Archive for the ‘Serious fun stuff’ Category


Vocabulary and Spelling on Facebook

In Serious fun stuff on May 14, 2011 by azybazy Tagged: , ,

Introduction and Literature Review

The aim of this research is to explore the ways in which the informal nature of conversations in the Digital Discourse of Facebook is having an effect on the use of vocabulary and patterns of spelling. This study shall analyze conversations that take place between friends on a personal level in order to identify the significance in the use of vocabulary and patterns of spelling due to the casual and electronically mediated nature of these conversations.

Davis and Brewer (1997) mention that the Digital Discourse is a relatively new form of discourse with certain peculiarities. They mention that language used in the Digital Discourse is similar to a conversation that presents a number of performance features such as repetition, direct address, disfluencies, and markers of personal involvement. Moreover, Crystal (2003) mentions that the electronic medium presents us with a channel which ‘facilitates and constrains our ability to communicate in ways that are fundamentally different from those found in other semiotic situations’. As a result it is evident that the Digital Discourse is changing the way in which individuals think and interact. Consequently, it is redefining the spatial and temporal parameters of the interaction it mediates which in effect is transforming the way individuals write in particular (Abdullah, 1998).

Tornow (1997) in his study mentions that the languages used in the Digital Discourse is blurring the past distinctions between writing and talking. He also describes the written interaction that occurs in electronic mail and on-line courses, for example, as a kind of “written talk,” while Davis and Brewer (1997) use the term “electronic discourse” to refer to written talk. Significantly, Tornow also shows the way in which language used in the Digital Discourse includes terms from different disciplines occurring as conversations across disciplines becomes more accessible through networking. I believe that this is a very important finding as it creates a distinction between the language used in a Digital Discourse from another form of discourse. Consequently, it is a feature of the digital medium that creates this distinction. Hence this study is also significant as it shows the way in which language is influenced by users according to the medium of communication.

Sims (1997) notes that the language used in the Digital Discourse of e-mail is deliberate in that the writer has the opportunity to plan and organize the discourse. Yet, it has some of the spontaneity of oral discourse in that most of the users reported spent livery short spans of time planning and revising electronic mail messages. Therefore, she states that it is spontaneity that leads to misspellings and the use of unconventional punctuation, diction, and capitalization in electronic discourse. I believe that this is also an interesting study as it highlights the factor of spontaneity as the cause for the type of language used on this particular Digital Discourse. I shall attempt to identify through this study whether it is only spontaneity that results in the patterns of spelling within the Digital Discourse of Facebook. Moreover, Crystal (2003) in his study introduces the concept of ‘Netspeak’ and displays features that are unique to the internet which are encountered in emails, chartrooms, web and virtual worlds.

As mentioned previously, the aim of my study is to explore the ways in which the informal nature of conversations in the Digital Discourse of Facebook is having an effect on the use of vocabulary and patterns of spelling. There has been one study conducted by an undergraduate named Russ on Facebook although there have not been seminal studies on this topic of research. Russ’s study examined lists of the most common words, frequency rates of various terms, message lengths and other similar topics related to the ‘Facebook walls’ according to College of Arts and Sciences website (2010). In his study he identified that the most common word was “I,” followed by “you,” “to,” “the,” “and,” then “a.” Additionally, he also found that Facebook conversations are relatively colloquial in tone and have a particularly large amount of neologisms, slang words and typos. I personally feel that this study is not of significant consequence although; it does provide a clear understanding about the type of language that is predominantly used on this social networking website.

Hence my study shall contribute to the cumulative research on Digital Discourses by analyzing the significance in the use of vocabulary and patterns of spelling used in the social network of Facebook. In doing so, it proposes to enhance the research already conducted on Facebook by highlighting the existence of words that emerged as a result of the nature of this social networking website. Consequently, this study could possibly be used as a foundation for future research in this area due to the lack of research on the language used on the Digital Discourse on Facebook in particular. Moreover, I believe that this topic of research has the potential to identify novel features that have not been pointed out in other linguistic studies. This is because the subject population of this study has not been analyzed much in comparison to the age group of this subject population in a first world country. Moreover, this study is also significant as it attempts to identify distinct patterns of spelling on Facebook that do not belong to the traditional conventions of spelling.

Subject population

This study is based on a corpus of informal conversations initiated by twenty Facebook users who reside in the Colombo district. This subject population belongs to the age group of twenty to twenty five. Furthermore, they consider English as their first language

This particular group of Facebook users was chosen to provide a relatively fair representation of the subject population to the best of my abilities. Furthermore, these particular individuals were also chosen due to the advantage of observing their use of language in their natural state as I am their friend on Facebook. Therefore, I have access to their personal accounts and the conversations they have with their friends whom I may not necessarily know. Consequently, this feature of accessibility shall contribute to this study greatly due to two reasons. Firstly; it shall pave way for the exploration on their use of language on several occasions. Secondly, the data that is collected is invariably authentic as they are conversations the individual in the subject population had with another.

The limitation of this subject population is that due to its inclusion of only twenty Facebook users, the research findings of this sample is not fairly representative of the Facebook users who live in the Colombo District. Furthermore, due to the time constraint on this assignment, it was hard to increase the number of Facebook users within this subject population.


The data on the language used on Facebook was collected by analyzing a corpus of forty Facebook status updates, forty Facebook photo comments and forty Facebook wall posts of the subject population. For purposes of proportion and fair representation, two Facebook status updates, two Facebook photo comments and two wall posts written by each Facebook user included in the subject population were included in the corpus of this study.

All posts were collected on the 25th of July from the profiles of the Facebook users who belong to this subject population. Data was collected on a particular day purposely, in order to eliminate the chances of only including posts that were unique and unconventional. Thus the data collected is reasonably representative of the language used on a frequent basis.

Data Presentation and Analysis

The collected data indicates significant use of vocabulary and patterns of spelling on Facebook. Moreover, the information from a linguistic perspective highlights that the language used in this social networking website is mostly colloquial, informal and is vested with unconventional use of vocabulary and patterns of spelling.

This study identifies five types of vocabulary usage on Facebook. The data collected indicates that slang words are used to a great extent for purposes of communication and informality. Interestingly, the slang words that are used are not only restricted to the English language alone but also to Sinhala and Tamil. The slang words that are used mostly in English include ‘buddy’, ‘fuzzy’, ‘chilling’, ‘hungry jacks’, ‘sappy tearjerker hits’, ‘shopaholic’, ‘sexy stud muffin’, ‘darn’,  and ‘chuddered’. Sinhala slang words include ‘aiyo’, ‘aney’, ‘kiyanna ko’ , ‘ado’ while the Tamil word ‘appa’ was used at the end of the phrase ‘what appa’. Interestingly, the use of an English and Sinhala word together such as ‘godey shit’ also highlights an interesting phenomenon within the Digital Discourse of Facebook.

Words such as ‘hungry jacks’, ‘sexy stud muffin’ and ‘darn’ are not commonly used in Sri Lanka although Sri Lankans do use English slang words in their conversations. These words that are commonly used in America are perhaps used within this subject population due to the global presence of Facebook and its feature of enabling to have friends from different nations. In effect, it is evident that cultural transformation is taking place with regard to the use of vocabulary due to the above features of Facebook. Henceforth, I argue that the vocabulary used in this networking website helps individuals from different nations share a common ground.

The above feature can also be attributed to the use of abbreviations in place of words for purposes of communication in Facebook posts. Abbreviations such as ‘lol’, ‘omg’, ‘ttyl’ and  ‘gbu’ were very common in most of the posts that were analyzed. Interestingly, Driscoll (year unknown) in his study that analyses the language used by players of Action Quake II also mentions that ‘lol’ and ‘rofl’ is commonly used in the digital discourse of gaming as well. Henceforth it is evident that the vocabulary used in the Digital Discourse promotes a sense of solidarity through the use of vocabulary. Although the abbreviations can be considered as a form of a ‘dialect’ of the online community, the use of slang specific to nations is a phenomenon that highlights the interconnected nature of Facebook users due to its medium. Thus I argue that the vocabulary used in Facebook is not contextualized only to a specific region and therefore assists in creating a ‘global community’.

Thirdly, this study also highlights the way in which vocabulary is used to reflect actions and sounds that usually take place in a spoken discourse. For example ‘*happy dance*’, ‘*squishes*’, ‘*big sloppy kiss*’, ‘*sigh*’, ‘*rolls eyes*’  clearly indicate that these words function as a form of ‘written talk’ as pointed out by Tornow. This is because they attempt to bridge the gap between the written and spoken discourse. Furthermore, words that denote sound such as ‘eeeek’, ‘grrrrrr’, ‘hmmm’, ‘eeeya’, ‘mwa’, ‘ouch’, ‘sheesh’ also function in the same way. I believe that this is a very significant factor about Facebook as it attempts to incorporate characteristics of both written and spoken discourse within a Digital Discourse.

Fourthly, this study identified two words that were specific to Facebook alone. The word ‘epic facebook rape’ indicates the concept of a Facebook account being hacked whilst the word ‘facebook whore’ indicates a person who monitors every message, photo upload and status updates of another. I felt that it was very interesting to note that both the words that relate to concepts in particular to Facebook is metaphoric and related to sexuality. I feel that linguists have the potential to identify many words specific to Facebook alone if they research on this topic of furthermore.

Moreover, the data collected indicates that there in an interesting trend of adding suffixes to certain words within this subject population. For example certain posts included the words ‘soonly’, ‘cuteness’ and ‘awesomeness’. This is a fascinating finding as it contradicts the notion of language used in Digital Discourses attempting to always shorten words for purposes of speed. Henceforth, I argue that language used in Facebook experiments with words not only to save time but also to showcase one’s individual preferences and creativity.

This study has identified seven types of distinct trends with relation to the patterns of spelling. Firstly, collected data indicates that there are many instances in which the word spelled highlights the stress levels in pronunciation. For example the spelling of words such as ‘freeeeezing’ , ‘haapppppppy birthdaaaaaay’, ‘mee tooo’, ‘ missssssssssssss’, ‘aaallllllwaaaaaaaaayz’,  I believe clearly highlight the writer’s intention of showing the emotion or excitement that he/she feels. As pointed out before, this is another instance in which language used in Digital Discourse attempts to bridge the gap between the spoken and written discourse.

Secondly, certain words were not only spelled by the usage of the alphabet but also with the use of numbers. I term words of this nature ‘numlang’ as they incorporate both numbers and alphabets to produce meaning. Examples include ‘2mrw’, ‘gr8’ and ‘l8’. I believe that this is an interesting phenomenon that shows the way in which the users of the Digital Discourse of Facebook are attempting to ‘innovate’ language in a way to save time and effort as well.

Thirdly, the absence of adjectives was another pattern of spelling that was identified through this study. For example the word ‘about’ is spelled as ‘abt’, ‘work’ as ‘wrk’, ‘people’ as ‘ppl’, ‘how’ as ‘hw’ to name a few examples. Therefore, this finding indicates that the spelling that takes place in Facebook is not always random but it does follow a system at times. Fourthly, there were also instances in which the subject population used the conventional form of spelling. For example existence of phrases such as ‘ A lot of jumping going on’ and ‘At home these days’ clearly show that conventional forms of spelling also takes place. Moreover, certain words were indicated through letters alone. For example the letter ‘x’ denoted kisses, ‘o’ denoted hugs, ‘k’ denoted ‘okay’ and ‘r’ denoted ‘are’.

Another interesting phenomenon was the existence of patterns of spelling that indicated the pronunciation of a foreign accent. For example individuals in the subject population spelled the word ‘dog’ as ‘dawg’ and the word ‘boy’ as ‘boi’ indicating the pronunciation of these words in an American accent’. Additionally, the word ‘yeverybody’ is spelled as ‘everybody’ at a particular instance indicating the pronunciation of the word in an Indian accent. I believe that this clearly shows the way in which the individuals are again attempting to bridge the gap between the spoken and written discourse. Moreover, this pattern of spelling also indicates that the Facebook users are entertaining themselves and others by creating amusement through the experimentation of spelling. This is rather significant as it shows the way in which the informal nature of Facebook is creating an opportunity for its users to indulge in merriment through spelling.

It is also fascinating to note that the characteristics of vocabulary and patterns of spelling identified in this study resonate with the findings of language used in other forms of Digital Discourses. Paolillo (2001) mentions that e-chats are typical arenas for the emergence of online communities and informal e-chat interaction which frequently rotates around flirt, small talk, and playful communication. Moreover, he mentions that these situational factors favor the extensive use of vernacular speech in e-chat conversations in German, as well as in other languages. According to Paolillo a typical vernacular feature includes colloquial and slang vocabulary. Moreover Driscoll (year unknown) in his study that focuses on the morphology of a dialect of a specific Internet group of gamers states that the word ‘people’ is spelled as ‘ppl’, the word ‘message’ is spelled out as ‘msg’ and that the letter ‘k’ denotes to the word ‘okay’. He furthermore, mentions that abbreviations are used frequently and also that gamers too use words that are specific to their Digital Discourse of online gaming. Driscoll mentions that they use words such as  ‘uber’ to denote the meaning of being large  and ‘phat’ to indicate something that is trendy.

Additionally, Rafi (year unknown) in his study of ‘SMS Text Analysis: Language, Gender and Current Practices’ mentions that most SMS’s are not in the form of standard written discourse. However, he mentions that the users are very effective in describing written sounds what they want their readers to perceive in their messages. Through the new written conventions of SMS, those who message via a mobile phone have developed a written form of sounds that replaces the ability to hear spoken utterances. He also mentions that language used in text messaging has developed its own unique style as have email and chat-room languages.

The above studies conducted on the use of language on other forms of Digital Discourses clearly indicate that the trend identified within the use of vocabulary and patterns of spelling in Facebook are very similar. The fact that many of the features identified in this study such as use of slang, vocabulary denoting sounds and actions, abbreviations, spelling that indicates the stress levels in pronunciation. However, this study is significant due to four distinct reasons. Firstly, it highlights features that were unique only to Facebook such ‘epic facebook rape’ and ‘facebook whore’. Secondly, it highlighted the concept of ‘numlang’ which includes numbers along with the alphabet to denote meaning. Thirdly, it identified that not all patterns of spelling used in Facebook is unsystematic and unruly. This was achieved by highlighting the pattern of leaving adjectives in the process of spelling. Fourthly, it highlights that words used in Facebook does not necessarily always shorten its spelling but also increases the letters for purposes of creativity and amusement. This was brought out through the example of words such as ‘awesomeness’ and ‘dawg’. Henceforth, I argue that language used in Facebook experiments with words not only to save time but also to showcase one’s individual preferences and creativity


Therefore, it is evident that although Sims highlights that spontaneity is what leads to misspellings and the use of unconventional punctuation, diction, and capitalization in electronic discourse of email, it is not the case with Facebook posts due to the following reasons. Firstly, as ‘status updates’, ‘photo comments’ and ‘wall posts’ are written on a voluntary basis. Secondly, the individual takes his/ her own time when writing these messages. So with regard to the social network of Facebook, I believe that various forms of spelling takes place for purposes of speed, creativity and incorporating characteristics of the spoken discourse. Moreover, the type of vocabulary used on Facebook also facilitates the user to incorporate characteristics of the spoken discourse as highlighted in the section where vocabulary relating to action was brought to light.


Lady Gaga’s Social Agenda

In Serious fun stuff on May 12, 2011 by azybazy Tagged: , , , ,

The aim of this article is to highlight the social agenda behind the ‘spectacle’ that Lady Gaga constructs in her performance. I believe that Lady Gaga questions and critiques the process of Othering and racial stereotypes through ‘spectacle’ although it may appear to function as a publicity stunt or a form of brand equity. In doing so, I feel that she emulates Caliban, Shakespeare’s ‘Monster’ in The Tempest to create a sense of identification with the Other through her body, movement, make up and attire. Thereafter, I shall attempt to highlight the way in which Lady Gaga strategically creates a space for the valorization of the Other in her music videos.

Firstly, I will situate this topic of research within the theoretical framework of Othering and the politics of the body. Secondly, I will discuss various enactments of Shakespeare’s Caliban with particular focus on the Georgia Southwestern State University’s (GSSU) production of The Tempest at the Rylander Theatre and Centre Stage’s performance of Caliban’s Rebellion at the Punchi Theatre. The analysis of the above performances is aimed at highlighting Lady Gaga’s emulation of the Other. In doing so, I shall highlight the way in which Lady Gaga appears to draw from different performances of Shakespeare’s Caliban. The different performances of Caliban shall be divided into two sections based on the interpretation of the Other by the playwrights. Thereafter, I shall highlight the way in which Lady Gaga, strategically appears to adopt aspects of the Other highlighted in the performances of Caliban for two reasons.Firstly, to create a sense of identification and secondly, to create a space for the valorization of the Other in the music videos ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Born this way’, from her album ‘The Fame Monster’. Finally, this paper shall highlight the way in which Lady Gaga assumes the role of a social critique through her musical performances.

Theoretical Framework

The concept of the Other has been developed predominantly in relation to women (de Beauvoir, 1949) and in relation to anthropological representations of race and ethnicity (Said, 1978). Gates (1986) points out that race acts as “a unifying, and forceful sign of difference in the service of the Other”. de Beauvoir (1949) mentions that no group ever sets itself up as the ‘one’ without at once setting up the Other over against itself…to the native of a country all who inhabit other countries are ‘foreigners’ and aborigines are ‘natives’ for colonists. However, it is evident that in creating the Other, a process of hierarchy is involved in order to establish distinctions between the two groups. Said (1978) elaborates on this creation of the Other through Orientalism, the framework that is used to understand the ‘unfamiliar’ and the ‘strange’ by the west.

Said (1978) mentions that Balfour and Cromer describe the Oriental as irrational, depraved and childlike. He also states that in Balfour and Cromer’s language, the Orient is depicted as something one judges (as in court of law), something one studies (as in a curriculam), something one disciplines (as in school or prison) and as something one illustrates (as in a zoological manual) However, Said contradicts this view of the Oriental by stating that the identity and intelligibility of the Orient results not of his own efforts, but due to the complex series of knowledgeable manipulations by which the Orient was identified by the west. Wilkinson et al (1996) mentions that Otherness, according to Winzeler, that headhunting, cannibalism, human sacrifice and culturally sanctioned sexual promiscuity are among the best known instances of ‘ethnographic exotica’ in anthropology which symbolize savagery. Henceforth, it is evident that the idea of Otherness, which is constituted through characteristics of savagery, has been used to justify imperial expansion, warfare, Christian Evangelism, colonial control, slavery and appropriation of aboriginal lands. As a result, Said (1978) mentions that these Orientalist notions influenced the people who were called the Orientals as well as those called the Occidental Europeans or westerners. In short, Said believes that Orientalism is better grasped as a set of constraints upon and limitations of thought.

According to these arguments, colonialism has not involved simply the use of physical force and military might, it has also involved the construction of representations or discourses of the oppressed which serve to justify the legitimate oppressor. Said (1978) mentions that Europe came to terms with its colonies in the Orient by inventing a discourse of Otherness which involved the re-creation of the people’s history by those ‘outside’ of it, and in doing so established hierarchies of knowledge and power. Therefore, Said’s central argument is that the concept of the Other, which is the acquisition of knowledge about people by virtue of the color of their skin, is not innocent or objective. However, it is the end result of a process that reflects certain interests that are highly motivated.

Another theoretical framework that I will be using to analyze Lady Gaga’s performance is the theory on the politics of the body. Martin (1990) mentions that ‘The body as it is revealed through performance stands as a source of political activity which responds to a particular history’. This concept is very pertinent in understanding the body of Lady Gaga as I believe that it cannot be reduced to a mere reflection of what it opposes about the concept of the Other. I believe that Lady Gaga’s body can be interpreted as taking the shape of the Other not only to critique the concept of the Other. However, to also valorize the experience of being different in a cultural and social hegemony The arguments put forward by the critics with regard to the conceptualization of the Other will be highlighted through the discussion about the theatrical performances of Shakespeare’s Caliban.

Enactments of Shakespeare’s Caliban

The character of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest can be interpreted as the Other due to the following reasons. Firstly, Caliban is presented as the son of a witch named Sycorax, who is an Other in Oriental terms and are considered to be the natives of the island. Secondly, he is presented as a grotesque being that is ‘dark’. Interestingly, the color of Caliban’s skin can be interpreted as an allusion to the element of race, which is predominantly used to create the Other according to Said. Moreover, Caliban is also described as being ‘deformed’ and “like / A thing most brutish” (I.ii.359–360) who needed “human care” (I.ii.349). Also, the fact that Prospero refers to him as a “devil, a born devil’ (IV.i.188) and Stephano’s perception of Caliban as “the most ridiculous monster” (II.ii.157) clearly indicates the derogatory stature given to him due to his position as the Other.

Therefore, this section of the research paper shall discuss the ways in which playwrights’ interpreted the role of the Other in their performances of Caliban. Trevor (1983) mentions that prior to the nineteenth century, critical responses to Caliban were dominated by the interest in ‘preternatural beings’ which exercised most notably Dryden, Rowe, Warton, Johnson, and Mrs Montagu. He also states that in the nineteenth-century theatre, interpretations of Caliban gradually came to reflect broadly colonial and republican themes with Caliban appearing as an ‘underdeveloped native’, a Darwinian missing link and as an oppressed minority.

Trevor mentions that when the actor Benson first played Caliban in the I89Os, he was the first performer who consciously played the part ‘as a sort of missing link’. Benson took his missing-link conception seriously enough to spend ‘many hours watching monkeys and baboons in the zoo, in order to get the movements in keeping with his make-up’. The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News according to Trevor mentioned that Caliban was performed as a kind of man-monkey engaging in various acrobatic feats, and passing through a series of grotesque antics, grimacing and gesticulating, grinning and chattering and making a series of discordant, inarticulate noises.

Trevore mentions that George Foss, who directed the play at the Old Vic in I918, portrayed Caliban as someone ‘slow moving and walrus-like’. He was also presented as possessing ‘a fish-like body, with green scales and a most dejected green face’ that was ‘amply repulsive and beast-like in his half-man, half-animal creation’. In Foss’s version of The Tempest, Caliban adopted a particularly gruesome make-up, with an ape’s face, ‘but more hideous, with deadly eyes, a monstrous flat nose, long, thick protruding lips, and two prongs of teeth projecting’, long ‘steel’ nails on each finger and toe, and a ‘sickly yellowish green’ skin covered with long hair to provide the terrifying side of Caliban.

Geogia Southwestern State University’s production of The Tempest also portrays Caliban in animalistic terms as the video clip indicates in four distinct ways. Firstly, the posture of Caliban resembles an animal as he appears to be ‘crouched’ like a four legged animal while the placing of the hands appear to be functioning as paws. Secondly, his green makeup and skimpy white attire resembles an animal or sea creature as opposed to a human. Thirdly, the fact that he produces animalistic sound as opposed to language when he gets the cramp and his positioning of the body during the cramps indicates the director’s interpretation of Caliban as a monster. The portrayal of Caliban in the performances discussed so far clearly highlights implication of the director imbibing the portrayal of the Other through the framework of Orientalism.

The justification for presenting a detailed analysis of the interpretation of the Other is in order to highlight the way in which Lady Gaga draws form these characteristics to create a sense of identification with the figure of the Other. Therefore, in assuming the role of the Other, I believe that Lady Gaga’s motive is not to essentialize the traditional portrayal of the Other in Oriental terms. However, to create a sense of recognition with the depiction of the monster which traditionally alludes to the concept of the Other.

Brief Introduction to Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, is an American pop singer/songwriter. Heos (2011) mentions that she began performing in the rock music scene of New York City’s Lower East Side in 2003 and enrolled at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Lady Gaga is popularly known for her unconventional and exotic attire that attracts the attention of the whole world. Recently, she wore a dress made out of meat for an award show which sparked a great deal of debate, controversy and criticisms. The two songs titled ‘Bad Romance’ (Lady Gaga, 2009) and ‘Born this way’ (Lady Gaga, 2011) are taken from her second album The Fame Monster which consists a collection of eight songs. The first single from this album ‘Bad Romance’ topped the charts in eighteen countries, while reaching the top-two in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. In the US, Gaga became the first artist in digital history to have three singles (along with “Just Dance” and “Poker Face”) to pass the four million mark in digital sales. The song won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance while its accompanying music video won the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video. Heos mentions that Gaga’s second studio album and third major release was ‘Born This Way’. The day the single ‘Born This Way’ was released, a tweet by Gaga described the single as “a marriage of electronic music with major […] metal or rock ‘n’ roll, pop, anti-thematic style melodies with really sledge-hammering dance beats”. Lady Gaga’s Emulation of Caliban in her Music Videos The title of the album from which ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Born this way’ is taken is rather significant in two ways. Firstly, I felt that the title ‘The Fame Monster’ invokes the concept of the Other literally through the use of the image of a ‘monster’. Secondly, it also indicates Lady Gaga’s larger project, which is critique and to valorize the monster, which traditionally alludes to the Other, through her music videos.

Therefore, the aim of this article is to identify the ways in which she identifies with Caliban, the Other, and critique the concept of the Other through her music videos. Lady Gaga in her music video ‘Bad Romance’ takes on the role of Caliban in numerous ways. Her body resembles the body of a monster rather than a conventional female pop artist. Her eyes are made up in such a way that it appears to be too large in proportion to the size of her face. This invariably produces an effect of horror amongst the audience (refer appendix 1). Moreover, Lady Gaga’s body is presented in a curvy position in many instances in the video which I believe draws from the ‘crouched’ position of Caliban as witnessed in the performance of Georgia Southwestern State University’s (GSSU) production of The Tempest. I felt that this was a rather symbolic as it is possible to interpret this crouched position as Lady Gaga’s way of symbolizing the characteristics such as incompetency, inadequacy and savagery, which are traditionally associated with the Other through movement. Therefore, it is possible to draw parallels between this posture of Lady Gaga’s body to the posture associated with Caliban. Moreover, the movement of her hands during the dance in the music video is shaped similarly to the paw of an animal, which interestingly is reminiscent of the hands of Caliban in GSSU’s production of The Tempest. Furthermore, towards the end of the video Lady Gaga wears a white dress that is made of fur which is attached with the face of polar bear at the back (refer appendix picture 2). I felt that this was reminiscent of Caliban’s depiction as ‘amply repulsive and beast-like in his half-man, half-animal creation’ as mentioned by Trevor. Moreover, in that very scene, there are two monument of a deer attached to the wall which furthermore emphasizes the animalistic nature that she embodies and represents. Significantly, I was also able to see a parallel between the similarity between the type of sound produced by Lady Gaga and Benson’s performance of Caliban. Trevor, as previously mentioned, states that Benson produced ‘a series of discordant, inarticulate noises’. The chorus of ‘Bad Romance’ also consists of such noise and sounds such as ‘Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah /Roma, roma, ma ma/ Gaga, ooh, la, la’ which is repeated six times through out the video. I felt that this was rather indicative of one of the primary characteristic of Caliban, which is his possession of his native language.

Significantly, at the beginning of the music video of ‘Born this way’ there appears an exotic looking woman with blue eyes who is giving birth to a child. I was able to draw a parallel between this woman and Sycorax due to two reasons. Firstly, she has blue eyes and therefore is similar to Sycorax who is described as ‘the/ blue eyed hag’ (1.ii.272). Secondly, she gives birth to a child who can be interpreted as Caliban, as Lady Gaga is presented as half animal and half human in the video (refer appendix picture 3) . Lady Gaga embodies the half human half monster image through make up and attire. Her make up draws from animalistic features that resemble a cat with whiskers and black nose whilst her attire conforms to one worn by humans, which is a tuxedo. These instances clearly highlight Lady Gaga’s emulation of Caliban, the figure of the Other to a great extent in her music videos. As mentioned previously, these aspects that Lady Gaga has borrowed from the performance of Caliban belong to the depiction of the Other in its traditional sense of being ‘the missing link’. However, I believe that Lady Gaga provides a space where the Other is critiqued valorized in her music videos. In order to highlight this, I shall draw parallels between Jehan Aloysius’s Caliban in Caliban’s Rebellion and Lady Gaga in her music videos of ‘Bad Romance’, and ‘Born this way’.

Parallels between Lady Gaga and Aloysius’s Caliban in Caliban’s Rebellion I was told by my superiors and peers that Jehan Aloysius interpretation of Caliban subverted the characteristics that were traditionally placed on the Other. As I did not watch this play, a guided interview with Jehan Aloysius was conducted to gain a comprehensive understanding of the character portrayal of his Caliban. My intention for interviewing the director was to firstly identify the way in which he subverted Shakespeare’s Caliban through the character portrayal of his Caliban. Secondly, to identify whether Aloysius’s ‘subverted’ Caliban shares similarities with Lady Gaga. Interestingly, during the process of the interview it was evident that his character portrayal of Caliban was not confined to the characteristics traditionally placed on the Other. In fact Aloysius’s Caliban possessed agentive and subversive qualities that questioned and critiqued the concept of the Other.

Jehan Aloysius mentioned that his Caliban was not as animalistic as Shakespeare’s appeared to be. He mentioned that he provided a humanistic element to Caliban by making him fall in love, play musical instruments and provide the ability to share a cordial relationship with Miranda. Furthermore, Caliban was projected as the hero of the play as he was a good looking, muscular and rebellious individual who was larger in size than Prospero, Ariel, Ferdinand and the rest of the characters. Aloysius mentioned a few interesting ways in which he differentiated his interpretation of Caliban from Shakespeare’s Caliban. He firstly mentioned that he shows a progression in character through the posture of Caliban. Aloysius mentioned that during the initial stages of the play the posture of Caliban was rather ‘crouched’. However, as the play progressed he gradually started to straighten up. Consequently, when Caliban confronts Prospero, he is presented as more of a human that an animal who is vertical in posture and is also larger and muscular than Prospero. Secondly, a sub narrative of Caliban is presented on stage with the appearance of Sycorax and the history of his birth. Thirdly, his native language is valorized when it is given significance through a chant Caliban recites to conjure the dark arts. Fourthly, Caliban attempts to teach his native language to Stephano and Trinculo, which I thought was rather interesting as it is given a sense of recognition as opposed to being considered as ‘animalistic’ noise in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

The above interpretations of Jehan Aloysius about Caliban contests the notion of the Other while creating a sense of significance to characteristics that is considered to be unique to a particular kind. The fact that he present Caliban, rebelling against Propero, the figure who is a part of the powerful white hegemonic structure, is very significant due to two reasons. Firstly, he highlights Caliban as possesing the potential to fight against a powerful white leader. Secondly, Caliban is presented as more physically able and larger than the leader of the hegemonic power structure in the play. These second instance in particular, clearly highlights the way in which the traditional depiction of a larger body of the Other is used to valorize strength of the Other. Therefore, it is evident that Jehan has used the body to contest the traditional conceptualization behind the Other.

Interestingly, Martin (1990) mentions that the body is poised to produce physical expressions. It does not lie passive as an object, but has the capacity to act. In particular, the performing arts permit the study of the production of desire as defined. They provide the laboratory that isolates the body’s practice from its submerged status in everyday life and thereby provides the model that displays the body’s capacity as the agent of activity. Therefore, theories of politics, which are full of ideas, goes nowhere without bodily movement (Martin.1998). As a result, the body and its movements are the means and ends of mobilizing political theory. I shall use this theoretical framework of the execution of political ideologies through the body and bodily movement to highlight the way in which Lady Gaga uses her body movements to critique the concept of the Other.

Lady Gaga also appears to use the technique Jehan Aloysius uses to highlight the gradual development of the Other through posture. For example in the music video of ‘Bad Romance’, she initially comes out of a white closet that is laid on the ground with the label that says ‘monster’. The label does not only signify Lady Gaga as a monster, but it also symbolically highlights the way in which the Other is traditionally viewed in relation to the lower stage of development of a human being (the concept of Darwin’s ‘missing link’). Interestingly, she comes out of the closet in a ‘crouched’ position like Aloysius’s Caliban. However, she gradually straightens up to a vertical position. As mentioned previously, I believe that this change n posture critiques the backward nature traditionally placed within the concept of the Other. Interestingly, as mentioned previously, Lady Gaga wears a dress that is made of fur and has the face of a polar bear which indicates her half human and half animal body. However, I believe that Lady Gaga is making a very bold and political statement when she burns this dress with the face of a polar bear. I believe that through the erasure of the animalistic dimension on her body, she is claiming the fact that the Other doe not possess characteristics that are associated with animals such as being primitive, savage and inadequate in terms of knowledge and physical development.

Therefore, there appears to be a sequence of character development from the ‘crouched’ figure that comes out of the closet to the human body that remains at the end of the video. Consequently, the in-depth analysis that has been put into this character development is one similar to those in narratives such as in Aloysius’s Caliban’s Rebellion. Hence, I believe that the music videos of Lady Gaga contain a political ideology that is generally presented in narratives and academic discourse. Significantly, Vernallis (2004) mentions that of the other existing narrative music videos, only a handful are developed. He justifies this observation by stating that if the intent of the music video imagery is to draw attention to the song, an in depth analysis of the imagery will take away the concentration of the audience from the song. Therefore, the fact that Lady Gaga’s videos draw the attention of the audience through body, movement and attire cleanly highlights the fact that it is not only aiming at producing musical entertainment, but also ideological critiques and debates that contest social discourses.

Moreover, in the video of ‘Born this way’, Lady Gaga gives recognition to Sycorax, as Aloysius does in Caliban’s Rebellion, who is also represented as the Other, marginalized by both race and gender in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Although she is not given a narrative or a sense of presence in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Lady Gaga gives her a narrative of her own and places her as the source of inspiration behind the creation of the song. The music video begins with the words ’This is the manifesto of mother monster’. The fact that the lyrics also say ‘My mama told me when I was young / We’re all born superstars /She rolled my hair, put my lipstick on / In the glass of her boudoir / There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin who you are/ She said, Cause He made you perfect, babe”. Therefore, it is evident that the Other, Sycorax is not only given recognition but is highlighted as the oracle that provides inspiration to Lady Gaga, the body that mobilizes political ideology in the music video. The mobilization of the political ideology is brought out through the lyrics of the song. Vernallis (2004) mentions that there are different aspects of a single topic in a music video. He says that the verse may lay out the situation, while the bridge presents a solution to the problem and the chorus a crystallization of it. Therefore, when a musical and visual section repeats in a music video, we are made to focus on the interest of the performer.

Significantly, the chorus of the song mobilizes the political ideology through words and movement.Therefore, we can come to the conclusion that the chorus ‘I’m beautiful in my way/ ‘Cause God makes no mistakes / I’m on the right track, baby / I was born this way /Don’t hide yourself in regret / Just love yourself and you’re set / I’m on the right track, baby /I was born this way’, which is repeated six times, mobilizes political ideology as it motivates individuals to be proud of who they are in expression through words and dance, a source that inspires energy to drive an individual to achieve goals. Therefore, I believe that these lines valorize the concept of the Other. The fact that music video begins by stating that this is ‘a birth of magnificent and magical proportions’ furthermore emphasizes the theme of the song, which is the valorization of the Other. Also the lines ‘Don’t be a drag, just be a queen /Whether you’re broke or evergreen /You’re black, white, beige, chola descent / You’re Lebanese, you’re orient / Whether life’s disabilities /Left you outcast, bullied or teased / Rejoice and love yourself today /’Cause baby, you were born this way No matter gay, straight or bi /lesbian, transgendered life /I’m on the right track, baby /I was born to survive’ furthermore illustrates the contemporary way in which the Other is perceived in terms of nationality, sexual orientation, physical capability.

Therefore, the fact that Lady Gaga gives recognition to all types of ‘Others’ in a contemporary context besides gender and race as mentioned by Said, clearly highlights two interesting facts. Firstly, she is giving recognition to all types of Other. Secondly, she is also creating a space to valorize their difference in a hegemony by stating that they were ‘born to survive’ and not be intimidates by those claim power due to their inclusion in hegemonic power structures. Therefore, I believe that the spectacle Lady Gaga creates through her body, attire, make up and movement are not to merely create a brand in the music industry that consists of numerous pop artists, but due to her intention of making her audience aware about the type of social discourses we unquestioningly imbibe. The fact that she provides a space in her music video to understand the process by the way in which the Other has been constructed, she is making her audience question concepts such as Said’s Orientalism through the body, attire, make up and movements. Moreover, she also provides a space for the valorization of the Other, in order to give recognition to those who are marginalized. Henceforth I would like to conclude this research paper by stating that Lady Gaga is indeed ‘meta- pop’ as she exceed the expectations of a conventional pop artist by not only providing entertaining musical performances, but also a critical space to question and critique concepts of the Other.