What do the cast members of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills do on their days off? Film Lady Gage music videos. In Lady Gaga's video for "G.U.Y.", released Saturday, fans can watch the Housewives "playing" instruments with the skill and dexterity of Ron Burgundy on the jazz flute. Bravo host Andy Cohen appears as Zeus in the clouds, shining an orange-skinned glow over the entire Hearst Castle. Gaga dances, Gaga is scantily clad, and there are some shots that seem to fall completely outside any semblance of a narrative. In short, it's a Lady Gaga music video.
In "G.U.Y" in particular, Gaga's visual references to ancient Greece and Rome taunt the Art History 101 student in all of us. She throws out "Venus" and "Aphrodite" in her priestess chant, and rises from a chlorinated pool like the Venus de Milo. Her position as a fallen, broken Icarus (stabbed, perhaps, by Cupid's arrow) in the beginning is underscored by the final shot in the video, which pans out over the Beverly Hills coastline, capturing an idyllic scene reminiscent of Peter Bruegel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." One of the unfortunate consequences of all these classical references, however, is that the waves of information, rather than contributing to a larger meaning, tend to suffer from destructive interference.
Despite the lack of classical coherence, I think we can approach Gaga's video through a more modern lens: this is the Life Cycle of the Trophy Wife.
From the beginning, Gaga is selling sex. Literally, she is pierced by a phallic object while money rains from the heavens, and men in suits fight tooth and nail to collect the manna. This visual mash-up of Mad Men and The Living Dead lets us see that men, in this instance, have tried to kill her for money, while they have no interest in her as prey in her own right. Gaga bravely snaps off the arrow protruding from her chest, pledging, no doubt, to turn this weapon against the men who used it.
Gaga is resurrected as a goddess after a dip in a sparkling pool, plumage full and blindingly white. She is Gandalf, post-Balrog. She chants, "Greetings, Himeros/ God of sexual desire, son of Aphrodite/ Lay back and feast as this audio guides you through new and exciting positions." Suddenly, the wings are making more sense. Himeros is Aphrodite's winged son, and Gaga is both embodying him and speaking to him, calling up the love god in the bodies of her fellow women. Her voice is strangely monotone, a tired version of phone sex that is more off-putting than sensual. This may be, perhaps, the the inner monologue of all trophy wives, as they perform rote rituals of adoration despite the echoing stillness of their hearts.
So, what is the source of a Real Housewife's power? Gaga explains, "I want to be the girl under you… I'm gonna wear the tie, the power to leave you/ I'm aiming for full control of this love." These Housewives derive their strength from their positions of supposed subservience. Gaga takes a less dominant sexual position and transforms it into a source of control. Any way it happens, she seems to be saying, my love will be your leash.
Next, Gaga calls up the bodies of assorted powerful men, from Jesus to Gandhi to Michael Jackson, then draws their blood to create a serum that she injects into businessmen. She creates an army of smooth-faced Lady Gaga acolytes, then opens the gates of the castle to release them to the world. While Housewives are limited by their monogamy, this video seems to be hinting that their love has a corporate, toothy power.
Ultimately, however, Gaga leaves the corner office instead of staying to inhabit it. She accepts that her power is through her man, and does not have a place in the corporate world when ensconced in female flesh. On one hand, women are empowered through their sexuality, but on the other, men remain the bridge between their domestic and public spheres. Nothing makes this as apparent as the face of Andy Cohen in the clouds. The Real Housewives may be the stars, and the brightly colored birds of their show, but Cohen is the executive power. He is the celestial sphere that makes their stardom possible.
And with that, I will leave "G.U.Y." to the YouTubing masses. There are several other loose symbolic ends to wrap up, one of them being Gaga's odd Lego torso. Have fun with that, America, and god help us all if it's an allusion to The Lego Movie.
Watch the music video below:
Images: YouTube/Lady Gaga