It's not easy to perfect a formula to encourage human aspiration, but two very different women in the headlines think they've done it. Lady Gaga, who just won a Grammy for best female pop vocal performance, and the Tiger Mom, whose controversial book on "parenting" became an instant best-seller, are cut from the same cloth to make a splashy costume. Both have cleverly manufactured a personal story, sensationalized its message and packaged it in a way that sells to the insecure, the overanxious and the ill at ease. Superstar meets Supermom.
Though backgrounds, methods and measurements for success may be different, they both understand that we live in an age where frustration is the mother of invention, and as with the oyster, irritation is crucial. They get a pearl even if it's fake.
Lady Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, was angry when she didn't get the adulation and attention she thought she deserved as a classically trained pianist with a pretty face and dark hair who sang in high school musicals.
In interviews, she glibly describes her younger self (she's now an aging 24) as an insecurity freak. She tweets how she got upset when she was called "rabbit teeth." (Poor bunny.) Before she was Lady Gaga, Stefani had a hard time selling herself as marginalized, since she attended the same Catholic private school for girls as Paris and Niki Hilton on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Then she discovered that by carefully cultivating "outsider" status, she could offer therapeutic hype to those who feel vulnerable among the multicultural -- gay, black, white, beige and chola who perceive themselves as wounded by life's arbitrary darts and arrows. "Whether life's disabilities left you outcast, bullied or teased/Rejoice and love yourself today."
Her fans look upon her as a goddess who walks among them, and if not on water, on 10-inch McQueen stilettos, a paragon for our time. If Lady Gaga can be comfortable "in the religion of the insecure," they can be, too: "You are a superstar no matter who you are!" (Sure you are.)
She's a pop preacher woman in the pulpit of performance art. At the Grammys, she hatched herself from inside a super-sized translucent egg, wearing a plastic see-through body suit that rendered her as looking like an alien with pointy shoulders, outstaging, updating and outfoxing Madonna. Critic Camille Paglia suggests she represents the end of the sexual revolution. Elton John calls her new song an "anthem" for gays. That about covers it from A to B, which is about as far as any performer has to go these days.