Trigger warning: This post contains content relating to eating disorders.
Lady Gaga's SXSW performance was sick, and not in a good way. "Vomit artist" Millie Brown[TW: extreme depictions of vomiting] joined the pop diva onstage, jamming her fingers down her throat and puking bright green milk onto Lady Gaga's breasts as the singer played the drums.
Sizes above 14. Free pizza. Dinner dates. Bikinis, lingerie, spring break. As a girl, I know at least one of these phrases absolutely terrifies me. I'm not sure how I managed to avoid suffering from an eating disorder since so many girls do--no wonder considering the societal pressures they face. I'm not anorexic, but I've skipped many meals. I'm not bulimic, but every bite of food is a calorie in my mind, a little lump of fat that will eventually be added to my thighs. It is especially important that female role models discourage this line of thinking, seeing as it causes me to discard half my piece of free pizza while my male friends inhale three or four slices at a time. So if one girl throws up because of Millie Brown, that's enough of a reason for Lady Gaga to cease and desist creating "art" out of a young, beautiful, vomiting girl.
It's not art, and it's not conceptually cohesive.
Lady Gaga is associated just as heavily with her dress made of meat as any track she's put out. That stunt rang as ballsy, laced with commentary about American consumption and and objectification of women. She seemed to say, if you're looking at me like a piece of meat, too bad, I saw myself that way first. Lady Gaga's work subverts objectification, and her openness about her own struggle with bulimia has helped to raise awareness about the illness. To include vomiting in this scheme seems the exact opposite of the direction Gaga's concept has been traveling. Were this perhaps done in a thoughtful way which referenced Gaga's past trauma, and were not entirely literal, it actually might have been the kind of genius we've come to expect from her.
What about Millie Brown? Well, she seems a little confused.
She's very young, with supermodel good looks. She began her "career" at age 17--strangely, the age many current Gaga fans are now, and scant years apart from the age at which Gaga herself developed issues with eating disorders. It kills me every time I have to put quotation marks around the word "career" or "artist" for this girl because lady creators deserve the biggest chance, but this is in no way a real job. Full stop. Frankly, Brown's behavior is worrisome, and she enacts several symptoms of bulimia. Her immediate denial of the accusation that her art is harmful to herself and others is concerning: "Challenging perceptions of art & beauty. If art is your communication it should not be censored." For an artist, Brown's argument isn't very creative. How many times have we seen the art card played, had free speech and censorship waved in our faces as an excuse for poor behaviour?
Oh yeah, the reason she had to defend herself? Demi Lovato.
Lovato continues to be a total badass and great role model, instantly calling out Brown and Gaga over Twitter. She cited her own experiences with anorexia, bulimia and self-harm, insisting that young people cannot always fully comprehend the vision of their idols, and that demonstrations like this make it easy for them to slide into self-destructive behaviour. Millie Brown's performance reads like an instruction video on how to make yourself throw up. Whether a fan sees this behaviour live or in a video, it's instantly validating. Young people already throw up multiple times a day just to get noticed or to fit into a certain size of jeans; what makes Brown and Gaga think that they won't do it because they saw it in a pop music video?
Besides, it's already on the frickin' internet.
Lady Gaga's video for "Exorcist Interlude" features Brown puking glitter onto Gaga's gown. The pop star is strangely inanimate in the clip, while Brown pukes in video that proceeds and reverses, skipping to the beat in a gruesome repetition that reminds me of the daily exhaustive duty of an eating disorder. A sample from Blade Runner screams, "Make it stop." Make it stop, Lady Gaga. Girls everywhere are reversing the natural processes of their bodies, and some of them are killing themselves in the process. So make it stop, Lady Gaga. Make it stop. To get involved, be sure to visit and sign Care2's petition requesting that Lady Gaga to end her work with Brown and stop using triggering imagery.