chapter  11
Trans/Aff ect: Monstrous Masculinities and the Sublime Art of
Pages 22

In Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal, J. Jack Halberstam presents a manifesto of, and for, millennial feminist and gender politics. In its wide-ranging and eclectic survey of popular culture and the social fi eld it transects, shapes, and mediates, Lady Gaga is the fi gure and fi guration to the ground of contemporary gender politics. Indeed, for Halberstam, Gaga is no longer a personal pronoun, but a noun-gagadescribing a set of oppositional, queer gender relations: ‘the genius of gaga allows Lady Gaga to become the vehicle for performing the very particular arrangements of bodies, genders, desires, communication, race, a ect, and fl ow that we might now want to call gaga feminism.’3 Notably, for Halberstam, this ‘genius’ is exemplifi ed by Gaga’s performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards in 2011, which ‘Lady Gaga’ did not attend; in her place, performing her hit song, ‘Yoü and I’, and accepting her awards, was Jo Calderone. No doubt, Lady Gaga has certainly pushed at the fault-lines of all sorts of social norms in her meteoric rise to status of fame monster. From meat dresses to egg yolks, her little monsters have stayed loyal throughout. However, at the 2011 VMAs, she took her subversive performance art to the next level, exploding the line between nature and artifi ce, authenticity and glamour, boy and girl, ‘you and I’ altogether, with the thoroughly

committed incarnation of her alter, Calderone. Halberstam only briefl y sketches this particular incarnation, taking it as a paragon of what one might call the cultural logic of gaga feminism, which stands, for the author, as ‘a form of political expression that masquerades as naïve nonsense but that actually participates in big and meaningful forms of critique.’4 Yet, to understand-and amplify-these forms of critique, I want to examine much more closely this exceptional moment in gaga feminism and contemporary popular culture generally.