Show business and celebrities orchestrate right down to the last hurrah ways to rev the crowd up, to arouse and elicit the adulation of adoring fans. The repertoire often consists of glitzy costumes (befitting a good Mardi Gras parade) and well oiled sexy dancers of gals and boys to spice it up. So you can imagine, the shock, the horror, no, rupture of audience imaginations when the 'expect the unexpected' Lady Gaga came out clad and enrobed in her wheelchair.
Some comments from the media thought it tasteless. Huffington Post writer Kiki Von Glinow asked - has Gaga's stunt gone too far? Why, because she did not simulate sex or trangenderism? According to Von Glinow, fans egged Gaga's entourage because they found the disability skit offensive rather than outrageous. Now, I know that I am on the older side of 40, but don't you think it is a wee bit strange that fans came prepared to the concerts almost anticipating such a protest by carrying eggs (just in case?).
So what is offensive? It seems when it comes to disability - everything.
Disability ipso facto is offensive especially when it is associated with having a good time instead of being glum. At least in economically flourishing times you could sit by the pavement and pan handle for some dosh. No chance today, there are no exemptions based on disability, people instead have begged for cash from me!
Were fans confused because the woman they were lusting after (Gaga makes one go gaga) mean that they could be confused for oozing over the chair itself? Who wants to be accused of being a wheelchair devotee? Anyway, I have looked at that wheelchair Gaga used - and how can I say it, it's crap, one of those INvalid kinds ... not the dream machines featured in the the current issue of Canada's Abilities magazine on Extreme Wheelchair sports.
My concern about this whole media drama is the deployment of moral righteousness when it comes to disability. Is disability so awful that the public is forced to remain in a state of permanent uptightness - to enact a fabrication where disability is everywhere but daily erasure provokes invisibility? Again the issue of who has the right to speak on behalf of disabled people arises? What I love about the Gaga show is that disability has presence in the same way she refers of the other forms of marginality - ability discrimination (or ableism as I refer to it) even sneaks into the lyrics of her hit anthem 'Born This Way'.
In law we are challenged to not use disability metaphors as points or signs of derision (torts, being a BIG challenge) - to do so not only takes away a little bit of our humanity but bars the possibility of opening our imaginations to something exciting- to seeing disability as another inclination, another way of spicing it up - good, bad and the ambivalent.
Gaga, you can sit on my lap anytime.... your simple act has unleashed a storm. If the wheelchair disturbs - that is good. It is an opportunity for each staree to ask why? In my 6 months at the law school I have been welcomed by most but I also know that my presence in a small way has been transformative.
Recently a bloke came in and asked to see the "boss", I said I was Deputy Head of School, he said sorry, he thought I was the mailroom girl! I am aware unfamiliarity with difference causes that momentary shock - but it is in the encounter that one is transformed.
So in response to the Huffington Post, Gaga was outrageous because very few contemporary artists go beyond the cliché sanitized politics of gender or race representations by doing something spectacular like crippin' the music.
Filed by Fiona Kumari Campbell | Posted 19 July 2011