“A safe and accepting space for members to gather, create, share and inspire others… Welcome home, Little Monsters. Remember to be brave, be tolerant, and be original.” (LittleMonsters.com community description)
In March 2012, pop idol and worldwide sensation, Lady Gaga and her team, Haus of Gaga, launched the first celebrity-centered online community under the name LittleMonsters.com. With looks and functions that resemble several popular social networks, such as Facebook and Pinterest, Lady Gaga has provided a space for her fans to express their gratitude and love towards her. Additionally, users can post personal updates, send and receive private messages, enter live chat rooms, comment on each other’s posts and talk with Lady Gaga herself.
In order to give the reader a better understanding of this unique phenomenon, I will break the analysis of the community in three sections: Mother Monster, The re-articulation of the word Monster and Little Monsters. After the analysis of the community, I will offer my opinion on this interesting phenomenon and it’s implications.
When analyzing a community like LittleMonsters.com, the driving force of the community or the creator of the site should be taken into consideration. In LittleMonster’s case, Lady Gaga is not only the creator of the community but also a mother figure. By embracing the role of Mother Monster, she has provided a shelter where her Little Monsters can escape and express themselves, without the fear of labeling and stigmatization. She encourages her fans to use her and the site as an escape from reality, as an excuse to explore their identity.
For most of her Little Monsters, Mother Monster represents the role of the protector who have helped them get through hard times. This can be clearly seen in the stories they share throughout the entire site. For K.A. (Turkey), Lady Gaga has truly changed his life in an unimaginable extent. He can never imagine leaving her and therefore he will always be an eternal monster. Similarly, L.M. (France) expresses her love for “Mommy Monster” and thanks her for making her stronger and braver. On a different note, J. (Finland) not only thanks Lady Gaga for helping her get through the darkest hours of her life, but also offers a helping hand to any Little Monster who needs it.
The Re-articulation of the word Monster
Another interesting aspect of this community, is that they all have embraced the word monster. A word usually associated with unpleasant images and fear, has been turned into something different. Is there a hidden meaning behind this word?
According to Click, Lee and Holladay, the answer is yes. In their study about Lady Gaga and her relationship with her fans, they tried to figure out what is the meaning behind the term Little Monsters. For them, monsters in modern society function as a metaphor for human difference and turn into “cultural constructs in times of societal instability”. Thus, the word monster suggest an alternative world view, which goes against the norm. Since they represent something different, they end up being marginalized. However, in LittleMonsters case, by embracing a range of characteristics which normal society has rejected, Lady Gaga and her community have reconstructed the “monster” term as a message of empowerment, unity and pride of being different .
When it comes to interaction, the Little Monsters are quite straightforward. They are their “Mother’s” children after all. They are not afraid to share their personal information and creations, since they know that LittleMonsters.com is an accepting community.
Most of their discussions, either in the form of posts accompanied by a hashag or live chat rooms, revolve around Lady Gaga, her art and how her strong message of acceptance has helped them shape their life. In his post, K.M. (Canada) explains that Lady Gaga inspired him to announce to his social circle his sexual orientation. As it might be expected, a big number of users congratulated him for his decision, while underlining the importance of Lady Gaga’s message.
Yet, when it comes to criticizing her art, Little Monsters are not shy to speak their minds. On September 5th, 2013, while awaiting for the revelation of the cover of her latest album, several heated discussions popped up all over the site. When the cover was finally revealed, opinions were polarized, with half of the users praising Mother Monster for her newest creation while the rest expressing their dislike. The next few days the users who didn’t like the cover, decided to create their own version of the cover in an effort to win the general attention and approval.
But what happens when one monster is dissatisfied with the behavior of another monster? In that case the member has two options, either block or report that person. If he/she decides to block the person, the blocked person won’t be able to interact with anything he/she does. When it comes to reporting that person, the user is presented with a form, where he/she should explain why the user should be reported. After filling out the form, the issue is handed over to the moderators of the site.
(R)evolution of the fandom?
After spending a few days in LittleMonsters.com, I’m left confused and conflicted about the community’s true purpose. Without a doubt, Lady Gaga and her team have managed to create a space where people who have felt marginalized by their social circle, can express their ideas publicly without the fear of being attacked or cyber-bullied. As I mentioned before, this is even more obvious by the use of the term “monster”. With the re-articulation of the term, the community has managed to turn something negative into a message of inner strength and unity.
Yet, there is another side of the coin. Through the creation of LittleMonsters.com, Lady Gaga has propelled self-branding into an entirely new level. First thing you realize when you register on the site is that it is not only a community of self acceptance, but also a smart way of promoting Gaga. From the automatic following of her profile to the constant bombardment of Gaga material, the user’s brain is slowly imprinted with her image. If you add the fact that most of the posts and the discussions of the site revolve around Gaga, it is rather obvious that this is marketing with a capital M.
This is something that should have been expected from someone who has been called queen of the social media several times in the past. For many years, Lady Gaga has been one of the most active celebrities both on Twitter (40 million followers) and Facebook (59 million likes). Thus, it shouldn’t surprise us that she decided to increase her online presence with the creation of her own social media platform. Only time will tell if her latest endeavour will be met with success and whether other celebrities will follow her example. Moreover, it will be interesting to see if this new level of interaction between fan and celebrity will change the dynamics of their relationship and what will be the outcome of this change.
To be continued…
1. Click, M. a., Lee, H., & Holladay, H. W. (2013). Making Monsters: Lady Gaga, Fan Identification, and Social Media. Popular Music and Society, 36(3), 360–379.