Why can’t we all just be friends?
There’s been enough bad blood between Madonna and Lady Gaga over the years to power the tabloid rumour mill indefinitely.
Madonna has called Lady Gaga “reductive”; Lady Gaga subtly threw her own shade by referring to herself as “very different” to Madonna. “I play a lot of instruments. I write all my own music. I spend hours a day in the studio. I’m a producer. I’m a writer. What I do is different,” she told Zane Low on Beats 1 in 2016.
But in her 2017 Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, Lady Gaga appeared to have put the ghost, finally, in its resting place. “I still admire her, no matter what she might think of me,” the singer told the camera. “I just want Madonna to push me up against the wall and kiss me and tell me I’m a piece of sh*t.”
That should have been the end of that, were it not for Madonna and her Instagram stories this week. Madonna has exhumed the feud, like a spectre at the feast, to poke fun at Lady Gaga’s turn of phrase on the interview circuit while promoting A Star is Born.
Here’s a little context: Lady Gaga has been hitting the promotional trail for her debut movie with her co-star and director Bradley Cooper. The film has been rapturously received, and not only by this writer, who still tears up whenever she hears Cooper and Gaga’s duet in The Shallow on the radio. (lf loving A Star is Born is wrong, then lock me up and throw away the key, baby!) The point is: A Star Is Born is hotly tipped for Oscar success, particularly for Gaga herself. This is her moment.
While speaking about the movie, the singer has relied heavily on one particular comment. “There can be a hundred people in the room and 99 don’t believe in you, and you just need one to believe in you, and that was him,” Gaga has said – over and over again – about Cooper. In fact, the real acting achievement when it comes to A Star Is Born is Cooper managing to look at Gaga with genuine, heartfelt emotion every time she wheels out that line, as if it’s the first time he’s heard her say it.
Can you blame her? Talking about a movie over and over again is exhausting stuff. She found a line she liked and wanted to stick to it. It’s hardly a crime.
It is to Madonna, apparently. On Monday, Madonna posted an archive video to her Instagram of herself in the eighties answering a journalist’s question using a remarkably similar version of the 100 people/99 people/1 person line that Gaga is so fond of.
“If there are 100 people in a room and 99 say they liked it, I only remember the one person who didn’t,” Madonna says in the video, which has since been deleted from Madonna’s Instagram.
I don’t know about you, but we’re exhausted. We’re exhausted with this feud and we’re exhausted with the idea that women always have to be pitted against each other, an idea that is unfortunately often perpetrated by women themselves.
So Gaga is saying something that sounds like something Madonna once said. If you take a closer look, the actual content of what each woman is saying is totally different: Madonna is talking about how she zeroes in on criticism, Gaga is talking about the transformative power of one Mr Bradley Cooper.
There have been others who have used this 100 people/99 people/1 person metaphor before, and there will be others in the future. Just earlier this week Lindsay Lohan referred to her critics thusly in Paper magazine: “I could do 99 things right and one thing wrong but it’s that one thing that will be focussed on.”
Squabbling over diction is unnecessary and petty, especially in an era where we are trying to unpick all of the damage done by the overriding media narrative of pitting famous women against each other.
Female rivalry, real or imagined, is the proverbial manna from heaven for tabloid journalists. Just look at the way everyone is writing about Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton at the moment. Or about the way Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall were discussed earlier this year.
“This sort of narrative, this ongoing catfight, it really used to upset me for a very long time,” Parker has said. “Was every day perfect? Were people always desperately, hopelessly in love with each other? No, but this is a family of people who needed each other, relied upon each other, and loved each other.”
It felt like we had made real progress in this space this year. It felt like we might have banished the words ‘catfight’ and ‘girl against girl’ from our collective vocabularies. It felt like we had turned a page.
And then Madonna’s Instagram story goes and undoes all of that good work. I am sure that there is no love lost between Madonna and Lady Gaga, but I also know that this kind of talk does nobody, especially women in the public eye, any good.
So yes, even if there are hundred people in this room and 99 of those people are braying for blood and demanding more of this feud, there’s one person who doesn’t want to read about a Madonna/Lady Gaga fight ever again. And that one person is me.