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Lady Gaga’s Art Therapy

December 6, 2011

Perhaps you’ve been too distracted by the Justin Bieber paternity scandal to catch the latest Lady Gaga offering, but you should: her 14-minute self-directed “Marry the Night” video is equal parts Girl Interrupted, Black Swan and Flashdance, and it encapsulates what makes the pop provocateur’s work so titillating and challenging.

At best it portrays resilience in the face of despair—Gaga recovering from some kind of trauma (the gossip sites say it was rejection by her record label). At worst it romanticizes suicide and pokes fun at psychiatry. Either way it is helpful to understand the controversy that surrounds her and what makes her such a compelling role model to her fans.The video opens with Gaga having survived a suicide attempt and being wheeled into a harrowing but uber-fashionable psychiatric clinic where the nurses are in “next season Calvin Klein.” At face value, this certainly does not help to destigmatize mental health treatment, as it is really a hypermodern, ironic version of the alienating institutions of the past.

But Gaga is quick to make her point—that her art and her dreams are the path to rehabilitation. As she narrates: “clinical psychology tells us arguably that trauma is the ultimate killer. Memories are not recycled like atoms and particles in quantum physics; they can be lost forever. It’s sort of like my past is an unfinished painting, and as the artist of that painting, I must fill in all the ugly holes and make it beautiful again.” By the end of the video, indeed, she triumphs; through dance, music, art and deadpan humor—”You may say I lost everything, but I still had my BeDazzler….so I wreaked havoc on some old denim.”

Lady Gaga recently told Financial Times that her latest album is “about rebirth in every sense. Its about being reborn again and again until you find the identity inside yourself that defines you best for who you are and that makes you feel like a champion of life.”

While some may take issue with her persona, who could argue with her message, especially for adolescents?

For a look at how young kids see Lady Gaga check out this video from

Tagged with: Mental Health, Pop Culture
Charlie Gross