(For those of you that didn’t know who she is, I have included an image of Lady Gaga and a link to her Wikipedia page. You’re welcome.)
The best thing about social sciences is that for every monolithic media story about social phenomenon there is the potential for analysis of what this story’s popular presentation and prioritization means for the society as a whole.
You might remember hearing in the news at the end of last year that a school called the University of South Carolina (which I was already familiar with due to a family member studying there for a year and ending up in a cult) offering a sociology course in Lady Gaga taught by one Mathieu Deflem, whose other academic specialties involve international policing and counterterrorism.
Although I have mixed feelings about Lady Gaga, (See: I have a big shrine of her in my bathtub made of bits of her hair bought off e-bay) due to her being an advertising tool and probably a succubus, I found myself at first in the “Oh hell no” camp.
When I read the curriculum, I thought the whole thing was likely to be a joke, ( until I confirmed that this really was the university website, and read up some more on the issue.) Perhaps as a “hats-off” to Gaga’s utilization of social media to build her fanbase, the course has a blog which allows people from all over the world to more or less audit the class online if they so wish. Many of the students in the class have also started blogs on the subject so that we lesser “Little Monsters”/sociology buffs may have a taste of this unique learning opportunity.
The story was picked up by the New York Times, the Huffington Post and quickly went viral. The New York Times article gave things a bit of context that helped me to figure out whether to laugh or cry:
“Mr. Deflem said he was instantly entranced with Lady Gaga when he saw her on “The Tonight Show” in January 2009. Then he went to a concert in Atlanta. That led to his traipsing after her around the world to more than 28 shows. He owns more than 300 of her records on vinyl and CD, most of which are international releases. He has started a Web site, gagafrontrow.net, a respectful and adoring fan site with pictures and audio downloads of rare Gaga songs.
Mr. Deflem has met Lady Gaga five times, which was easy in the old days (last year), but now he warns on his site: “Do not contact me about how to meet Lady Gaga. I don’t know. I met her during meet and greets that were organized at the concerts (during the Fame Ball tour and the early Monster Ball tour), and once, per chance, at an airport. I am not in touch with her nor with her management.)””
So there you have it. The guy is the biggest Little Monster of them all, apparently. He is teaching a sociology class for the love of Lady Gaga, and not vice-versa. He has literally tried to rename the university after her.
In the midst of the feeding frenzy, there seem to be a few things missing from the general discourse:
1. Taxpayers are funding this class in a time and place where there is hunger and poverty that the tax dollars could be used to combat
2. The class material contains zero sociology. It would be much better named as “The History of Lady Gaga”.
3. I searched relentlessly for answers to why this was allowed to happen, by Googling “Gaga sociology administration why?” but to no avail. Same old scandal about a crackpot professor with no mention of all of the people that could have stopped this from happening and didn’t.
Word has it that he and his students are holding their breaths to see if Ms. Gaga will be making a visit to their class. he has hinted as much to the media as possible that it would basically justify his entire existence if she were to show up. The Gaga has neither confirmed nor denied that she intends to visit, but with finals coming up, we are in the home stretch of this agonizing suspense.
The world is watching, Lady Gaga! Also, why aren’t you answering your Facebook/Twitter/e-mail/LinkedIn/Myspace messages? Don’t you love me anymore???