Lady Gaga & Voltaire — Hunter McMillian
Lady Gaga may have decades left of tireless performing, album releases, and various other headline making moments before she can be considered a true entertainment icon of the 21st century, but the efforts she has shown thus far towards achieving social justice exceeds those of her contemporaries. Likewise, Voltaire was a high profile celebrity of his time and no stranger to controversy. His views often contrasted with the views held by the church and the government. Similarly, both Lady Gaga and Voltaire ignite controversy through one major outlet- the use of their platforms to promote sentiments of free will and social justice.
Throughout her career Lady Gaga has made headlines for the occasional religious imagery in her work and the strong opinions she holds regarding religion in general. Like Voltaire, Gaga does not fault Christ believers themselves but rather the concept of organized religion, which throughout history has infringed upon the liberties of mankind. Voltaire may expose a few hypocrisies in Candide with the inclusion of the Grande Inquisitor and his mistress for example, but James the Anabaptist on the other hand is represented with well-intentioned and respectable qualities despite his religious differences with Voltaire. Unlike Voltaire himself, Gaga is religious but both agree that injustices of organized religion exist and have used their platforms to comment on the matter. In an interview with Larry King, Gaga said, “…there is no one religion that doesn’t hate or speak against or be prejudiced against another racial group or religious group, and – or sexual group. For that, I think religion is bogus (CNN).” Another similarity between Lady Gaga and Voltaire are their views on wealth. They have both experienced it, but agree having superfluous money is unnecessary to live a happy, purposeful life. Lady Gaga has expressed both in interviews and onstage that she does not care about money and is a performer because it is what she has always loved to do. On her first headlining world tour, Gaga went personally bankrupt and $3 million dollars in debt after paying for all of the extravagancies concertgoers saw in her live shows. Gaga has remain grounded despite the success and has been known to stay at her old home in Upper West Side when she is revisits
New York City. Voltaire similarly expresses that riches do not define happiness as he recounts Candide and Cacambo’s journey to El Dorado. In El Dorado, the gold and precious jewels bring great happiness to Candide and his servant initially but are rendered essentially meaningless there. The citizens do not concern themselves with wealth. Furthermore, Voltaire’s commentary is shown through El Dorado being a place where the inhabitants are happy and prosperous and asa place appearing free of economic inequality.
Repercussions have come from both Lady Gaga and Voltaire using their influential voices to make religious, political, and social statements. Lady Gaga and her team have had to cancel shows due to threats sent by religious extremist groups. Likewise, the Catholic Church banned Voltaire’s Candide in the first month of its release (Lombardi). The comparison of these two wildly popular figures is more than just a light-hearted coincidence. Both Lady Gaga and Voltaire have not only used their voices to fight against social injustices at the risk of public alienation, but more significantly shown that many of the social injustices of the 18th century arestill relevant today.
Larry King. (n.d.). CNN.com – Transcripts.CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather,
Entertainment & Video News. Retrieved October 22, 2012, from http://transcripts.cnn.com/
Lombardi, E. (n.d.). Banned Books – Challenged and Controversial Novels.Books & Literature
Classics. Retrieved October 23, 2012, from http://classiclit.about.com/od/bannedlitera