Bleeding and Performance

The concept of “bleed” can definitely be applied to Lady Gaga and the way she is presented in the documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two. As Sarah Lynne Bowman writes, “role-players sometimes experience moments where their real life feelings, thoughts, relationships, and physical states spill over into their characters’ and vice versa;” this seems to be true, too, for Lady Gaga and the way in which she represents herself to her fans (l. 2-4). To begin with, “Lady Gaga” is a separate identity from Stefani Germanotta, and in some sense this is the avatar that Stefani chooses to represent in her career as a performer. Additionally, Gaga channels more than just her usual persona of Gaga; naming her album Joanne is not only a tribute to her dead aunt, but also a new identity that Gaga takes on: she “bleeds” into Joanne when she asserts that since Joanne was her father’s sister, and she her father’s daughter, that she herself is Joanne. It is through this “bloody” channeling that Gaga is able to manifest into music the essence of her aunt in the single “Joanne”.  

However, while Lady Gaga is comparable to role-players in that she merges identities with her musical personas, her position as a role-player is performative in a different way from gamers. For one, Lady Gaga must consider how her character will be received by her fans; she cannot just assume a new identity and become the girl who wears a t-shirt and jeans, for her fans expect her to be a spectacle: wearing a meat dress to one award show, arriving to the Grammy’s in an egg. Her “bleeding” is therefore always contingent on an audience’s reception.

Additionally, the “players accept the premise that any actions in the game are taken by the character, not by the player” through the concept of “alibi” (l. 25-6). As such, the player has the option of escaping completely into the magic circle of the dream world. Conversely, Lady Gaga does not have as much flexibility in regards to the alibi, for two reasons. The first, as aforementioned, is her character’s dependance on fan response. The second is that her career is inextricably linked to these characters; from a Marxist perspective, she experiences alienation from the self when assuming a new character in relation to her economic livelihood as derived from a chosen character.

In thinking about the different stakes that “bleeding” has depending on context (bleeding in a game versus bleeding in a career) I wonder, too, how bleeding can be a negative side-effect of a game, because sometimes “the intensity of emotion has become overwhelming to the mind, causing confusion and difficulties with immediate processing and distancing” (l. 48-9). Thus, the puppet master has an ethical responsibility to create a world where players can escape their day-to-day selves, without losing themselves in the process.

One thought on “Bleeding and Performance

  1. I think your last paragraph about the stakes of bleed is interesting, because it suggests that escapism in gameplay can have negative connotations, while many gamemakers aspire to have purely immersive gameplay without any ethical worry of how their players may respond to bleed. I feel like the Cloudmakers example from previous reading was an example of bleed gone wrong. I’m wondering what the fine line or the balance is for gamemakers to develop gameplay that does not encourage overwhelming bleed, as I don’t know if it is something that can explicitly be playtested.


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