The past decade has provided plenty more examples of that dynamic. The language of oppression, self-acceptance, and individuality has been misused time and again, whether you look to Rachel Dolezal or wellness bloggers embracing QAnon. Progressive culture’s internal tiffs have largely centered on the fear of such hijackings. Intersectionality—a framework showing how different forms of oppression overlap and accumulate—has pushed back against supposedly color-blind liberalism. Heightened scrutiny of cultural appropriation would ding Gaga today for the Mariachi cosplay of “Americano.” The emboldened left would question Gaga’s portrayal of marginalization as a mindset rather than a material condition.
You can look to other instances of white divas singing would-be savior songs in recent years for signs of how times have changed. Taylor Swift’s 2019 queer-pride anthem, “You Need to Calm Down,” still feels tinged with awkwardness for the way it equates virulent homophobes with the mere haters of Swift’s music. Katy Perry drew more skepticism than applause from queer audiences for employing drag queens in the promotion for her 2017 album, Witness. Madonna’s 2019 track “Killers Who Are Partying” presents the Queen of Pop as relevant to the plights of gay people, Africans, Muslims, Israelis, Native Americans, and rape victims. She’s lucky the song wasn’t catchy enough to spark controversy.
Spencer Kornhaber discusses the legacy associated with Lady Gaga’s track Born This Way and the criticism raised about the song.