Lady Gaga’s performance of ‘Swine’ at the SXSW Festival in 2014 is pretty much the ugliest mainstream pop performance you will ever see. As Gaga sings the fi rst verse, a girl dressed like an extra in a Charli XCX video slugs green goo out of a plastic bottle and looks bored.
She is still dead-eyed and indiff erent when, after the first chorus, she sticks her fingers down her throat and vomits florescent ectoplasm over a rocking, screaming Gaga. They then proceed to ride a pig-shaped bucking bronco, simulating sex, the girl continuing to regurgitate as Gaga writhes, supine, beneath her. At a climactic moment Gaga shouts, “Fuck you Pop Music!”. By the end the green effl uence that covers Gaga and her performance partner has dried to black and they stumble down from the huge animatronic hog, fi lthy and exhausted. In Gaga’s own words, it’s a song, and a performance, about “rape and rage”.
Compare this, then, to another song about rape. Robin Thicke, Pharrell and T.I sung “I know you want it” back in 2012, and, rightly, a media maelstrom shouted down their rape rhetoric. Gaga is stripped to her fi shnets and a plastic apron, conjuring the fitting metaphor of a night out that ends in an abattoir.
Thicke, Pharrell and T.I’s victims, however, strut like show ponies, glossy-haired and healthy, the sanitised face of rape culture. It’s likely you will have heard someone make a joke about rape, or have been sexually assaulted, or know someone who has. When this next happens, I doubt what springs to mind is the heightened pop perfection of the ‘Blurred Lines’ models. Instead, the anger, dirt and vomit of Gaga’s video probably shape your reaction. There is a reason bales of straw form the backdrop of the ‘Blurred Lines’ video; Thicke , Pharrell and T.I are the swine that Gaga is screaming about. Don’t be a rape apologist or a perpetrator of rape culture. Leave it where it belongs, drowning in the grime of the pig pen.