Lady Gaga Don't Ask Don't Tell Speech

Yesterday, at a rally in Portland, Maine, Lady Gaga took the stage and gave a 20 minute speech that she “wrote [her]self” in which she defended gays in the military, derided the military’s standing “don’t ask don’t tell” policy towards homosexuality, and demanded that straight soldiers who “have prejudice in [their] heart” should be discharged. (Uh.*) You can watch the full speech after the jump. SPOILER ALERT: it’s not very good. It’s a weird, clunky, melodramatic speech. Obviously. What other kind of speech would it be? She’s proud of having written it herself, which is fair, but it’s not as if anyone would have cared if she’d gotten a little help from someone who actually knew how to write speeches. And she tries to get really emotional and “outraged” but it falls flat because she hasn’t, you know, spent the past 30 years on the stump becoming really good at pretending to be emotional and “outraged.” It’s hard to do that in a speech because you have to be the HIGHEST-CALIBER of liar and that takes decades of poisonous practice. Oh, and let’s be honest: when KNOWN SEX CRIMINAL Terry Richardson quietly pops up on stage behind her at the 2:47 mark to snap photographs, it pretty much bankrupts everything that she’s trying to do. “Please pay attention to my stirring message about equality and ignore the self-satisfied pedophile behind me who will undoubtedly sell images of this rally to American Apparel.” Gross.

That being said, the military should repeal Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, and Lady Gaga does have a lot of young people very interested in the things that she says and does, so.

It is, of course, the classic and perennial debate over whether pop/rock/movie/TV stars should make their political views public. Personally, I’m always in favor. Why not?! Sure, they almost never have any idea what they are talking about (with the possible exceptions of Bono and George Clooney, and probably not even them) but if someone is willing to accept whatever they have to say about any given issue without doing their own research, then it’s not like that person is getting their information from a BETTER source. At the very least, they might as well enlighten themselves in the mildest of ways by sharing Jennifer Lopez’s belief about third world cleft palettes, or whatever. “That sad thing sounds gross!” Yes, it does.

But, there is a difference between publicly declaring your support for an issue, and giving a weird, half-comprehensible 20 minute speech on the subject. Relax, Lady Gaga. Not that we aren’t all on your side, but you could have, for example, given a 10 minute speech. Let’s put it this way, if you start using terms in your speech that you made up yourself, like “Cafeteria Americans,” and then have to take more time out of your speech to explain the terms that you just made up, THE SPEECH IS TOO LONG. Also, American flag tie? Stop it. If you actually care about this issue, and I believe that you do, then cut it out. Your interest to be taken seriously and to wield your impressive cultural power for the forces of good is not helped by dressing like an ACTUAL CLOWN. (Thanks for the tip, Steven.)

*Seriously, Lady Gaga? How about we (by “we” I mean “you” + condescending) focus on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which is an insanely arcane throwback Jim Crowe law whose time for repeal came the moment it was signed into being, and drop this whole “straight soldiers with prejudice in their heart should be discharged.” Not only is that an impossible non-starter, it’s also just preposterous. And dumb. You sound dumb now.
Comments (96)
  1. Sometimes I fantasize about Terry Richardson telling me my work is awful (it is awful, but whatever) and looking him in the eye, and being totally fine with Terry Richardson hating anything and everything I do. And then he gets arrested!

    • He takes photos of her on the toilet and she has to scream at him to leave the room. Ha ha, says Lady Gaga, Terry’s so into photography he wants to take photos of me peeing!

      There aren’t enough punches in the world to give that man in his gross, sinewy stomach.

      • T.R. quote from wikiPEDia: “At first, I’d just want to do a few nude shots, so I’d take off my clothes, too … I’d even give the camera to the model and get her to shoot me for a while. It’s about creating a vibe, getting people relaxed and excited. When that happens you can do anything. I don’t think I’m a sex addict, but I do have issues. Maybe it’s the psychological thing that I was a shy kid, and now I’m this powerful guy with his boner, dominating all these girls”.

        had a photog. instructor try this same shit on me in college– only he was stupid enough to inform me ahead of time that there would be nudity, and that i could shoot him. no thanks, creep, and no, that’s NOT an equal exchange.

  2. To be fair, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is not the real problem. Homoracism is a problem in general, yes, but the law was not a bad thing when it was introduced, considering the previous policy had essentially been “gays r gross, do not want.” It actually allowed more sexual freedom in the military than had previously been available. Just saying.

    • Yeah, but by that logic, Jim Crow laws were way better than slavery, so the blacks should have been happy with them, right?

    • I agree with you that “homoracism” is the “real” problem, but there are certainly actionable ways in which we can at least address the national symptoms of that problem (army, marriage, etc). Because, you know, you can’t really make “prejudice of the heart” illegal.

      But I disagree with you about the importance of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. For one thing, there is no equivocation when it comes to equality. Either people share equality or they do not. There’s no half-measure where things are equal enough (which was attempted during the post-reconstruction, pre-Civil Rights era, to miserable results). Also: it had basically no effect. The institutionalization of homophobia remained as strong as ever. In which case, it actually was counter-productive because it gave the military a partial smokescreen through which to argue things were better when they were the same. This, of course, is the problem with half-measures. They give the “enemy” (for lack of a better term) a new weapon, which is a moral smokescreen through which things get confused when in reality there is nothing confusing about, again, equality. It’s pretty clear cut when it is or is not happening.

      • We’re all just fighting for freedom…

      • I sat in on a really fantastic dissertation defense last summer concerning DADT. The PhD candidate was a commissioned Navy officer and he had compiled mountains of primary source data including surveys from Navy enlisted and officers at numerous bases off the Pacific. The surveys included questions ranging from “Do you agree with DADT?” to “Would you feel comfortable if your commanding officer was homosexual? to “Would you feel comfortable sharing a communal shower in the barracks with a homosexual?” Keeping in mind the culture of the Navy (I think specifically that soldiers are kept in very tight quarters for long periods of time is important), the results were phenomenal. They were generally like 90% or higher in favor of homosexual rights.

        However what was really interesting was the difference between personal beliefs and the public expression of their beliefs. He juxtaposed the aforementioned questions with things like “If this survey was not anonymous would your answers be different?” People who were more than comfortable serving next to homosexuals, were uncomfortable openly defending the rights of homosexuals. Which means not only is the institutionalization of homophobic practices not reflective of the actual beliefs of Navy personnel, but it has created a culture where people actively act against their own beliefs to fit with the norm.

        Personally, I think the biggest problem is that it is inconsistent with the rest of military culture. Racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry as expressly not allowed and can result in retraining, demotion, and even dismissal depending on the degree of offence. So why should homosexuality be the exception to the normal egalitarian (AND AMERICAN) values of the service—especially considering the findings of the dissertation. Really, it’s all top-down, political, non-issue crap designed to divide the masses… (insert neo-Marxist rant that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.)

    • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would have been a moderately acceptable half-measure if it were a) applied to all sexual orientations equally, and b) actually enforced. Neither of those things happened, or could happen, and thus it’s not acceptable.

      Saying “do what you want, let’s just keep it quiet, eh?” sounds ok in the short-term, I guess, but only if it applies to everyone. Saying “these people can talk about their boyfriends if they’d like, but these other people can’t” is not ok. And even if you did tell straight people and gay people both not to talk about their partners, only the gay people would be punished for breaking that rule, because only gay people break military law by having a partner. And thus we’re back at the original problem.

      On top of that, even if DADT were theoretically acceptable, it’s never been applied as it was “intended”. People are asked, people are outed against their will, and people are punished as a result.

      DADT is one of those things that sort of sounds ok, in the way that to the nonconfrontational whites segregation sort of sounded ok. “Look guys, letting the races mix might be best in theory, but it would be so messy! Let’s keep them separate (but equal!) for now, and when the world is ready we can reassess.” It sounds nice to keep things peaceful for a bit, but as soon as you break that thin veneer, you realize it’s just a more polite version of the same old prejudice and hate.

      • DADT was and is a shitty, shitty compromise, but it was designed to be an improvement. It was a failure and it needs to go, but a newly elected President from a red state known for appealing to conservative voters made it his first act in office to fix the problem of inequality in government. Did he fail? Yes. Do intentions count? I guess not. So, I am wrong.

        BUT, Jim Crow was a devolution. The Radical Republicans passed an Equal Rights Amendment, a Constitutional ban on slavery, and basically held military control over the South. Jim Crow laws were a reaction to progression and – wrongly pretending that intentions count – that makes it more hateful.

        Basically my point was that the heteronormative majority was trying to do gay equality a solid and mucked it up.

        I’ll show myself out. Martha loses.

      • That is a key point that many people who support – or at least try to defend – DADT overlook. People ARE asked, ARE outed. There were and are “witch hunts” on occasion.

        The gay soldiers currently serving have to live with the fear that anything even remotely “suspicious” – which could just be simply never mentioning a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse of the opposite sex – could raise the attention of some jerk.

        It was a program that was doomed to fail, is clearly NOT in any matter leading to equality, and it needs to be gone. Now.

    • What’s homoracism?

      • The assumption that Homo sapiens is better than other races.

      • Alternate word, since I think “homophobia” is entirely the wrong term. It’s a matter of bigotry, not fear.

        • I don’t think “homoracism” is an improvement, because “racism” is also a bullshit term. Nobody cares about race, only about appearance and maybe (national) culture. It’s mainly skin color, entirely visual. There’s nothing genetic about calling someone with a white mother and a black father “the first black president”. He’s as white as he is black (genetically), but I’ve yet to hear someone call him a white president.

          “Race, however, has no official biological taxonomic significance — all humans belong to the same hominid subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens. Nor is there scientific basis for any racial or ethnic hierarchy.”

          There is only one human race. Racism is not racism, it’s appearanceism or skincolorism.

          About homophobia, I’d call it sexualism. That’s what it’s about and nothing else, it’s who you like to have sex with.

          But enough with the cunning linguism, I’d like to see the army engage in some Ask & Tell, as a fun social pastime.

  3. Wow, she spent a whole 48 hours trying to write it? Move over Chris Nolan!

  4. Wait, I’m confused. Is this all because Harry Reid @replied her about the DADT vote, or was she already publicly advocating for repeal?

  5. “Will you watch this 20 minute long video at 9:45 am of someone you don’t care about but sometimes think is fun to look at?” – Gabe “Nah, but I definitely appreciate the synopsis! Thank you!” – Me

  6. You know what they say, a speech should be like a skirt: short enough to be interesting and long enough to cover the subject. Oh, and meat. The skirt should be made of meat.

  7. I have to say that one the one hand, I really appreciate her making this speech (although 20 minutes? Does anyone have an attention span that lasts 20 minutes anymore?), as it may reach her younger fans and make them think about this issue, which they otherwise may have ignored or dismissed. Hopefully, said fans, rather than taking her speech as the end all-be all, will instead use it as a spring board to educate themselves* further on DADT.

    On the other hand, now I have to work double time to convince my family that my views are not ridiculous and mandated by a woman who has a blood vendetta against pants.

    *I realize how unlikely this is. After all, when I was fifteen, I thought that quoting Ani DiFranco lyrics was the debate ender of the century.

  8. I guess we can all be happy that our political opponents don’t all wear glasses like that lest they be taken too seriously. Those glasses obviously mean business.

  9. I liked the speech overall, but I do agree that it was a bit clunky. I really appreciate her dedication to her gay fans and the gay community in general. She advocates a very positive and progressive message, even if it is sometimes muddled by her delivery.

    And I loved her outfit! I thought her appearance, as well as her choice of words, was an effort to be somewhat humorous while still acknowledging the seriousness of the topic.

    It’s great that Gagz uses her celebrity to fight for something she believes in. As a (gay) fan, it feels great to have someone who you can feel like is on your team. She can inspire a lot of young people to peel themselves off the couch and go out and get involved.

    • Sure, although there’s a bit of Kathy Griffin’s “where my gays at?” to her fan-dedication, which seems really disingenuous and gross. Like, NO ONE is confused about who makes up large swaths of Lady Gaga’s fan base. You don’t have to be so on the nose about it, and if you are going to be so on the nose about it, why are you being so on the nose about it? It seems kind of weird to go out of your way to isolate and define a group that spends a lot of its time fighting against isolation and definition.

      • I can’t quite tell if you’re calling Kathy Griffin disingenuous. Kathy has been a long-time supporter of gay rights and an activist in the gay community; she goes to protests, she donates money, she raises awareness, and (as I’m sure you know) even organized her own massive rally in DC. In some ways I feel like Gaga’s gigantic gay fanbase just fell into her lap, and she figured she had to support it. Kathy was a supporter before she became as well-known as she is now (which, y’know, isn’t THAT well-known anyway) and in some ways has become as famous for her activism as for anything else she does.

        I guess what I’m trying to say in a half-asleep, mostly-hungover way is that I wouldn’t equate the two because Kathy has always struck me as someone who would be leading rallies and supporting the cause as much as she does now even if she weren’t somewhat well-off and famous. She genuinely loves and supports not just her gay fanbase but gays in general, and always has.

        • Haha, we basically have the opposite opinion! I guess I should point out that I’m not very knowledgeable about Kathy Griffin, and obviously not much of a fan, so I’m sure I’m biased in that regard.

          But if Ms. Griffin is as much of an advocate as you say, than good for her!

          • This is a pretty brief overview of some of the stuff she’s done, but yeah, she’s been an activist for a long time:


            I’ve been a huge fan of hers for a while (since before My Life On The D-List started airing) and seen her stand-up twice. Maybe she’s just better at pretending than I would give her credit for, but she’s always seemed genuinely passionate about her beliefs, particularly as they pertain to gay rights.

      • I’m not sure I totally understand what you’re saying. I guess what you consider “isolating and defining” I consider “acknowledging and supporting.” I don’t think Gaga has exploited her gay fans as some kind of cold calculation to gain success (hello Kathy Griffin!). Obviously her music is of the variety that is popular among the gays, but I think that fans have been pleasantly surprised to discover that she’s such an advocate for the gay community. Basically, I get the impression that she’s always been supportive of gays, not just now that she’s successful.

        I feel like you (not YOU, y’know?) could say something similar about Madonna. She has more gay fans than a unicorn, but she hasn’t really done anything (at least recently) to show any kind of support on her end.

        I just don’t think it’s a bad thing when someone with so much exposure takes the opportunity to fight against discrimination so publicly.

    • But she is wearing Terry Richard’s glasses….

  10. I actually watched her PSA yesterday and thought it was pretty good, except for the part where she called Chuck Schumer’s office and the phone kept ringing for an entire minute, then was disconnected, and then she called Kirsten Gillibrand and got voice mail, but couldn’t leave a message because it was full. So she says, “I will keep trying until I get through.” How much do you want to bet she didn’t try again? That’s not really encouraging people to call their senators.

  11. Holy hamfisted food metaphors!
    We get it, Americans are fat.

    (This speech was about fat Americans, right?)

  12. [IMG][/IMG]

  13. Dear Lady Gaga –

    We, the Monsters, agree with you. DADT is a deplorable and almost certainly unconstitutional policy.

    That being said, closed minded bigots do not like you or your commie pinko ways. Not only will your speech fail to change their minds, but it will likely confirm what they already believe, which is that people who want gay people to be allowed to serve openly are a bunch of weirdos who simply cannot relate to their American(TM) values.

    We appreciate what you’re trying to do here. We really do. But maybe you want to sit this one out?


    R2D2, Esq.
    Monster Counsel

  14. This is sad on at least three levels.

    1. This vote won’t go through. The Republicans have promised to fillibuster it.

    2. Our country is such a vapid collection of trivial pursuiit that we need somebody like Lady Gaga to get us interested in equality and basic human freedom.

    3. When I see the phrase “20 minutes” I start hyperventilating.

    • I, for one, fail to understand why actual filibusters don’t happen anymore. What is this obliquely-threatening thing?

      Harry Reid, force an actual filibuster. I want to see Senators actually on the floor discriminating against their constituents and generally being obstructionists. Wouldn’t that look better for Democrats anyway?

  15. This may not inspire any immediate change, but Lady Gaga does have a tremendous influence on American youth. Kids aged 10-18 are receiving a clear message in an outrageous format that is familiar to them. Regardless of how progressive we think we are being, I still, in 2010, encounter homophobic youth on a regular basis. I think that an influential and respected media icon can do tremendous amounts of good to shape the beliefs of future decision-makers.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

      • I am a dance teacher for kids and teens and I have been able to see first hand how closely they are watching (and imitating). The latest outfit, the latest video… They soak it up and talk about it and duplicate it. They’ve watched her interviews and most will buy into every word.

        I’ve not trying to belittle your opinion, quite honestly, but I have been witness to her influence and that is the basis which has informed my point.

        • Sorry if it sounded like I was belittling yours.

          I’m not around kids enough to notice I suppose. Although it’s a scary thought, I’m going to take your word for it. Hopefully they can learn from what good she has to say, while avoiding meatsuits and the like.

          • No problem.

            The meat suit was apparently part of the DADT campaign. (The things I learn!) Something something about how we are more than pieces of meat. I think it’s a typical artist statement crammed with a lot of bullshit and stretched logic, but my dancers were at least aware of the supposed intention. If they believe it, then it’s got to be doing SOME good, even if it’s all kind of a circus.


        That’s a fan video made to celebrate her last birthday. Most of it is just people saying, “Happy Birthday,” but if I remember correctly, there are a bunch of people who say how much she means to them (it’s long and I haven’t watched it in forever).

      • You seem to have confused “anyone” with “Jeff”.

  16. I guess her heart’s in the right place, but celebrity activism seems to do more harm than good. Here’s a great piece from Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe about celebrity activism:

    (I can’t guarantee this is the right video, I can’t access You Tube from work. I based it on the description, so don’t get mad if it’s baby deer riding a carousel, or something.)

  17. What is wrong with that hand of hers? Yikes, Lady Gaga. Cool it with the self tanner? Hire someone to put it on for you, maybe? I’m sure that’s possible.

  18. I still don’t get why any gay right activist would even WANT to join the military, where we KILL people. I can almost forgive myself for joining, being a 17 year old red-blooded conservative coming from Texas. (Almost.)

    But for a thoughtful, progressive American to even want to join the military just baffles me. It is and always will be a backwards and disgusting institution.

  19. And THIS is why I keep coming back to this site. It’s not just the typical “This guy fell down and HAR HAR” blog. It’s veryinterestingpoliticalinsightinthecontextofpopculturegum.

  20. I love that this speech was made. And it is purely for icky, political, Karl Rove-like mind-games reasons.

    1. Liberals, on average, believe that they are smarter than conservatives, on average. (You can substitute “more right about stuff” for “smarter”, but they mean the same thing.)

    2. Conservatives have a bunch of leaders and candidates that make big media waves with the speeches they make. They say crazy things that don’t make any sense, but the audience that hangs on their every word soaks it up and GETS the message – “Obama = Bad”

    3. Liberals have a much more limited number of public figures that actively provide sound bites that espouse progressive views. Most of them are broadcasters like Maddow and Stewart who have intelligent audiences that critically analyze the news and talk about politics and stuff, but their numbers are small and the talking points don’t make their way down to less educated members of the same belief system anywhere close to the rate that they do for conservatives.

    point 2 + point 3 = Conservatives win the mid-term elections in November.

    4. Lady Gaga reaches way more people that have progressive views, that might also not care very much about politics, than any talking head will.

    5. Lady Gaga is not terribly eloquent, nor is she concise. Does that really matter? She’s passionate.

    point 4 + point 5 = Lady Gaga can be liberals’ Sarah Palin.

    And truth be told, liberals could use a LOT more stuff like this. Instead of talking about the obvious flaws and problems with Lady Gaga’s 7th grade speech writing, and her association with controversial photographers (actually, I think those things need to be talked about, especially here. But I think you know where I’m going), we need to be encouraging Snookie and Taylor Lautner and Miley Cyrus and other dum dums to speak in dumb ways about simple things that they care about that might inspire someone to vote. The last thing we need is for a bunch of John Kerrys to speak intelligently about why liberals have the right ideas. The only people that will listen to a Kerry or a Clinton or a Gore are most likely those that already have opinions on the issues and are already going to vote one way or the other.

    More Gaga in my politics, please. Balance the load.

    Also, don’t misunderstand me, Gaga’s speech in no way approaches the actual crazy nature of a Christine O’Donnell or a Sharron Angle, it just appeals to those people who wouldn’t normally be interested in politics in the same way. We (the masses) haven’t heard a “riled up” speech from a social-liberal person who mainly talks about culture war issues in forever.

    • You make great arguments. Nicely said. I agree with you.

    • Though I agree with most of your points, I really don’t think a Sarah Palin of any form (even a delicious meat-covered gay-friendly one) is what the liberals need. The woman almost single-handedly brought down the McCain candidacy by looking like a damn fool any time she was put in a position to talk.

      • You’re right. What I meant to express most was that m’Lady did in her speech what I think is necessary to “energize the base (ugh)” (now all I can think about is Dick Cheney asking me through a respirator, “Give us the location of the democratic base.”).

        I didn’t mean to imply that the democratic party needs more wackos. My qualm with Obama and this administration is that they are focusing on the feel-good reasons behind solutions to America’s big policy problems, but they’re staying away from “It’s good to be liberal. It’s right to be liberal. We are liberals. Liberal.” because they don’t think that kind of thing works? I dunno. I just want more people to vote their consciouses this November mixed in with all of the people that will be voting their economies and stuff.

    • Incredimarc, if you want Snooki to support liberal agendas we’ll have to repeal Obama’s tanning tax.

  21. My favorite part is when she transforms into Little Richard in the middle of the speech.

    Also, I’m hungry.

  22. Bono, I’ll respect him when he stops refusing to pay his taxes in Ireland whilst nonetheless milking his national identity for all its worth. Charity starts at home, pay your fucking taxes so countless elderly and infirm don’t have to die in hospital corridors. Every single thing he says rings hollow.

  23. I appreciate what she’s trying to do, but it’s hard for me to take her seriously when her idea of dressing for maximum credibility evokes Charles Nelson Reilly. (I’m sorry. I’m 100 years old!)

  24. From now on, when I feel like I’m about to end an argument by comparing someone to Hitler, I am going to compare that person to Charles Nelson Reilly instead.

  25. From now on, I’m just going to form my political opinion from whatever the fuck Sean Penn is saying.

  26. So Lady GaGa is indirectly supporting both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What a sell out.

  27. Lady GaGoggles.

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