Perform This Way – Weird Al Does Judith Butler?

Weird Al Yankovic – the king of the well-timed and clever pop song parody – has released a YouTube video of his take on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

You can watch it here.

As you see on the video, Weird Al was initially told that his version could not be sold but Gaga’s camp has since since that she never saw the video and actually loves the parody.  More on that can be seen here.

I’m interested in the fact that, along with skewering the way that Gaga markets difference/strangeness and cashes in on being “bizarre, the song also replaces “I perform this way” for Gaga’s original “Born this way.”  While Weird Al is talking about Gaga’s performance in terms of musical performance, the song also reads as a shift from the uncomfortable natural or innate difference argument that the pop star pushes on in her song (and that I blogged about previously here) and instead understands self-presentation as a performance a la Judith Butler and a bevvy of other scholars that understand self as a performance of a copy that has no original.  I’m not suggesting Weird Al’s intention is to make a Butlerian argument, but I think his parody does re-write Gaga’s intention in a way that’s less biological determinism and more about performance (granted, Weird Al is talking about conscious performance, whereas Butler and friends are talking about unconscious performance that creates the doer through the doing).  It’ll be interesting to see what his video looks like.

There’s also intriguing irony in the fact that Weird Al is donating proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign – and thus his critique of Gaga does not extend as far as her liberal politics and their alignment with a certain crypto white privileged homosexuality – he’s equally invested in the possibilities of organizations like HRC – this is not to say that HRC does bad work, rather that it’s work often ignores intersecting issues of race and sexuality, toes a fairly demure line, and fights for the rights of homonationalist subjects.

3 thoughts on “Perform This Way – Weird Al Does Judith Butler?

  1. I have really enjoyed your posts on the subject–thanks for them. After hearing it a couple more times, I have come to the conclusion that my biggest problem with “Born this Way” isn’t the politics (though problematic) so much as the fact that it really just sucks. And I say this as a fan. Maybe it’s a problem of “anthem” style songs in general, and their attempts to capture a mood that is largely uncapturable, if only because there is no single national “mood”. But in any event, I think I prefer just about any of her other songs. It’s boring to listen to, queasy to sing along to (chola descent? no thanks), and questionably appropriative.

    So.. better luck next time, Lady Gaga.

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