In a world where women have to continually fight to get credit for their own work, Lady Gaga's continued insistence that all her recent success is down to Bradley Cooper is troublesome, writes Jennifer McShane
Let me start out by saying that I have adored Lady Gaga since 2008. She hadn't quite hit the hyper levels of fame that have since followed her around, but even then, I idolised the woman. I still do. Her individuality, her music, the fact that she felt no obligation to explain herself to anyone. When quite a few people watched A Star is Born with some degree of shock as to how superb she was in the film, I sat in the wings, rolling my eyes. "I told you so." And I did. I told them how in 2008, in ten years, we'd still be talking about her as one of the few original female pop artists we have working today. And here we are. The world has watched a woman with immense talent graft and achieve phenomenal success of her own accord. So, it bothers me immensely that in almost every interview regarding the film, for every accolade she rightfully receives, she essentially puts all her talent down to Bradley Cooper - giving him the credit for a piece of work that she also put her heart and soul into.
“There could be 100 people in the room, and 99 don’t believe in you, and you just need one to believe in you, and that was him,” Lady Gaga said of Bradley Cooper at a Venice Film Festival press conference in August 2018. She's said it so many times on the press circuit; it's become a joke of the internet. Acting like she was nothing before a man picked her to act in a film that he would play the lead in and direct. Because as much as I love Gaga's performance in the movie, the narrative focuses on Cooper's character almost entirely when it's she who shines brightest. Cooper is excellent in the film, no one can dispute that (nor his dedication in getting the film made and all that comes with that), but it's Gaga's essential part, her music, that has elevated the film to the seemingly unstoppable wave of success it has endured. She's a multi-million, multi-award winning artist, yet she's deadly serious when it comes to Cooper. Even during her Golden Globes acceptance speech, she thanked all the men around her, while saying, "It's really hard for a woman to be taken seriously in this business."
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It is, especially when you give yourself little or no credit, and thank all the men around you for your success. As a forever fan, it was rather upsetting to watch such an incredible woman lob all the credit to the men in the room (though no one is saying equal credit shouldn't be given, there just seems to be little similar credit for Gaga herself with much of the praise on Cooper).
For too many women, the hardest part of being successful can be taking credit for the work that they do. We associate with 'we' more than 'I,' and as a result, tend to showcase and speak up for ourselves a lot less.
She owes it to herself, and to all the women who look up to her, to acknowledge that she is responsible for the praise of her work in A Star is Born.
Because she's playing right into the hands of a damaging narrative we see time and time again; women forced to the background while the male gets all the fame and glory.
As another example, in 2017, forty-six years after Yoko Ono co-wrote husband John Lennon's hit ballad 'Imagine,' only then was she finally being listed as an official songwriter on the track.
Or when 'Big Eyes' artist Margaret Keane, revealed that it had been her, and not her husband Walter who had painted the thousands of paintings he took credit for. He didn't paint a single one (as proved in court) but continued to lie about this until he died at 85.
How many times has this happened to you, albeit in a less extreme manner?
One can almost see Gaga's reasoning in doing this. She is humble and modest and genuinely respects Cooper as an artist and friend - it's clear that they respect each other. She wants to give everyone credit in the film's success but it wouldn't hurt to give herself a bit more while doing so. As women, we tend to not demand credit, the same way that men do. For too many women, the hardest part of being successful can be taking credit for the work that they do - even while acknowledging the equal efforts of those around them as Gaga does. Women are natural sharers. We associate with 'we' more than 'I,' and as a result, tend to showcase and speak up for ourselves a lot less.
This isn't just down to patriarchy; Imposter Syndrome, the "likeability" fear, the fact that we feel by saying "yes, I did that," is a moral flaw, all contribute. And a series of studies in 2016 confirmed that women resist calling attention to their accomplishments when they work in groups with men. Heather Sarsons, a PhD candidate at Harvard, said she found a bias toward men when men and women co-authored research papers.
Cooper has openly lauded Gaga in interviews too, but in nowhere near the same manner. Gaga has returned the courtesy to him for months - it's almost as if she's done nothing else during the film's promotional run.
"I'm nothing like Ali," Gaga has said of her character in the movie. "I know who I am, the way I want my music to sound as an artist. Ali relied on the love of Jackson Maine to find herself."
She has found herself multiple times over as a person and artist in her own right; it's just a shame Gaga can't quite see that as she should.