ability to reinvent herself. However, Madonna did this with different fashion trends every few years or so; Lady Gaga changes her appearance on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, Madonna pushed the envelope in many regards, especially in terms of sex, helping make it "acceptable" and even normal for young women to engage in premarital intercourse. Lady Gaga takes this one step further; she not only flaunts her own bedroom activity, but one of her public platforms is homosexuality.

In a recent number-one hit, "Born this Way," Lady Gaga sings, "It doesn't matter if you love him, or capital H.I.M." The song emphasizes the need to love oneself at all cost. She promotes self-love despite nationality and disability, but most of all, with reference to sexual orientation.

The basic argument runs this way: "I'm beautiful, 'Cause God makes no mistakes, I'm on the right track, I was born this way." The song has a catchy beat that masks its ideological edge, but the real shock value is in the music video. The pop diva splits her physical appearance in two; half of her is dressed like a woman, the other half, a man.

This is the Lady Gaga the world has come to expect. This, apparently, is how she has mastered the art of fame.

Who Are Her Fans?

It's also why her fans adore her. One of Lady Gaga's reasons for her behavior is "vicarious eccentricity": if she is weird, it takes pressure off of others who are seen as weird. She attracts the alienated. This is why social outsiders, in-the-closet college students, and underappreciated housewives all gravitate to her.

It's also fascinating to see how Lady Gaga appeals to society at large. She sold 1.1 million records in the first week of album sales in May. Such an accomplishment bears testimony to the sweeping scope of this "fame-monster." She speaks to virtually everyone with her message of love and understanding. "We are all born superstars," she exclaims. But if her fans truly believed and adopted this doctrine as their own, would one of her young fans recently commit suicide because of cyber bullying?

Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old from Buffalo, New York, took his own life this September. His last words were sent in a tweet to his idol. He wrote, "Goodbye, Mother Monster. Thank you for all you've done. Paws up forever." Jamey had been mercilessly taunted on account of his homosexuality. Unfortunately, his heroine and her promise of deliverance couldn't save the sorrow that plagued the young boy. He thanked her anyway.

Will the Real Deity Please Stand?

Can someone like Jamey Rodemeyer, whose life is ridden with rejection, be redeemed from self-hatred? Why didn't Jamey's inner-superstar emerge to save him as Lady Gaga had promised? Jamey needed a Savior who loved him to the point of death, even death on a cross.

A parody of so great a salvation took place at MTV's 2009 Video Music Awards. Lady Gaga ended her performance by being raised above the stage, drenched in blood. Her body hung there like an icon who had been murdered, dying in the midst of those who both loved her and scorned her. When asked about this she explained, "Everyone wants to see the decay of a superstar."

This is where Lady Gaga's philosophy gets seriously twisted, even damning. In proclaiming the message of redemption by inner illumination, she also promotes death as a spectacle. In this vein, she exploits Christian themes of redemption, only to mock and denigrate them as meaningless. For those who have eyes to see, this messiah complex is a common thread to much of her work. Its expression is profuse and explicit, including her recent song "Judas," in which Gaga sings about her ongoing love for Jesus' betrayer.

Lady Gaga, a mother to her fans, claims that she loves her Little Monsters. While exhorting them to break the shackles of self-imposed weakness, she performs in the foreground of the cross. When viewers try to peek around her theatrics to behold the man with outstretched arms wearing thorns upon his head, she reclaims their attention with provocative display of eroticism. "Keep your eyes on me all you who are rejected, ridiculed, and out of place in society," she cries. "I am your Mother."

But that Man will not be silenced. His love is too broad to be concealed. His redemption isn't a performance. It was a real cross, with real nails, in real time. Truly God and truly man, he died a physical death for actual sin resulting in genuine redemption. This one Savior, truly rose from the grave and really lives. Therefore, his promise is unyielding: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28). He is the Savior of the world; his name is Jesus.

Chris Castaldo serves as director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. He is the author of Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic. He earned an MDiv at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is completing a Ph.D. at the London School of Theology. He blogs at www.chriscastaldo.com.

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Chris Castaldo


Chris Castaldo serves as director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. He is the author of Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic. He earned an MDiv at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is completing a Ph.D. at the London School of Theology. He blogs at www.chriscastaldo.com.

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