Over the past few weeks I acquired substantial knowledge regarding the context, critiques, and the musical lineages of “Til It Happens To You.” For this third and final listening post, I would like to illustrate how “Til It Happens To You” serves as a powerful text for many individuals through performances and media. 

In 2016, the Academy of motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited Lady Gaga to perform “Til It Happens To You” at the 88th Academy Awards ceremony. Diane Warren and Lady Gaga also received a nomination for an Academy Award in the category of Best Original Song. Prior to Gaga’s performance at the Oscars, she released a statement on Twitter dedicating the nomination to all survivors of sexual assault. On the red carpet before her performance, Gaga also stated how personal and important “Til It Happens To You” is to her. Gaga’s performance was introduced by President Joe Biden, who urged fellow Americans to take action against sexual assault on college campuses. President Biden also provided audience members with a website to help spread awareness and combat sexual assault.  

For the Oscars performance itself, Gaga appeared behind a frame while seated at the piano. The first verse of “Til It Happens To You” simply consists of Gaga’s vocals accompanied by piano. Gaga is shortly joined by a string orchestra, followed by the introduction of drums. Throughout this first segment of the performance, Gaga intentionally made eye contact with the camera to connect with audience members watching the Oscars at home. Gaga’s raw emotion is visible throughout the entirety of her dramatic delivery, especially during the bridge of “Til It Happens To You.” When Gaga begins to sing the refrain for the third time, a curtain onstage begins to part behind her. Dozens of sexual assault survivors emerge from the curtain to join Gaga for the remainder of the performance, many of which were featured in The Hunting Ground documentary. Joined hand-in-hand, many of the survivors had phrases written on their arms, such as “not your fault,” “unbreakable,” and “survivor.” At the end of the song, Gaga rose from the piano and stood united with fellow survivors. After wrapping the performance, Gaga joined hands with survivors and everyone lifted their arms to display the solidarity amongst sexual assault survivors. As the camera panned over the audience, many celebrities had tears in their eyes. The website that President Biden encouraged the audience to visit immediately crashed as a result of immense online traffic. This performance illustrates a shift in culture towards society believing the stories of survivors and supporting them throughout their struggle. 

The other text that enabled me to advance my understanding of “Til It Happens To You” is the song’s official music video. The plays a fundamental role in advancing the message of the song by serving as a public service announcement against sexual assault and violence. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the music video portrays graphic footage of sexual assaults on college campuses. Due to the emotionally unsettling nature of the different accounts depicted in the video, there is a disclaimer/trigger warning at the start of the video. Each scene illustrated in the music video was captured in an effort to reflect what is occurring daily on college campuses. Although it extremely difficult to watch at times, the music video’s raw portrayal provides a clear message that it is absolutely necessary to support survivors of sexual assault. This specific text exemplifies how art should be used to address pressing social issues and help to spread awareness.

Additionally, the “Til It Happens To You” music video emphasizes the notion that support is not directly synonymous with understanding. This disconnect in understanding further explains the need for widespread resources and education for survivors of sexual assault. Throughout the story plot of the music video, the survivors are able to find comfort from those who have experienced similar traumas. Although the music video has a haunting effect on viewers, it also has optimism weaved throughout the ending. The survivors are able to join forces and unite in a similar fashion to the survivors on stage during Gaga’s Oscars performance. Moreover, the survivors in the video also have phrases written across their bodies expressing the weight they carry as a result of sexual assault. Towards the end of the video, the phrases written on survivors’ arms display positive phrases, similar to the one’s written on the arms of survivors who joined Gaga at the Oscars. Hardwicke closes the music video with the statistic that “One in five college women will be sexually assaulted this year unless something changes.” The number for the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) appears on the screen as a resource for anyone who may need additional assistance or support. 

Both of these texts showcase an innovative way of spreading awareness and enables audience members to better grasp the complex nature, as well as the negative consequences of sexual assault. Lady Gaga’s Oscars performance and the official “Til It Happens To You” music video function as public service announcements through their overt objective to shift audience members’ attitudes and behavior towards sexual assault.