Bad Romance or a Poker Face? The Five Faces of Love According to Lady Gaga
By Jeremy Fancher
Those of us in our mid-twenties are faced with the uncomfortable truth that some of our peers are madly successful beasts in their respective fields. At sixteen, it’s different. The superstars are but potential versions of our current selves. Officially adults, we now face our undisputed Queen of Pop, Lady Gaga, who became a five-time Grammy winning cultural icon and a Forbes top-15 Power Woman by the time she hit 25.
The vast majority of us will not achieve superstardom a few years after legally being able to drink. Most of us find our own paths to greatness, and to ourselves, through the everyday struggles offered by life in your early twenties. And there’s plenty of struggle to go around in those transitional post-college years. Take Abby, titular star of KoldCast TV’s romantic comedy About Abby, who’s fresh out of a relationship with her high school sweetheart and thrown into the lion’s den that is the Los Angeles dating scene. She handles the change clumsily at times, but with a heap of integrity that makes us root for her all the way.
Scenes from About Abby
Like Gaga, Abby possesses the spirit of open sexual confidence, but she has not yet grasped how to wield it. Rather than shy away from her suitors though, Abby dives in, learning a lot about life, love, and sex in the process. She ascends through a variety of flings and romantic relationships, ultimately coming into her own as a result.
Gaga’s metamorphosis is a different story. How did Stefani Germanotta transform from a primped Catholic schoolgirl on Manhattan’s Upper East Side into Lady Gaga, a desire-object and the world’s most popular Twitter user? The short answer is that she has tapped into some resonant undercurrent of repressed sexuality — the need so many of us feel to escape the dogmatic confines of “traditional family values.”
Gaga fleshes out the old guard’s conceptions of sexuality, that when brought into the public sphere, evaporate under the weight of their own rigidity. Abby and twenty-somethings everywhere must figure out where they fall on the spectrum of modern love by living through it. This chasm of love and sexual frustration created in Frau Gaga’s music and About Abby’s love life can best be brought to light by drawing a parallel. We’ve devoted five Gaga songs to explaining the hapless romantic failures in About Abby’s first five episodes.
Bad Romance: “Abby and the Aussie”
Dubbed the greatest Lady Gaga song ever by Rolling Stone, “Bad Romance” hit number one on the Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Italian, and Finnish charts, to name a few. ‘Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah,’ this song articulated the globe’s sexual frustrations, ‘roma, roma, ma.’ But seriously, after a breakup with a long-time boyfriend, Abby gets set-up with a co-worker’s friend, who in every possible way resembles Bill “m’ yeah” Lumbergh from Office Space. After he asks if she wants to skip the dip and chips and go straight to the rip, Abby jumps ship and hits the town with her friend, Caroline.
But the true “Bad Romance” (‘I want your love, I don’t wanna be friends’) comes in the form of a bulky Australian gent to whom Abby’s response can best be described as ‘Gaga, ooh la la!’ Lady Gaga wrote the song to describe the loneliness of being drawn into relationships with dubious men, and that turns out to be precisely the super sad story of Abby’s romantic travails.
Click to play Episode 1 of About Abby
Judas: “Abby and the Ex”
One of Lady Gaga’s most contentious songs, especially for Christians, references the “king without a crown,” Judas, who betrayed Jesus by identifying him for Pontius Pilate’s soldiers, leading to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
Gaga belts, ‘forgive him when his tongue lies through his brain.’ Our naïve Abby, not yet privy to the rampant cheating that accompanies adult romantic life, excitedly hooks up with an old ex, only to discover that she’s now the mistress on the side. The philosopher-queen Gaga said in an interview that “Judas is a metaphor and an analogy about forgiveness and betrayal and things that haunt you in your life and how I believe that it’s the darkness in your life that ultimately shines and illuminates the greater light that you have upon you.” Sage advice for the now disillusioned Abby.
Poker Face: “Abby and the Musician”
While it is Lada Gaga ‘bluffin’ with her muffin’ in “Poker Face,” it is Abby who falls right into her newest interest’s all-in bluff in this episode. Reeling from her headfirst dive into the empty pool of romantic reality, Abby finds herself swooning, a la Kristin “I-can’t-believe-he-actually-likes-me” Stewart in Twilight, over the boyish Brooklyn music sensation, Xander Falls. She can’t read his Poker Face as he serenades her with a song, inserting her name mad lib-style as if it was written exclusively for her. At least Edward meant it when he said he wanted to be with Bella forever.
Telephone: “Abby and the Dead Fish”
For Gaga, the telephone that won’t stop ringing is her own mind. She says the song is about the constant drive for productivity that she can’t escape, even when she’s out drinking at a nightclub. Pictures of Gaga out at da’ club gettin’ tipsy are few and far between, likely because she rarely goes out hard. The relentless pursuit of self-actualization that defines the American work ethic seems to apply to Gaga, too. It’s hard to imagine LG as a hard-working, industrial type, but writing, recording, and producing a song, let alone forty or fifty, isn’t exactly a day at the beach.
While Frau Gaga is haunted by the ‘telephone’ in her head, Abby is haunted by her continually ineffectual romantic pursuits, for which there seems to be an inverse relationship between intensity of commitment and reward. Abby’s ‘telephone’ is a Skype call with her new love, Xander. Our hapless love interest fails to consider the lack of privacy entailed by video chatting in the bedroom, and Abby catches a glimpse of another girl in Xander’s bed. Fear not, though, Abby’s shying away from flirtation is about as likely as Gaga shying away from her adoring “little monsters.”
No Way: “Abby and the New Guy”
In episode five, Abby finally struggles not for lack of attention but for too much of it. Abby finds a boyfriend, but it turns out her old friend Micah wants her for more than lively conversation. “No Way” is one of Gaga’s many unofficial releases, but perfectly describes Abby’s predicament. It was leaked in 2009 but never recorded for an album. She sings, ‘Even though her clothes were on and everything / Your eyes were somewhere else and you were both to blame.’ Abby’s close friend Micah crashes and burns with a massive Freudian slip, calling out “Abby!” while he’s in bed with another woman, who could’ve just sung ‘if you’re wondering if I’m staying, the answer is no way.’ Lacking the requisite glibness to escape such a failure, Micah mumbles his way to disaster. Later, while driving Abby and her boyfriend, his eyes are somewhere else as he crashes head on into our old friend Bill “m’ yeah” Lumbergh on a bicycle.
Lady Gaga truly has the prolific songwriting chops to presage all our romantic foibles, and Abby has the courage to play them out by living through a different one every day.
Jeremy Fancher is a second-year student at the University of Michigan Law School. He is left-handed, and wishes he had a dog, which he would name John Elway. Jeremy would hypothetically enjoy taking long walks with said John Elway.