Lady Godiva's Operation Analysis

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Coming Out, Sexual Ambiguity, and Rejection: A Queer Reading of the Velvet Underground’s “Lady Godiva’s Operation” In her 2002 essay on the increasingly normalized depictions of seemingly queer characters and symbols in popular media, Diane Raymond lays out the general characteristics of “queerness” as an abstract idea. She posits that the queer is non-binary, inclusive, and part of what could generally be called the political fringe (Raymond 2002). In another essay, this one written by Alexander Doty in 1993, gives even more permissive guidelines, describes queerness as “a flexible space for the expression of all aspects of non- (anti-, contra-) straight cultural production and reception” (Doty 1993/Creekmur Oct. 26). In a totally un-ironic…show more content…
The first three verses go by without much incident, with multi-instrumentalist and occasional vocalist John Cale taking the lead, singing about the eponymous legendary figure, as she rides through the town naked. Cale is not a particularly talented vocalist, but he probably has the softest-edged voice of the band members, and juxtaposed with the mess going on behind it, his vocals take on a mysterious, ethereal feel. Lyrically, the invocation of Lady Godiva is of stark importance. The quasi-historical figure, a noblewoman who rode naked through the streets of her husband’s town in protest, is a thinly-veiled analogy to the act of coming out as gay or lesbian or queer in…show more content…
While it has been suggested that the song is at least semi-autobiographical, describing Lou Reed’s own experiences with electroshock therapy, much of the song’s lyrical content falls outside of that specific experience, and as a result, a queer reading of “Godiva” paints a picture of a triumphant coming out of the closet, followed by a lobotomy, symbolizing the rejection and rebuke that was the reality for so many LGBT people during this time period, which leaves the audience with an uncomfortable yet ultimately admirable art rock
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