The last three years have been a wild ride for young Stefani Germanotta. In 2008, the small Italian girl from Manhattan released her debut album The Fame, for which she reinvented herself. She died her hair blonde, put on some outrageous costumes, and changed her name to the now all-permeating Lady Gaga. Since then she has become known as one of the most talented individuals in the music industry. Not only has she reinvented pop music with her dark dance beats and cryptic lyrics, but also she has become for many a fashion icon: a walking work of art on which she invites the world to feast its ever-hungry eyes. She’s become known as the only woman in history who can wear a lobster on her head and make it a must-have fashion accessory.
Still, for as big as her voice is and as eye-catching as her costumes are, much of her success is dependent on shocking the world. Her comments on drugs or politics have brought her into the world of controversy more than once. Most recently, she’s set off the blasphemy Geiger Counters of certain Catholic organizations with the video for her latest single “Judas”. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights called her “irrelevant” and he was “fed-up” with Miss Gaga’s so-called “Catholic bashing”. But why? one asks. Well, like many of her videos and songs, Gaga’s “Judas” relies heavily on religious imagery and symbolism, particularly the Roman Catholic kind, as that is how she was raised. Yep! You guessed correctly: “Judas” refers to the twelfth apostle who in the Gospels betrayed Jesus to be crucified. In the song she sings: “I’m just a holy fool / O baby, it’s so cruel / ‘cause I’m still in love with Judas . . .” leading some, Mr. Donohue included, to believe that Gaga is trying to attack Jesus, giving him up and following Judas.
The video, which was released on the 5th of May, depicts Jesus and his apostles as a biker gang riding down the highway to a bar/club/church known only as the Electro Chapel. Miss Gaga plays Mary Magdalene. The apostles are easy to tell apart because they have their names printed on the backs of their black leather jackets, and Jesus wears a crown of thorns. Once at the Chapel, the song starts and from here we’re treated to a rich visual smorgasbord that Gaga herself described as “fresco come alive”. The art direction and color timing pays homage to great Catholic icon and religious art. It’s sort of the Sistine Chapel of dance music. The rest of the video involves a faux Baptism, Judas’ famous kiss of betrayal, and a scene in which Gaga appropriately washes Jesus’ feet with her hair. As you can imagine, every single frame of the video has been attacked as blasphemy and sacrilege. Donohue and his bunch of “Catholics” at the Catholic League have led this assault.
Gaga, though, insists that she did not intend the video to be blasphemous and in an interview with E!, she said, “In my opinion, the only controversial thing about this video is that I’m wearing Christian Lacroix and Chanel in the same frame.” I have to say, as a Christian and an avid admire of Lady Gaga’s art and music, I’ve got to agree with Gaga on this one. First off, let’s be clear that Bill Donohue is not part of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and his insistence that Gaga is blasphemous is his opinion only, not a teaching of the Church of Rome. When the Pope infallibly declares that listening to Lady Gaga is sinful, well maybe I’ll repent, but until that happens I am not obligated to pay any heed to the ranting of Bill Donohue and other over-sensitive Catholics. Second, Donohue would do well to actually analyze the meaning of the song, instead of immediately dismissing it as trashy sacrilege.
What the catholic League is missing is that the song is a metaphor for the struggle between vice and virtue, not an actual suggestion that Mary Magdalene had some sort of post-conversion affair with Judas Iscariot. At one point in the video she has a chance to shoot Judas and save Jesus, but ultimately breaks down because she is torn between her two loves. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot see the alleged anti-Catholicism in the video or in the song. It’s just not there. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the song has actually very Christian roots to it. At one point Gaga sings, “Jesus is my virtue / Judas is the demon I cling to,” implying that she knows what is right and she knows which way she should go (Jesus), but her worldly nature always brings her closer and closer to evil (Judas). Now I ask, isn’t that what the whole Catholic Church is based on? Isn’t the theme of Christianity that humanity is flawed and no matter how hard we try we will always have a sinful nature. Even when we finally have Jesus, we will still be drawn on occasion to sin. I can’t imagine a more Catholic theme than that.
So again we have a case of over-sensitive religious further damaging the reputation of the Catholic Church in America. It’s sad. Doesn’t the Catholic League have anything better to do than ignorantly attack a song that they just assume is blasphemous simply because of its name? Fortunately the actual Catholic hierarchy is busy combatting true evil in the world. I think Bill Donohue and the rest of these blasphemy smoke detectors in the Church should follow the Pope’s example and talk about real things in the real world, not make false assumptions about a song and a person whom they probably know very little about. Trust me when I say, Mr. Donohue is not doing the Church any favors with this crusade to bring down Miss Gaga. So, one point for Lady Gaga, zero points for Bill Donohue, and two points for the authentic Catholic Church. Hopefully Gaga will not be discouraged by this idiocy and she will continue to be the artist that she is, controversy and all. For all of those out there thinking, “Oh, such disrespect for Jesus!”, take a breather and reconsider your position. Maybe listen to the song and analyze its true meaning. If you still can’t see the song’s Christian inspiration, well, put up or shut up . . .