In many ways, the new Lady Gaga documentary on Netflix, Gaga: Five Foot Two , is your standard documentary of the pop star, in the vein of Madonna’s Truth or Dare or Katy Perry’s Part of Me . He follows around as he writes and records songs and music videos for his album Joanne, and prepares for appearances at concerts (including his performance in Super Bowl XLI). There are flashes of his family life, and Lady Gaga, or in this case, the elderly Stefani Germanotta, attends a baptism as the godmother of one of the babies of her bandmates. You meet your parents and grandparents. All the standard celebrity documentary material.
What distinguishes Gaga: Five Foot Two is the willingness of Lady Gaga to end her fight against chronic pain, specifically her fibromyalgia, in front and at the center of her story. In fact, the entire doctor is full of pain and trauma, and the struggle to maintain not only her sanity, but continues to function at a high level. The movie begins with Gaga getting out of bed and receiving a treatment for hip pain. Then, immediately, we know that the pain will be in the center and in front.
Approximately 38 minutes into the film, after a moving scene in which Gaga plays a song for her father and grandmother, we see her in a full-blown fibro outbreak, which at the time of filming was not diagnosed. We see Lady Gaga, lying on the couch under a towel, crying, describing “the whole right side of my body in a spasm.” It is powerful, and something that all people with fibromyalgia have experienced. He even recognizes, in his opinion, that his privilege as a massively famous and wealthy artist allows him to access constant and excellent medical attention. “I think of other people who have, maybe something like this, but who are struggling to find out what it is, and they do not have the money for someone to help them,” he says. “And I do not know what I would do without all these people to help me. What the hell would he do?
It’s a good question that many people, if not most, with fibromyalgia wonder about every day. We know how difficult it is to get a doctor to take it seriously, how stigmatized chronic pain is. And most people do not have millions of dollars and nurses as part of their environment. But it’s still quite surprising to see her go from that to playing “Bad Romance” for Tony Bennett’s birthday a few hours later.
Next, we got a montage of his work, squeezing paparazzi, recording greetings from radio stations, amazing fans. In a way, it’s inspiring to see someone go from having so much pain to being “non-stop” to a voracious and adoring public. Once again, all this is all about celebrity pop stars: Gaga dealing with a public break, worried about whether her fans will always like her new look, will registration be good?
But it is the fiber material that sticks with you. We see her visiting her doctor, listing her symptoms and medications. This is one of those moments of “Stars, they are like us” that celebrities try to achieve, and not always with success. But Lady Gaga manages to do it. She gets a trigger point injection and we can see her, while she is getting stressed because the new album is leaking all over the Internet.
“Conscience” is one of those strange terms that are used a lot for diseases such as fibromyalgia, and I’m not always sure it’s enough for people to be “aware” that something exists. But Lady Gaga’s decision to show herself so painfully and let us into her doctor’s office with her seems to be doing more than just raising awareness. It can really eliminate the stigma of these chronic conditions. No one could ever, see Lady Gaga go over her preparations to act in the Super Bowl and call her “lazy”, which is a common insult against people with chronic pain. I guess there are some who could see this and say, “Well, if Lady Gaga can do it, why can not you get out of bed?”
But he completely loses the point. As Gaga herself points out, she has a lot of money to pay for world-class medical care, a money that not everyone has. But there is also a vulnerability that shows that many celebrities of his stature would not, and that is a big problem.
Reference: Netflix documentary by Lady Gaga puts Fibromyalgia.