What does that song mean?

Lady Gaga's Born This Way and Individual Empowerment

Posted Jun 27th 2011, 12:18 by Penguin Pete

"Born This Way," for a change, is a popular song with a positive message. It's not even a new message, but we hear so few life-affirming media examples that every time we get one, it feels like a refreshing mint that cools the soul. This song also specializes while it unites - it takes time to cross boundaries of race, sexual orientation, and gender.

You'll notice two things about this song right away. One, it sounds suspiciously like Madonna's "Express Yourself." And two, it's the #1 hit on twenty different international charts including being #1 on the US Hot 100. It also set a record for being the fastest-selling song in iTunes history, at one million copies in five days. For a while there, it reached what we like to call "ambient synergy" status, in which you can hear it over the speakers while shopping in a store, and step outside and hear the rest of it from a passing car radio, as if the entire world were listening to it at once.

All of it leads back to the very post-modernist idea of empowerment of the individual. We're all special. That's why we all enter the world in little present boxes tied up in giftwrap and string under a Christmas tree. Each of us is a treat, a little bon-bon in the cosmic box of chocolates. Should I stop here or aren't you sick of it yet?

It's tempting to cynically reject the "we're all special" philosophy (or fragment of a philosophy) out-of-hand - after all, if we're all special, then the word special (definition: "unique or specific to a person or thing or category") means nothing. It's like awarding everyone a blue ribbon as first prize, even if they never showed up to the race. And from that metaphor, we immediately get to the Entitlement Generation, that favorite target for the Geritol set to bash with their cranky old canes.

But stop and think about it: doesn't it do more help than bad? Anything that helps people be more tolerant of each other, that gives people encouragement, that makes them feel loved, has to be a better thing than the hate that the world spews from all corners on a daily basis. No matter how sappy and schlocky the sentiment may be. After all, even Geritol-swigging centenarian dinosaurs swinging their canes and screaming at kids to get off their lawn are special, too.

But when Lady Gaga shows up in an egg and cracks it open to come out singing "Born This Way" (why not "hatched this way"?), she seems just a little more special than others.

Related: Born This Way Meaning


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