Lady Gaga’s Exaggerated Storytelling Has Always Been Her Greatest Super Power

Pop stars can’t be movie stars.

At least, that was the general consensus before Stefani Germanotta stepped onto the scene. Considering even the greatest pop star of our era, Beyonce, had an uneasy relationship with the silver screen at best (Let’s be honest, Dreamgirls did her no real favors), the success that Lady Gaga has had in Hollywood is fairly unexpected. First as the waitress who made good in A Star Is Born, and now as Patrizia Reggiani in House Of Gucci, Gaga absolutely shines as a leading lady.

Both roles have made headlines for Gaga’s campy exaggeration — which some people have praised, and some people have mocked — but fans of Gaga’s music already knew that her irrefutable knack for storytelling is part of what made her an iconic pop star in the first place. When it comes to the art of exaggeration, and the dazzle of the spectacle, no one does it better than Gaga. Over the top is part of being at the top, and for this New York-born Italian superstar, nothing comes more naturally than overstatement.

Now that cinephiles are being exposed to her hyperbolic style as an actress, here’s a few moments from over the years during her musical career that showcase just how Gaga has always used exaggeration to great effect as a world-building tool.

Her absolutely unhinged 2009 VMAs performance of “Poker Face” into “Paparazzi” — complete with hanging messianic exit lift via wire, and blood dripping from her torso

Yes, she really began an award show performance laying flat on the ground, fallen chandelier cast to the side. Yes, the entire set’s backdrop was elaborate Rococo and late Baroque architecture for some reason. And yes, Gaga sings the entire song live while dancing with ten to fifteen other people, occasionally losing her breath, playing into the increasingly frantic nature of the performance. There’s a lengthy piano solo she plays with her heel up on the keys, there’s a moment where she walks with a cane and someone in a wheelchair is brought out like this might just be a madhouse… and when she gets up from the piano, what seemed like just a red bloom of accented color on her outfit is a full-blown bloodstain. The blood blooms all over her torso as Gaga keeps singing, eventually lifted out of the performance, above the stage on a wire. Puff looks just as confused as we all felt… this woman left nothing on stage. And you guys thought “Shallow” was campy? This was 2009 baby! Gaga was, in her own words, born this way.

The almost fifteen-minute “Marry The Night” video that served as a preview of what was to come on the silver screen

Though she’s always been known for lengthy, cinematic music videos, circa 2010-2011, her visuals began to get longer and longer, stretching from 2010’s nine-minute “Alejandro” epic, and spilling all the way into 2011’s almost fifteen-minute psycho-thriller clip for “Marry The Night.” As one of the last singles off the album, but the first song on her massive Born This Way, “Marry The Night” set the tone for what was coming next for Gaga in a lot of ways. But her starring role in the accompanying short film is one of the most beloved eve. In it, Gaga appears as a woman who had been admitted to a “clinic” and undergoes a tough surgery, and builds to shots of her as a ballerina in a dance studio, then moves to her getting dropped from the show (which seems analogous to her getting dropped by Def Jam). As she douses herself in cheerios, and breaks every mirror in her apartment, only to rise from the ashes later in the video, you’ll start to realize cette dramatique actrice has been onboard all along. The fact that she directed this video herself? Well, that’s just par for the course with Gaga.

Lady Gaga appears to jump from the heights of the top of the stadium to enter her Super Bowl halftime show performance

Speaking of wires and freaky airborne dramatics, nothing sums up Gaga’s flair for gilding the lily than her rather infamous Super Bowl jump, where CGI and special effects made it appear that she began the performance on top of the stadium in Houston, and jumped off the edge to the stage on the field. Of course, that jump seen ‘round the world spawned a whole slew of ‘splainer articles letting fans know not to try this at home, no matter how much the bangers on Joanne might be speaking to them. But only Gaga would orchestrate the illusion that she jumped off the edge of a massive stadium, only to calmly take the stage and perform after. The memes this move generated also helped begin a long history of the internet having their fun with Gaga’s over-the-top antics.

Gaga offers a bit of a roadmap for why she’s insisted on her absurdist tendencies have throughout her entire career

Then again, when you hear Gaga reflect on that 2009 VMA performance in her own words, all of it begins to make sense. In some of the earliest scenes of her 2017 Netflix documentary, Five Foot Two, Gaga reflects on the way male producers in the industry often use women up and spit them out, or just want them to be a “receptacle for their pain.” She shares that one of the ways she’s combated this and fought back against it is through the very absurdism she’s become so known for throughout her career.

“You felt like you’ve had to do, like, extreme sh*t to put yourself out of the category,” Mark Ronson offers around the 12-minute mark in the documentary. “What’s the methodology?” And she responds: “The methodology behind what I’ve done is that when they wanted me to be sexy or they wanted me to be pop, I always f*cking put some absurd spin on it that made me feel like I was still in control. So you know what? If I’m going to be sexy on the VMAs and sing about the “Paparazzi,” I’m going to do it while I’m bleeding to death and reminding you of what fame did to Marilyn Monroe.”

So far though, with her absurdism as armor, Gaga has gone farther in her journey with the fame monster than plenty of her predecessors. Perhaps if more famous women found a similar way to protect their spirit and maintain control while in the spotlight, we’d see more women attain the success Gaga has achieved. And in that sense, Gaga’s exaggeration truly is her greatest super power — because it keeps Stefani Germanotta safe.