In honor of the music video that is sweeping the virtual nation today, (it’s Lady Gaga and Beyoncé’s “Telephone,” but I bet I didn’t have to tell you that) a few of us here in the office got on our trusty GChat accounts and commented along with the video. Read what we had to say about transmisogyny, pastiche, and sandwiches – and leave your own comments! (Since we chatted along with the video, playing the video while you read might help to make the most sense out of things.)

Kelsey: do we have any preliminary video comments before we start?
I know we’ve all seen it a few times now

Kjerstin: and it starts out “county jail, prison for bitches”! did i not notice that before?

Kelsey: that should be the new sign outside our office – PRISON FOR BITCHES

Shaamini: I like this already!

Andi: I’ve already watched this like three times today.

Kelsey: the intro is so 70s I guess that is the Kill Bill influence?

Shaamini: her prison stripes are phenomenal!

Kelsey: modeled after a real jail, I’m sure

Andi: Are we supposed to get the idea that she’s in jail after killing the dude from True Blood, from the Paparazzi video?

Kjerstin: yeah

Kelsey: so she went to jail for murdering that guy and it was supposed to be a statement about celebrity and fame and now she is sort of doing the same thing but starting in “fame jail” where there are lots of hot lesbians

Kjerstin: so she’s sort of addressing the intersex rumor, but as one blogger at gudbuytjane pointed out, is it transmysoginistic to be like “see, no dick!”

Andi: That’s definitely what I thought. Maybe she wants to start it up again?

Kjerstin: it also happens so early in the video

Kelsey: she has been so intentionally vague about the intersex thing, I’m surprised she’d address it like this (or maybe I’m not)

Kjerstin: it’s extra shocking

Kelsey: but yeah, like gudbuytjane said, it’s like “Oh thank God she doesn’t have a dick now I can relax”

Shaamini: i think it works with the whole surveillance issue in prisons

Kelsey: but also they blur her crotch out, so we don’t know for sure, right?

Shaamini: and the other prison guard does say “too bad”

Kelsey: but does she say “too bad” because they wanted to be more trans-inclusive? Probs not.

Andi: I don’t know. I definitely see this as one for her lesbian fans, explicitly. And the no-dick thing seems like it could be part of that.

Kjerstin: On to the exercise yard!

Kelsey: those smoking glasses are blowing my mind

Kjerstin: what’s that song on the radio? Everyone is so prison glam

Kelsey: Gaga doesn’t seem that into the kiss

Andi: I have watched way too much OZ because my first thought was that she was gonna turn and burn that one woman after making out with her.

Kelsey: VIRGIN MOBILE! Product placement galore. I do <3 the Diet Coke rollers in her hair though. What do you think about she's herself and her Gaga persona in the cell?

Andi: I have actually rolled my hair with orange juice cans. That's how we did it in the 80s, y'all.

Kelsey: And the brunette her doesn't seem to like the Gaga her.

Andi: Apparently it’s her sister, Natali.

Shaamini: she’s an onlooker

Kelsey: oh wow, they look so much the same. Oh, here is the part of the video I called “A Burlesque version of Shutter Island” in my initial notes.

Andi: I LOVE this dance break. It’s so much like the Pat Benetar video for Love is a Battlefield.

Kjerstin: julie (who was a prison-rights advocate before working for Bitch) was saying that she was wary of the hot women’s prison thing, but she thought it ended up being…different and not male-gazy

Kelsey: I think this is how women dress in prisons you guys

Andi: Yeah, I could see how a prison-rights activist could get wary.

Kelsey: Plenty of Fish PRODUCT PLACEMENT. I know she’s postmodern, but the product placement is ridic in this video

Andi: Okay, the crime-scene tape scene freaked me out

Kelsey: What about how B and Gaga have kind of a Dom/sub thing happening? Like she’s a “bad girl” and Beyoncé feeds her and stuff.

Andi: I think Beyoncé gets short shrift here, because her breakdown in the song is the most awesome part.

Shaamini: I’m not dancing until Beyoncé starts to sing

Kelsey: Yeah Beyoncé’s part of the song is the best

Andi: Seriously, it’s awesome.

Kelsey: Wait! I wanted to talk about that cow line, and the mirror dialogue. It lost me

Kjerstin: I think it’s supposed to

Shaamini: I’m just glad Tyrese is getting work


Kelsey: Tyrese burger! Though I don’t quite understand why they kill everyone in the diner. Is it another statement about celebrity/fame culture?

Kjerstin: I wanna know what that word is when the woman gets her butt smacked

Kjerstin: the kitchen scene is my favorite for like, this many reasons

Andi: Was this scene a Natural Born Killers reference?

Kelsey: or Pulp Fiction maybe?

Shaamini: I thought more NBK at first

Andi: Is it wrong that I was only bummed to see the dead dog, but not so much the dead people?

Kelsey: Gaga is such a pastiche-maker

Kjerstin: Tyrese is such a dick

Kelsey: She knew he’d take all her honey – that part made me think of Thelma and Louise. Or that Dixie Chicks’ song “Earl”

Shaamini: Really good line!

Kjerstin: this dance scene is also crazy. Cause of the intense dying

Shaamini: the American flag decor is pretty wonderful

Kjerstin: queering patriotism!

Andi: Jai Rodgriguez from Queer Eye – I like that he’s kind of making fun of himself.

Kelsey: I know, I love that he is the newscaster. Do you think that’s the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill? Or did they make another one?

Andi: Could there be more than one Pussy Wagon? I think not.

Kelsey: yeah it has the same keychain

Shaamini: Same body work on the car

Kjerstin: those gown dresses do something to me

Kelsey: oh here comes the woman symbol wipe! Sisterhood!

Shaamini: Solidarity!

Andi: Definitely a Thelma and Louise reference. And Bonnie & Clyde, maybe, with the hats.

Shaamini: they remind me of bram stoker’s Dracula, but that’s obviously not the reference

Kelsey: yeah and I guess the Polaroid camera is a Bonnie and Clyde reference

Kjerstin: and a Gaga reference

Shaamini: I’m really surprised by the overall coverage this video is getting

Kelsey: I like the hype and the drama (which I think is the reason to like Gaga)

Kjerstin: I think it’s practically impossible to make sense out of

Shaamini: General consensus was that the video was just fun without a “message”

Andi: I just like that she actually makes high-concept (or any-concept) videos. Who else does that these days?

Kelsey: The video is interesting because I think she is trying to make statements about LGBTQ issues and women’s issues but I don’t quite get what those statements are

Andi: Oh, I thought of another reference: Freeway! Another amazing movie.

Andi: I actually didn’t think she was trying to make a statement other than, “I’m making a crazy-ass pastiche video with Beyoncé.”

Kjerstin: Yeah you could just say “i don’t even know who or what this is about” when gaga kisses the butch in the prison yard, when actually it’s like, “when do you see to non femmes kissing on mainstream tv?”

Kelsey: I think it’s about doing something sexy and different and getting attention. MISSION: ACCOMPLISHED.

Andi: I do think it’s about acknowledging her lesbian fans, rather than just the gay men, like Johnny Weir, who have embraced her. I think she wants to go beyond being the new Madonna.

Kelsey: I do hate the product placement though. Like, I know you’re all about pastiche and postmodernism Gaga, but I don’t buy it that you needed the money from PlentyofFish or Virgin Mobile for this video.

Kjerstin: I like how Beyoncé got to have non-Beyoncé fun and use bad words but still not be the over-the-top one. I keep wondering if the Obamas have seen the video yet

Kelsey: Ooh I wonder if they have! They love Honey B.

Andi: Yeah, the product placement with the winking is really done.

Kelsey: I would have preferred all fake products like the pretend Miracle Whip

Kjerstin: oh man i didn’t know plenty of fish was real

Andi: Oh god it’s horribly real.

Kelsey: so do you think her gay fans (à la Johnny Weir) will embrace this video? Or will they feel like she’s abandoning them for her lesbian fans? My thinking is that if you’re a Gaga fan you like this video, and if you aren’t you might hate it

Andi: It’s campy enough for everyone, ultimately. It’s not as artsy as the Bad Romance video, but it’s more fun.

Kjerstin: quickie poll says yes

Kelsey: yeah the phone made of hair and the “Let’s Make a Sandwich” dance are for everyone

Shaamini: I would agree and the level of entertainment might be enough to win some fans over too

Kelsey: the song itself doesn’t have much to do with this video, though I guess there are a few phone references

Andi: That’s what’s nuts to me. Now whenever I hear the song I’m going to think of a prison yard, rather than just, like, a club and trying to hear someone on the phone. That would have been a really boring video, though.

Kjerstin: i like that…and then it just throws phones in willy nilly because it’s called “telephone.” like, in your hair for example

Shaamini: I like the idea of her saying ‘stop trying to access me!’

Kelsey: but overall the lyrics and the video are really different, since I read the song as being about wanting people to quit calling you so you could dance, like the PSAs at – stop texting me while I’m dancing!

Kjerstin: totes

Kelsey: Beyoncé agrees! We just want to dance! and murder people in a diner! and dance more!

Shaamini: haha. I think Beyoncé and her MJ-inspired outfit are worth noting too

Kelsey: yeah I love her epaulets – the jean shorts I could live without

Shaamini: too cut-up

Kjerstin: there’s another MJ reference when she leaves prison and dances with the zombies

Andi: Loved that little dance move.

Kelsey: I wonder if they are referencing him because he was a pioneer in the high-concept music video world. He pretty much invented it.

Andi: Bad Romance had that too. Totally an homage to Thriller.

Kelsey: yeah definitely, it’s nice that they are recognizing but still doing something new with it. I think MJ would like this video.

Kelsey: OK, any final thoughts?

Kjerstin: I think it will polarize feminists more

Kelsey: which is funny because I don’t think she is all that much of a feminist icon or anything

Andi: Will we be able to rest until we’ve definitively decided if Lady Gaga is good for feminism? Probably not.

Kelsey: She is interesting, and she is a woman, but that doesn’t mean feminists have to go to the mattresses over her

Andi: I think Gaga studies will become as big in academia as Madonna studies once were.

Kelsey: And the fact that her name is Gaga makes that way funnier. I am a Gaga-ologist! I have my PhD in Gaga Studies!

Shaamini: She makes some interesting political statements that appear as non-statements

Kelsey: I agree with you Shaamini on the statements, except sometimes I think she actually isn’t saying anything but she’s good at seeming like she’s saying something

Kjerstin: I’m excited to see how the story “is continued” and if it will be an entirely different genre

Kelsey: I hope Honey B is still in it

Shaamini: Can you start calling me Honey S?

Kjerstin: maybe johnny weir will be in it

Kelsey: Let’s Make A Sandwich!!!

Andi: I have nothing else to add, except that this video has made me happier than I’ve been in days. It’s an antidepressant, practically.

Kelsey: Do you have a favorite part?


by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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34 Comments Have Been Posted

So I pretty much agree on

So I pretty much agree on most points, the product placement made me pause a bit, because I definitely thought my video froze on that damn t-mobile phone. So, thinking about it, the consensus between me and my GaGa PHd candidate friends is that Beyonce has no business being in this song. I actually physically turn the radio down during her part. It's kind of weird realizing that it's others' favorite part. And again, not to hate on Beyonce because she's fierce like nobody's business, I don't think she can pull of the GaGa Bjorkesque weird fierceness. Also, it is really important, that I get a sign that says "Prison for Bitches", regardless of where I put it, but I NEED IT.

lady dada

it's such a delicious fuzziness between statement and non-statement; i understand (and applaud) your attempts to break this thing down.


Virgin Mobile
Wonder Bread

Is that a music video or a 9 and a half minute commercial? And PlentyofFish really? I mean the other three at least fit pretty well within the video, but you know they worked hard to get PlentyofFish in there becuase that scene looks so awkward. Sorry product placement annoys me just as much as it seems to annoy you all!

Don't forget the Diet Coke

Don't forget the Diet Coke hair rollers.

Bad use of product placement

There's good product placement - as in unobstrusive, subtle but present enough to stick with the viewer - and there's bad product placement, which is blatant, unaesthetic, and detracting/distracting. The Coke hairrollers might fall into the former category, but everything else was *horrible*. If I were teaching a marketing class, this video would be my example for bad execution of product placement. The Plenty of Fish shot was especially egregious - jarring and irrelevent to narrative flow. So was the Polaroid. It would've been enough to just have the camera and the Polaroid snapshot, not focus on the logo. Everyone knows that's a Polaroid, no need to be hit over the head with it. As a viewer, it made me think, "Gosh, these people must assume I just crawled out from under a rock where I've been living the past three decades." Then again, do consumers in their teens and 20s know what Polaroids are? Also, now that I think about it, who are the filmic references for?

If this was a typical, boring, by-the-numbers video, I wouldn't be so irate.

Also, why not have cigarette product placement? Did no one stop to think how cigarette branding could be incorporated into this vehicle? It just seems so obvious.

My favorite part, incidentally, is the kitchen scene.

I'm pretty sure the Diet

I'm pretty sure the Diet Coke rollers weren't actually product placement, and that is why it's so subtle, because they never actually show the logo. At least I don't think they're product placements, because if I worked for Diet Coke and had paid them, I'd be pretty pissed that my logo didn't get any screen time while all the other brands did.

I'm kind of curious as to who they're trying to market to as well. Wonder Bread just doesn't seem like they'd have the same target audience as Lady Gaga.

rang rang

Because I inherently disagree with product placement and think consuming is bad (not that I don't consume--I do! boy do I!), that this is "bad" product "oh hey ET, just eating my candy" product placement but is like "oh hey viewers, we are shoving this brand really obviously in your face," and the lack of delicate marketing handling I think is a statement.

And there's arguments to be made against this of course, that advertisers KNOW we're in on the joke (like 30 Rock does all the friggin time with GE and NBC) and I am going to stop typing my praise of meta advertising and go cancel my AT&T plan for Verizon while drinking a Diet Coke. But yeah. I didn't mind the product placement for the clumsy way they present it to the viewer.

She's so flashy, she doesn't even need a very good voice.

<p>I agree with most of the stuff said about the video, and I appreciate Gaga's playfulness with style and persona...but about the
music:</p><p>The song is fine and catchy, but Beyoncé is the real singer
here. Gaga
has so many effects masking her voice, who knows what she actually sounds
like. I also love seeing Beyoncé in such an alternate universe from her usual
one, both  costume- and persona-wise. </p>

Prior to becoming "Lady

Prior to becoming "Lady Gaga", she was just a singer-songwriter on a piano. Look up some of her earliest videos on youtube--or even look at songs like "Speechless" and some of her acoustic recordings. She's an incredibly talented singer, which I agree is not necessarily represented very effectively in this song, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Honestly, I love the Beyonce/Lady Gaga combination. Beyonce had a bunch of songs with Destiny's Child related to women's issues and not needing men-- "Independent Woman", "Survivor", etc. I think it makes perfect sense that they'd work together on a song--especially within the context of the story arc here between "Paparazzi" and "Telephone", where Lady Gaga kills her boyfriend, goes to jail, gets bailed out by Beyonce, they kill Beyonce's boyfriend, and then they're like FUCK THIS and run off together, reclaiming the Pussy Wagon as a feminist icon as opposed to the emblem of misogyny it represents in "Kill Bill".

Basically, I think she puts a ridiculous amount of thought into her music videos--they might appear cheesy and vacuous superficially, but upon closer inspection she addresses a ton of different themes. I feel like she's catering to two audiences: one who wants club bangers, and the other who wants to hunt for the themes in her music. Just because the ideas aren't immediately obvious doesn't mean they aren't there at all.


This is exactly what I thought. Beyonce has been great, both solo and w/ DC, at the strong independent woman song themes. I love this duo SO MUCH, esp. Beyonce's use of Gaga props in the video like her big round glasses and the black lipstick.

Maybe it just shows how much I hate my phone, but I really love the song on a pure lyrical level. "No, I don't have to answer, I'm dancing, f*ck off." It makes me endlessly happy. I also agree that Gaga puts tremendous thought into her videos on (at least) two levels, which makes them very pleasurable for media critic viewers (or at least this one!).

And yes, (I'm not sure if someone already this but) there is only one Pussy Wagon, owned by Tarantino. Internet trivia says he drove it to the Kill Bill set every day. I say, way to live your work dude.


i've seen gaga live.... she doesn't lip sync.... she's a fabulous singer.


I'm a bit obsessed with fetishized smoking, but those cigarette specs are outstanding. I love so many of her wacky props and costumes, but those might be my new fave.

Great song, but...

First of all, I loves me some Gaga. The Fame Monster is so great for working out, and I really have to resist screaming out "I'M A FREAK BITCH, BABY!" in public places at times—I haven't done it yet, but if I ever get up the ovaries to do so...

But I must say I'm troubled by the fact that in so many of her videos, people wind up dying. I mean, it seems unfair to criticize the glamorization of violence when it's part of something else that we find repugnant, yet to not do so when it's by an artist we like. Maybe it's because I have OCD and have a tendency to get triggered when I see death and violence treated lightly, but even though I realize that she's trying to make a (valuable) point about the destructive nature of celebrity, I wish she would use a less literally violent and nihilistic means of doing so.

I agree Cat! I used to be

I agree Cat! I used to be able to watch more gratuitous violence, such as Natural Born Killers, since I had been so desenstized to it, but now it really bothers me! [BTW - that restaurant scene screams Mallory in Natural Born Killers - and killing everyone in the diner was a pastiche of when Mallory and Mickey get caught up in the killing and they stop needing a reason because they've gotten desensitized to what they've been doing. Honestly I thought NBK made a lot of great statements about our media culture when that came out in 94. But at this point I can't watch it because it's too violent.]
I suppose because we are reared on violence that some artists feel the only way to make a statement, or to critique it is to use the same violence. I used to find it empowering when the tables were turned with the violence, i.e. women using violence against men that had wronged them, but now I just don't want to see any violence, no matter how campy or cartoonish it is. I think that it absolutely influences us. I hate how films and cartoons that are supposedly suitable for children are filled with more violence than many films for adults. I don't like its glamorization any more even by artists that I do like - it makes me like the artist less in those instances.
Can't we be shocking and entertaining without having to glamorize killing and violence?

I may be part of the

I may be part of the minority here, but I simply do not care for Gaga.
And Beyonce, well she lost me after that wretched "Cater to You" song she did when she was with Destiny's Child.

Meh song and terrible music

Meh song and terrible music video. Too porny and randem.

People have been asking what the woman in the diner thought.


Japanese. It means dress. (think of saying "one piece" with a crippling Japanse accent) Lame and out of place as the rest of the video.


The "wan piisu" comment: It makes sense with all the Kill Bill references (not that I am advocating for the correctness of either).

This may be just me, but I wonder if you would not use the words "crippling" and "lame" in your statements - number one because I don't like the ableist connotations whenever someone uses "lame" for "silly", and number two because I don't like the association of accented English and a handicap - as someone who grew up with one (accented English).

1. Even with the Kill Bill

1. Even with the Kill Bill references calling someone Wanpiisu (dress) still makes no sense. For a Kill Bill reference she probably would have thought Kisama! (bastard!)

2. The Japanese pronounciation of some English words is so incomprehensible an english speaker would think they were speaking Japanese.



That is not an accent but a mispronounciation of the word using the Japanese syllabary. Hence use of the word crippling.

That's not really true.

That's not really true. Japan has a massive amount of vocabulary taken straight from Western languages. Those of course been subject to changes in pronunciation and usage (like every borrowed word in every other language, including English) but they are still standard JAPANESE vocab not "mispronounced" English. pantsu isn't a failed attempt at pants; it's it's own unique word belonging to a language not your own.

and yeah, it's a little offensive that you seem to think that the Japanese are "crippling" your language because you don't speak theirs.

Yeah. Think of all the

Yeah. Think of all the Japanese words part of our everyday vocabulary that we 'mispronounce' ( <b>sake</b> = sah-kee vs. sah-keh; <b>tsunami</b> = SU-nah-mi vs TSU-na-mi; <b>anime</b> = Ann-neh-meh vs AH-nee-meh; <b>karaoke</b> = Carry-o-key vs Kah-rah-oh-keh, etc) but is accepted in our language regardless?

re: virgin mobil

i saw her back in december in san francisco and they sponsored her tour. so it's not like virgin is paying her money to appear in her video, they're sponsoring her current tour.

Song on the radio in the prison

Kjerstin: the song on the radio was "Paper Gangsta" by Lady Gaga.


thanks! that makes me wonder if there were any other times in the video she was being self-referential.

that was a joke! but it's not a joke that I'm glad I now know what that song is and will go listen to it, in its entirety, outside the prison for bitches.

Pussy Wagon

BTW, yes, it is *THE* Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill. saw an interview w/Gaga & she had spoken to Quentin. He let her use it for the video. Rock on!

Re: Pussy Wagon

That was the first thing that stood out when I first saw this music video. I made a doubletake and asked myself if that really was the Pussy Wagon from the Kill Bill movies. What also stood out to me was the mention of in the jail scene. That clearly showed that POF was a big time site.

You women are so young...

How about some women-in-prison film references that precede "Kill Bill," such as "Caged Heat" and "The Big Doll House"? The de rigueur prison outfit in 70s movies like those was a tight tank top and hot pants, and there was always a sadistic lesbian matron. I thought the twist in Gaga's version was that the big butch women also showed cleavage...

First of all, your

First of all, your commentary was pretty much what I was thinking. Thank you for verbalizing my initial insecurities about being a Gaga fan after I saw this for the first time -- now, after hearing her talk about it, I'm sold. Should we have to get it the first time? Probably not. Good art doesn't have to be implicitly understandable.

As far as product placement, check this out:

A lot of those were unpaid!

Loving It

I love watching Lady Gaga, so finding, reading and watching your post and thought provoking discussion about her new music video "Telephone" with Beyonce is a real treat. Lucky me, first getting to see her on the cover of Cosmo right by all the check out lines in the stores I go to, and then this new video. Love the girl-girl kissing. I do think Lady Gaga and Madonna have a lot in common. Love them both. Great post.

Honey B and Fried Green Tomatoes

Another (dated) pop culture reference from this vid may be to Fried Green Tomatoes. The abusive husband from the movie is killed and 'cooked' and the two lead women live happily ever after (one of whom was known to fetch honey from tall trees for the other).

Deconstructing Lady Gag.....

Lady Gaga said about this video: "....the idea that America is full of young people that are inundated with information and technology and turn it into something that was more of a commentary on the kind of country that we are......"

FAIL. Or maybe it's a success--a sad one. This video is nothing more than a mish mash of random images and really gratuitous product placement. If that doesn't irk anyone, then I give up. It may be a lost cause. Lady Gag is not really exploring any territory already tread upon by Madonna. Madonna didn't have a Virgin Mobile cell phone in the 80s and early 90s.

Because it's sooooo feminist to just dance around with no pants on. :::eyeroll

This Was Huge For POF

Honestly, this was very big for Markus and his small team at PlentyofFish. When they had that product placement within the video, you knew they were solidified as part of mainstream pop culture.

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