05/17/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Is "Lezploitation" and Why Is Lady Gaga So Good at It?

Lady GaGa's new video Telephone features nine minutes of sex, violence and incredible GaGa outfits and is set in a women's prison. Released last week, it has so far racked up 15 million hits on Youtube.

Which is a lot. But then again, considering it's an homage to lesbian exploitation movies set in women's jails, maybe it isn't. Dubbed lezploitation by some critics, it's pretty hot stuff - you can watch it here.

Journalist Sean Macaulay has pointed out at The Daily Beast that Telephone is not long enough to include all prison movies cliches, but it certainly manages a few. It starts with, as Macaulay writes, a newbie (Lady Gaga) "arriving at a jail to run the gauntlet of leering inmates before being sexually assaulted by beefy lesbian guards." Beyonce also stars as GaGa's butch partner in crime who tells her, saucily, that she has been a "very bad girl."

But GaGa isn't all bad. Her video stays true to the women in prison's central conceit - that female prisoners blossom in jail by unleashing their "bestial passions" says Macaulay - while also remodelling this exploitative genre to suit her own ends.

Since Eminem decided to hang up his epithets, Lady GaGa is the only pop star still able or willing to tweak the nipples of popular culture in so outslandish a fashion. And for that she deserves our admiration.