Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Gospel According to Lady Gaga


Jewish date:  20 ’Iyyar 5771 (Parashath BeMidhbar).

Today’s holidays:  Day 35 of the ‘Omer (Judaism), Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of Saints Cyril and Methodius Day (Christianity), Feast of Hermes (Thelema).

Unfortunately, Malcolm NC-17 sent me a link to Lady Gaga’s “Judas” with a request to review it.  At 2:30 AM, unable to sleep, I had this dreadful song stuck in my head with a sizable amount of my neural circuitry analyzing it, and the only thing I could really do with it was write about it.  (This is not the only time this has happened.  I have an unpublished sermon I wrote after catching part of Coyote Ugly and finding myself awake for hours afterwards dissecting it.  I am so glad that I do not have work today, because otherwise I would be in really big trouble.)  I hope Malcolm NC-17 comes to regret this.

The video, for the suicidally curious with strong stomachs, can be found here.  I strongly recommend this video be watched only on an empty stomach, and those not used to watching such material should not watch it at all.  Really.  I mean it.  Absolutely not kidding.  This could give people nightmares.  Do not say I did not warn you.

The first thing which comes to mind on watching this video is Proverbs 11:22:  “A gold ring in the nose of a pig is a beautiful woman deviating from taste.”  While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Lady Gaga periodically is criticized for her choice of costumes and makeup such that even people who do not follow popular music (such as myself) hear about it.  This video is no exception, and she rather resembles a gold truck tire in the nose of a hippopotamus, if for nothing other than her atrocious eye makeup.

The word ṭa‘am, which I translate as “taste”, can also be translated as “meaning”, which also fits.  What is happening in the video is unclear, as it is plagued by abrupt changes in costume and setting.  It does make use of recognized Christian religious symbols (to be detailed below), but not consistently using them with anything resembling conventional Christianity; this does not help clarifying the plot.  Even after checking the description on Wikipedia and way too many viewings, the video still comes off somewhat incoherent.  Part of it is that the music is too loud to understand all of the lyrics.  (E.g., is Lady Gaga claiming to be a “holy fool” or a “horny fool”?)  But even the lyrics read alone prove poorly written and partly nonsensical.  (Suddenly Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell seem wonderful.)

I discussed the video with Malcolm, and he claimed the confusion is deliberate:
Look at her carefully.  She’s short, small-breasted, has a big nose, and her face is shaped a little funny.  She’s not abnormal or even terribly unattractive but she’s no supermodel.  For marketing purposes, it’s not atypical to glamour-up performers.  Lady Gaga does this and then goes overboard on top of this.  Like Madonna before kept changing costumes and personas, Lady Gaga attracts constant interest by wearing outrageous outfits.  The outfits and other stunts are shocking and create curiosity, but they are ultimately meaningless.  The same can be said about the videos, the tenth of which you have not seen.  In this context, “Judas” is just a variation on this previous attention-getting behavior.  Both the song and video are a bunch of inane blasphemies.  They shock and get a lot of attention (I hear the pope objected to it), but ultimately it’s meaningless.  All it does it get her attention, create interest, and get people to want to hear the next song and see the next video.  That’s it.
This does make sense in an egotistical sort of way.  However I did note that the video also rather resembles a nightmare, being full of nonsense and discontinuity—not to mention it has a dark tone.  Malcolm admitted, “Her other videos have a nightmarish or surreal quality to them”, which I will take as a sign that interpreting “Judas” as a bad dream is not overthinking it (or at least not overthinking it too much).

The plot (if it can be called that) of the video seems to be the strangest variation on the Gospel story of which your humble blogger is aware.  Jesus (wearing his crown of thorns, anachronistically well before the Crucifixion) and the Apostles are recast as a motorcycle gang(!), and Lady Gaga plays Mary Magdalene (at least according to Wikipedia), who is caught in a love triangle between Jesus (“my virtue”) and Judas (“the demon I cling to”).  The lyrics seem to be Mary Magdalene addressing Jesus on how she is in love with Judas.  Such a complex relationship is not attested in the Gospels, despite anything The Da Vinci Code claims.  The idea of a Mary Magdalene-Judas relationship may have been inspired by Color of the Cross, in which Mary Magdalene sleeps with Judas in order to distract him.  Taken from the Gospels in plot points are a woman (here Mary/Gaga) washing Jesus’s feet with her hair—here in a tub with not just Jesus but Judas as well, both fully dressed!—and Judas kissing Jesus.  The Gospels depict Jesus and Judas confronting each other, but in this video Mary/Gaga is caught in the middle of the confrontation.  The best your humble blogger can interpret her actions and lyrics, she has probably been ordered by Jesus to shoot Judas—and she may even want to do it to some degree—but she cannot bring herself to do anything more than mark his face with lipstick.  The lipstick, incoherently, is extruded from the gun.  For her failure, Mary/Gaga is stoned to death.  I am unaware of anything like this in the New Testament.

If “Judas” is meant to actually mean anything, it is a dismal failure, being a huge piece of nonsense and obviously untenable interpretation of the Gospels.  If, like the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, it is meant as a nightmare, it may actually work.  If it is meant to manipulate others into giving her attention, do not bother.  Anyone who makes videos like this arguably is mentally ill and is in need of attention from psychologists, not music-lovers.  I, for one, do not intend to watch anything by Lady Gaga ever again, I was so offended.

Theological rating:  F (with demotion to peasant)


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