Born This Way: Commodifying Youth Visions via Communicative Capitalism

By Charlotte Pradié

I commented on the profile of H on LittleMonsters.com because I noticed that she is an active user of the site, and seemed to be very chatty. I introduced myself (21 year old student at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA), and asked her if she wanted to help with a project I’m doing about the Little Monsters site. She said that she wanted to and we had a short exchange. I sent her some preliminary questions about her age and location, but she didn’t respond. She is probably 13 years old, and it seems like she lives in Italy. She has over 600 followers on the site. She likes 3-5 images on the website per day, and these include picture of Gaga, her fans, and memes about Gaga, among others. She answered a lot of questions that the website provides to be answered. In the optional questionnaire, she describes her perfect world as one with “No Bullying, No Prejudice, No Hate, No War, Let Gay Marriage Be Legal in every state in the U.S. and much more.”

Here, H articulates a utopian vision of the world that is free of violence, and where homosexuals can marry. When asked how she wants to change the world, she answers “To end bully , to make Gay marriage legal , to support the LGBT pride and Born This Way Foundation.=D.” In keeping with the framework of Littlemonsters.com, H imagines a world where: 1. People are not discriminated against 2. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is supported 3. The Born This Way Foundation is instrumental in making these changes.

The Born This Way Foundation is Lady Gaga’s foundation for “empowering young people” to build a “kinder, braver world.” It encourages individuality, bravery, acceptance, and youth empowerment. The foundation relates stories about illness and bullying, encourages people to “make sure you vote for marriage equality,” and asks for donations. Lady Gaga believes in the aforementioned values. Littlemonsters.com is a place where her fans circulate content that touches on these ideas.

H envisions a world through Lady Gaga/The Born This Way Foundation’s vocabulary. Her ideal world is her interpretation of Gaga’s ideology. It is also a world similar to the one many young adults imagine. I probably would have responded the same way. The difference now is that Lady Gaga proposes a method to achieving this previously unattainable world: The Born This Way Foundation, The Born This Way Ball (new tour), or Fame perfume. Lady Gaga commodifies youth visions of peace and acceptance by providing objects and events that cost money.

Littlemonsters.com is the online community that feeds the desire for these objects and events. Littlemonsters.com is communicative capitalism at its best/worst. H enjoys and feeds this system of communicative capitalism.

 

6 Comments on “Born This Way: Commodifying Youth Visions via Communicative Capitalism”

  1. PS: I didn’t use Haley’s messages for this ethnography. I used the questions that she answered in public on the site. I felt like it was problematic to use her answers because she is young, and I don’t think the results of the ethnography would make sense to her if I shared (especially because I think English is her second language). There was enough information in her public responses for me to use for this project.

  2. Charlotte, your ethnography is really interesting and honestly a bit disturbing. I completely agree with your conclusion that the space feeds the system of communicative capitalism; that thought really never even crossed my mind, but thinking about it now, and the fact that Lady Gaga is such a capital entity, it makes complete sense. The part I find a bit disconcerting is the fact that a girl as young as Haley says she wants a peaceful world, but in all honesty it seems like she has no idea what she wants, she merely feeds into the world of Gaga. Anyway, good job Charlotte, this is really intriguing.

  3. I find this very interesting to think about as a Lady Gaga fan. I definitely agree that Gaga has commodified the ideology of a “kinder, braver world” through music, videos, concerts, perfumes, etc. Yet, I’m wondering whether this is a way that capitalism CAN be a structure that supports feminism. Perhaps Lady Gaga’s way of creating this better world reads as more attainable to young people, women, LGBTQ, etc. because they can directly participate in an exchange. Soemthing like, “If I buy this, listen to this, wear this, then I will be closer to that perfect, accepting world that I need to survive.” It gives those marginalized members of society a form of agency in which they feel they are changing the world for the better. And for some, this feeling of agency and change can be a very powerful feeling when everything around you denies you power.

  4. She’s so young! I feel like many of the users of the site would be around that age group, and fans of similar pop artists like Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, etc. I feel like at this age all you want to do is find a community or a group of friends that is accepting, so when provided an outlet like this, it’s easy to believe everything it tells you. It’s easy to fall into this “movement.”

  5. It is very fascinating that your subject Haley did not reveal her demographic information. I feel like in real life when we assert something important, we reveal our information to make our argument more believable and credential. However, for Haley to just post stuff about Gaga and her ideas of a ‘better’ world gives all that power to Haley to become an authoritative character on the site.

  6. You have engaged in a useful ethnography, engaging with an articulate interlocutor, that allows us all to see that a post-feminist self-improvement narrative, played through a feminist/activist vocabulary, engenders a new feminism that emboldens us to buy.

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