Aug. 29, 2011 — -- We've gotten used to seeing Lady Gaga in improbable heels, lace headresses and see-through leotards. Even the infamous meat dress wasn't that much of a surprise.
But her showing at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night provoked more than a momentary eyebrow raise. As Jo Calderone, a poor man's James Dean with a Joisey accent, Gaga offered a lengthy monologue on fame, fell off a piano, and attempted to make out with Britney Spears.
Like all her stunts, it left an impression. But beyond that, was it ... brilliant? Creepy? Or something else entirely?
The VMA audience couldn't turn away. Spears gaped watching Gaga's opening speech; British singer Adele looked genuinely concerned when she tumbled off a piano during the guitar-heavy rendition of "You and I."
It's actually not the first time Gaga has brought out her male alter-ego. Last year, she gave an interview and posed for Vogue Japan as Jo Calderone; she also dressed up as him for the cover of her single "You and I."
But she took the act to another level at the VMAs.
Gaga reportedly used the men's restroom at Los Angeles' Nokia Live Theatre all day Sunday. And before presenting Spears with the video vanguard award, she confessed, "I used to hang posters of her on my wall and touch myself while I was laying in bed." She then leered at Spears and moved in for a kiss but got shot down: "I've done that already," Spears said, referencing her mini-makeout with Madonna at the 2003 VMAs.
"It was interesting, her character," Spears later said backstage, according to "Access Hollywood." As for the non-kiss, she said, "We got onstage and we felt it out."
Gaga went into full on over-share mode when asked about Spears backstage. According to Entertainment Weekly, she employed expletives to describe the "Till the World Ends" singer's appeal and asked the crowd of reporters if they didn't also use Spears for sexual inspiration when they were young.
If an actual man had said what Gaga said after attempting to make out with Spears, he'd probably be slapped with a restraining order. But Gaga was going for art, for theater, not really for the pop star. (At least, that's what we think.)
Alter egos aren't new in the music world -- even the queen of this year's VMAs, baby-on-board Beyonce, toyed with an alternate persona in the past. For critics, Gaga's stunt was a departure from the norm, and that's worth praise.
"As the night wore on, the character became a little tiresome, not to mention inconsistent," mused Michael Musto, culture critic for the Village Voice. "But I thought it was a pretty bold step, even if a lot of the folks in the blogosphere are screaming 'Annie Lennox ripoff!'"