What Lady Gaga Teaches us about Pain and Gender

by: Ellen C. Caldwell
for JSTOR Daily

Lady Gaga’s recent Netflix endeavor Gaga: Five Foot Two brings viewers into her personal world.

Unlike most rock star documentaries, however, Gaga’s documentary introduces her fans to the intimate health problems that both she and her deceased aunt have suffered from. Respectively, Lady Gaga has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and her Aunt Joanne, for whom her 2016 album was named, died from complications from the autoimmune disorder lupus.

As Antonio Cuesta-Vargas, et al. explain in their 2013 study, fibromyalgia “is a chronic syndrome characterized by widespread pain experienced for at least 3 months combined with tenderness at palpation of 11 or more of 18 specific tender points.” In Five Foot Two, viewers see Gaga suffering from extreme pain in various scenes. She struggles not only with the episodes of chronic pain, but also with the fact that people are watching her struggle, self-consciously saying things like, “Do I look pathetic?” and “I am so embarrassed.”

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