MTV’s documentary Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside, which premieres Thursday, May 26th at 9pm ET, promises an exploration of how Stefani Germanotta found her way to becoming the Lady Gaga we all know so well. That’s a bit of an overstatement?the documentary is primarily based on a conversation conducted with a horned and felt-birthmarked Gaga in a single spotlight on a stage?but even in this mediated form it’s fairly revealing. A portion of the interview retreads ground covered before, as in Vanessa Grigoriadis‘s March 2010 profile of Gaga for New York, but Gaga does meet the filmmakers somewhere near halfway, plus filling in the blanks of the Gaga narrative, for example explaining that her fascination with wigs and with the permeability of her hair stemmed from her inability to get lead roles in musical theater (specifically, Adelaide in Guys and Dolls) as a brunette.
What comes across most strongly in the documentary is Gaga’s relationship with her father, a strict but supportive man who bequeathed his love of music (in particular, Bruce Springsteen) to his daughter. Gaga frames much of her early years in context of finding her own way outside of her father’s influence (but not too far): she remarks, “I needed to f**k myself up and go to ground for a couple of years” but admits that her father paid half of her rent for three of the twelve months she spent finding herself in a studio on the Lower East Side (a largely solitary experience that may have unconsciously inspired her fascination with incubation).
Another revealing aspect is the way Gaga describes herself and her fans, and their relationship. “I’m a perpetual underdog,” she says, which seems an odd thing to say when one is the most media-saturated pop star on the planet right now. Yet when she speaks of insecurity and being bullied in high school, she almost subconsciously connects this with the struggles she believes her fans might now experience, which draw them to her music. Her 2007 obsession with Rhonda Byrne‘s The Secret (per the New York piece) has evolved into a nonreligious evangelism, in which Gaga has achieved her dreams and she believes her monsters can and will do the same. Certainly this explains why Gaga can be so simultaneously annoying and compelling.
The filmmakers are currently finishing post-production?the rough cut shown today is missing an entire exploration of Gaga’s interaction with, and experience of, New York City?but even in this state it was indeed compelling. Tune into MTV on Thursday night at 9 p.m. to see the complete documentary.