Long before the accusations of Harvey Weinstein’s vile behavior towards women, the re-invigoration of the thriving #metoo battle cry, or the surfacing allegations against Kevin Spacey and other Hollywood elites, Lady Gaga targeted the toxicity underpinning the core of mainstream media in her Netflix documentary, Five Foot Two.
I have always respected Lady Gaga for her vulnerability and gritty, graceful human-ness that bolsters so much of her public persona. There is a particularly candid moment in Five Foot Two where Gaga’s poetic intolerance of the predators and power abusers of the industry foreshadowed the news cycle of today:
“When producers…start to act like ‘you’re nothing without me,’ for women especially—those men have so much power that they can have women in a way that no other men can,” she says. “Whatever they want… the cocaine, the money, the hottest girls you’ve ever seen,” Lady Gaga explains.
“And then I walk in the room, and it’s like, eight times out of ten, I’m put in that category and they expect from me what those girls have to offer when… that’s not why I’m here.”
Lady Gaga goes on to elaborate about times she has been forced into an unwelcome situation pertaining to her music or persona, saying she has made a point to put a spin on those situations to make her feel in control. She explains, “I’m going to do it while… reminding you of what fame did to Marilyn Monroe, the original Norma Jean, and what it did to Anna Nicole Smith.”
In that moment, Lady Gaga was highlighting a destructive root of behavior at the core of mainstream media: an abusive dominance over women.
And it made me pause, not only as a woman, but as a human, forcing me to take note of the severity of what she was saying. She wasn’t just complaining that producers were suffocating her creative genius, asking her to be someone she wasn’t. No, her statement carried more weight than that.
There was pain in her unguarded comment; there was a prelude to what is surfacing now in droves—the reality that women (and adolescents) are often treated as commodities of pleasure and wealth by an industry’s slew of demi-gods. Commodities that, to them, aren’t meant to have a say, but instead willingly give the deepest parts of their innocence and sense of self to someone else’s broken, predatory, and wealth-seeking dominance.
As the current Hollywood news cycle goes from bad to worse, I can’t help but be encouraged by the wave of accusations breaking forth. It means that the levy of secrecy has broken: there is no more hiding this destructive behavior in a dark corner of obscurity that ruthlessly claims victims.
This, in turn, means that a voice has been given to the voiceless, and a predatory behavior protected in secrecy by so many for so long can no longer be aided and abetted.
I can’t help it if Gaga’s statement resurfaces in my mind, causing me to re-experience the pain in her voice as she said, “…reminding you of what fame did to Marilyn Monroe, the original Norma Jean….” As I meditate on that statement, I wonder what stories Monroe would tell today in the wave of media surrounding the sexual and power abuse by some of Hollywood’s elite. As a woman who fought the unbalanced gender bias in Hollywood (Marilyn was only the second woman to head her own production company, proving herself a formidable producer), would she lend her voice of pain, helping us all to see a bit more clearly the price some in the industry have been forced to pay?
I hope she would, but to Lady Gaga’s point, perhaps she already has—a tumultuous life, riddled with pain but full of drive, is the legacy that still speaks to us today. That is, after all, “what fame did to Marilyn Monroe.” Fame took an intelligent and savvy woman; gifted her with enduring talent; played on her dreams, ambitions, and brokenness; and limited her to the role of a pin-up sex pot, attempting to strip her of self-empowerment and self-love.
But, the truth is, “what fame did to Marilyn Monroe” didn’t stop with Marilyn. The cycle of innocent dreams and raw talent met with crude destructive power has continued since then. But now, the light is shining and the surfacing reality of our beloved Tinseltown, as disenchanting and depressing as it might be, forces us all to ponder the effects “fame” actually has on the Marilyn Monroes of not just Hollywood, but society as a whole.
LightWorkers’ mission is to create engaging, uplifting and inspirational content that breaks through the clutter, building a community of sharing and igniting a movement in the real world that motivates people to celebrate and share the good all around them.