Lady Gaga’s Netflix Documentary puts Fibromyalgia Front and Center

In a lot of ways, Lady Gaga’s new Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Twois your standard pop star documentary, in the vein of Madonna’s Truth or Dare or Katy Perry’s Part of MeIt follows her around as she’s writing and recording songs and music videos for her album Joanne, and preparing for concert appearances (including her performance at Super Bowl XLI). There are glimpses of her family life, and Lady Gaga, or in this case, regular old Stefani Germanotta, attends a baptism as the godmother to one of her bandmates’ babies. You meet her parents and grandparents. All standard celebrity documentary material.

What sets Gaga: Five Foot Two apart is Lady Gaga’s willingness to put her struggle with chronic pain, specifically her fibromyalgia, front and center in her story. In fact, the whole doc is shot through with pain and trauma, and the struggle to maintain not just her sanity but continue to function at a high level. The film opens with Gaga getting out of bed and getting a treatment for her hip pain. So right away we know that pain is going to be front and center.

About 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 flare, which at the time of the filming was undiagnosed. We see Lady Gaga, lying on the couch under a towel, crying, describing “the entire right side of my body in a spasm.” It’s powerful, and something that every person with fibromyalgia has gone through. She even acknowledges, to her credit, I think, how her privilege as a massively famous and wealthy entertainer allows her access to constant and excellent healthcare. “I think of other people that have, maybe something like this, but that are struggling to figure out what it is, and don’t have the money to have someone help them,” she says. “And I don’t know what I’d do without all these people to help me. What the hell would I do?”

It’s a good question and one that many, if not most, people with fibromyalgia ask themselves on a daily basis. We know how hard it is to get a doctor to take it seriously, how stigmatized chronic pain is. And most people don’t have millions of dollars and nurses as part of their entourage. But it’s still pretty amazing to see her go from that to performing a lights-out rendition of “Bad Romance” for Tony Bennett’s birthday just hours later.

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Next, we get a montage of her working, squeezing past paparazzi, recording radio station greetings, surprising fans. In a way it’s inspiring, to see someone go from being in so much pain to being non-stop “on” for an adoring, voracious public. Again, this is all standard celebrity pop star stuff: Gaga dealing with a public breakup, worrying about whether her long-time fans will like her new look, will the record be any good?

But it’s the fibro stuff that sticks with you. We see her visiting her doctor, listing her symptoms and medications. This is one of those “Stars, they’re just like us” moments that celebrities try to pull off, and not always successfully. But Lady Gaga manages to do it. She gets a trigger point injection and we get to see it, all the while she’s stressing out because the new album is leaking all over the internet.

“Awareness” is one of those weird terms that gets thrown around a lot for diseases like fibromyalgia, and I’m not always sure it’s enough for people to just be “aware” that something exists. But Lady Gaga’s decision to show herself in so much pain, and to let us into her doctor’s office with her, seems to be doing more than just raising awareness. It really can chip away at the stigma of these chronic conditions. Nobody could ever, watching Lady Gaga go through her preparations for performing at the Super Bowl, and call her “lazy,” which is a common slur thrown at people with chronic pain conditions. I suppose there are some who might look at this and say, “Well, if Lady Gaga can do it, why can’t you get of out of bed?”

But completely misses the point. As Gaga herself points out, she has a lot of money to pay for world-class medical care, money that not everybody has. But there’s also a vulnerability that she shows that a lot of celebrities of her stature wouldn’t, and that’s a big deal.

Definitely watch the movie, especially if you’re a fan. But even if you’re not, it’s still an important film, for showing fibromyalgia in such an intimate setting.

4 thoughts on “Lady Gaga’s Netflix Documentary puts Fibromyalgia Front and Center

  1. Fibromyalgia is horrible as I have had it for years. The pain is so bad at times I just want to stay in bed and not even move. The meds help done but no one understands what I talk about they look at me like I’m crazy ! The pain is real and you just want to give up at times I have to keep goingso I do.

    1. I am right there with you, fellow warrior. I have been in a constant flair for more than 2 weeks and have to work on top of it all. We are in this together

  2. Hi there I’ve had this since I was young, it’s been so bad lately that I haven’t even been able to work for 8 weeks, people look at you and don’t think there is anything wrong but they don’t feel the constant pain…

    1. Hi! I’m a 46 year old female that has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia for 3 years now. I never even heard of it before until I had a surgery for Carpal Tunnel and had the worst healing process afterwards. I couldn’t describe the pain I was having and I honestly felt like I was dying slowly. I don’t work anymore because of it and my quality of life has gone down the tubes. I wished that people would understand it more and why they call it the “invisible disease”, because people don’t understand it and they look at you like “you look fine” but if it were talked about more and making it known out there what we go through, maybe people would understand the chronic suffering in pain we have when we have flare ups. Maybe they should have an actual medication that is for Fibromyalgia instead of being a guinea pig! I take Lyrica which doesn’t do much for me but helps in other ways and it’s crazy how much it is if you don’t know about the coupon and how Insurance doesn’t pay for it, or there’s no generic for it to. I’ve tried others like Gabapentin and they don’t work or your so exhausted from the meds that your a zombie for the day. I even tried it at night but woke up in the morning so tired and in a brain fog that it would be hard to function at work. I used to sell cars at a busy dealership and you need to be awake, and have the energy, and able to focus on your job, because your dealing with people, and there kids, and driving them around so they could enjoy the ride before they get in the drivers seat. You run around like crazy and it’s from start to finish with shaking there hands and thanking them for allowing me to help them with a safe vehicle for there family. when I’m in pain I don’t even want to talk, nor even think about selling a vehicle to try and make a living bc if you don’t sell cars you don’t get a paycheck! I wish that Fibromyalgia were talked about more so people would understand what it does and how it make you feel. The one thing I would say is, that I wished I heard of Fibromyalgia and I wished that the Dr. I truly trusted in knew more about it and not have been so “scalpel happy” and had wanted me to have some therapy before he had cut me open. He thought I were lying about the horrible pain and made me feel like I was trying to get more pain meds when I told him that I knew there were something seriously wrong and when he through his hands up at me and told me there’s nothing else he could do and said to go and see 3 specialist, 1 rheumatologist 2 Neurologist 3 Oncologist yes a cancer dr.! When I had went to the Oncologist from Penn. he had said that if your Dr. knew more about Fibromyalgia then he wouldn’t of cut you so quickly and would of known NOT TO HAVE DONE THE SURGERIES!! Bc with someone with Fibro should never get cut open unless it’s life threatening! Your cutting into nerves and upset them to where you have over active nerve pain. Maybe if there were an “actual diagnosis “ them maybe today I wouldn’t be suffering. My husband left me because he said to me exact words I don’t want to have to take care of you anymore and told me to figure it out! And hasn’t been back since. Like I said earlier that I don’t work anymore bc of my disease that’s beyond my control and I’m on a fixed income. I don’t know how I’m going to make ends meet but I will find away because I can’t let Fibro win with this too. Hopefully one day there will be a cure.

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