A Guide to Signs and Symbols in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Video


This morning brought the next stage in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” roll out. Little Monsters and Gaga haters alike have been watching and weighing in on the music video. Us? We’re feeling a bit ambivalent. There’s a lot of cool imagery in there, but we’re still not loving the song, and we’re also getting a little sick of this self-congratulatory Gaga-as-creator-goddess/queer messiah business, too. (Plus, does anyone have an idea what “the mitosis of the future” is supposed to mean?)

In our confusion, though, one thing is clear: as is the case for most Gaga videos, “Born This Way” is packed with signs and symbols. Watch the video and follow along as we break down the video’s references, from unicorns and pink triangles to Day of the Dead, Hieronymous Bosch, and ’60s performance art, after the jump.

Pink triangle: Oh hey, does this song happen to be about gay rights? Good thing we have this big, pink triangle because otherwise we would have never guessed. And yet, as obvious as this imagery is, we’re sure some crazy people are going to use the triangle as further proof that Gaga is all about the Illuminati.

Unicorns: More queer stuff! Although it’s kind of hilarious that Ke$ha scooped Gaga on the glittery unicorn video in her ridiculous/wonderful clip for “Blow.”

Gaga’s crazy beehive: It’s a pope hat, the B-52’s, and the robot helmet from Metropolis (which, remember was the inspiration for the “Express Yourself” video) all rolled into one — but since the Oscars were last night, we can’t stop comparing it to the enormous beehive Kelly Osbourne wore to host the E! red carpet show.

Chains: Duh, guys. These are the chains of oppression.

“A birth of magnificent and magical proportions”: This image could go any number of ways, but since we’re talking about a mysterious birth, we’re going with the Virgin of Guadalupe.

“A new race”: Well, we can see why there will be no prejudice. Who needs it when everybody looks like Gaga?

Hell: The birth of evil is straight up Hieronymous Bosch, a vision of hell as humanity stacked up in misery.

Gaga riding lightning bolts: Anyone else seeing Rocky astride the RKO tower at the end of Rocky Horror? Sure, Metropolis plays into this one, too but we’re sure the campy reference isn’t lost on Gaga, either.

Guns shooting pot leaves: We’re not sure why this is happening, but that is what’s going on, right?

“Express Yourself”: This crawling-on-the-ground sequence, which kicks off the musical part of the video (a mere three minutes in), is either a direct homage to Madge or simply a shameless rip-off. Which side do you come down on?

Eastern religion: While Gaga generally draws her religious imagery from Christianity, there’s something about the throne, veils, pose, and color scheme here that feels almost Hindu goddess-inspired.

Mexican Day of the Dead: Hey, so maybe the Virgin of Guadalupe business wasn’t so off base. This skull face paint is Dia de los Muertos all the way. And for a video that’s about good and evil in a religious sense, a holiday that fuses celebration with darkness and Christian traditions with pagan ones, it seems like good imagery to draw from.

Skeleton tattoo guy: Guess what? That’s not face paint on Gaga’s dance partner, model Rick Genest (who also appeared in the spot she did for Mugler). He has actually tattooed himself to look like a skeleton, from head to toe. Way to celebrate the freaks, Gaga!

Androgynous bodysuit: Didn’t we already see something similar on Marilyn Manson, ca. “The Dope Show”?

The jerk-off: Oh, yes she did. Will this be the dance move of 2011? Surely this, too, is about moving beyond gender. We’re just wondering if this one is going to make the cut when the video premieres on MTV tonight.

Paws up: Yep, there are those obligatory little monster paws.

Paint joy: There may be no direct referent for this rolling-around-in-paint shot, but whenever we see large groups of pretty people writhing in some goopy substance, it takes us right to the messy ’60s and ’70s group performances of artists like Carolee Schneeman and Yayoi Kusama. Also: amniotic fluid?

The All-Seeing Eye: Here’s another one for you, Illuminati crazies. Go to town.

Halo: That’s Saint Gaga to you.

Michael Jackson: Yes, he wore that single glove. But the iconic handwear and the preceding shots of Gaga walking rhythmically down a city street alone at night á la “Beat It” strike us as a quick homage to the King of Pop.

The single tear: It’s not an uncommon image, but for us, the single tear in the context of a video that draws so heavily on religious themes has to be a reference to The Passion of Joan of Arc .