Everywhere I turn, it seems I'm unintentionally listening to a song by Lady Gaga in the grocery store or stumbling upon a spoof of her music videos (So far, I vote for NPR). Chances are, you've at least heard snippets of "Telephone," "Bad Romance," "Just Dance," "Poker Face," and "Paparazzi," to name a few of her hits. I don't usually pounce on the latest music video from the shock-inducing singer, but USA Today's Cathy Lynn Grossman drew my attention to what amounts to blasphemy in Lady Gaga's "Alejandro."
The video, which came out Tuesday and already has at least 10 million hits, features Lady Gaga in a latex/leather nun's habit, wearing a cross-shaped patch on her crotch, suggestively swallowing rosary beads. If you'd rather skip the 8-minute video, MTV has conveniently compiled a list of the most shocking images. Warning: Not safe for work.
This isn't just about religious imagery, though. In May, the singer told the Times, "[The video is] a celebration and an admiration of gay love--it confesses my envy of the courage and bravery they require to be together."
Besides Grossman's post, we've seen few rumblings in the mainstream press. Here's a flippant blog remark from Cathy Horyn on the New York Times style blog: "The "Alejandro" video, directed by Steven Klein, seems to bring out the prudes in people, or maybe they're watching too much Fox News." On the other hand, some are picking up the tweet from "I Kissed a Girl" singer Katy Perry, who took a little swipe: "Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke."
"Alejandro" director Steven Klein told MTV News that the religious symbolism is not meant to denote anything negative.
"[It] represents the character's battle between the dark forces of this world and the spiritual salvation of the Soul," Klein wrote. "Thus at the end of the film, she chooses to be a nun, and the reason her mouth and eyes disappear is because she is withdrawing her senses from the world of evil and going inward towards prayer and contemplation." Klein added that the scene in which Gaga ingests the rosary beads is meant to represent "the desire to take in the holy."
Perhaps its simply a publicity stunt. People expect Lady Gaga to be outrageous, but she's not usually blasphemous. My guess is that because Madonna did this before, reporters assume it's not breaking any new ground. Still, people have instant-click access to YouTube that they never had with Madonna.
Of course, Lady Gaga's upbringing may have something to do with the religious imagery in her video. Last week, Larry King asked about her religion.
KING: You were raised Catholic. You were raised as a Catholic. What are your feelings toward the church and religion in general?
GAGA: Well, I struggle. I struggle with my feelings about the church in particular. But I guess it's, quite honestly, completely separate, isn't it? religion and the church are two completely separate things.
But in terms of religion, I'm very religious. I was raised Catholic. I believe in Jesus. I believe in God. I'm very spiritual. I pray very much. But at the same time, there is no one religion that doesn't hate or speak against or be prejudiced against another racial group or religious group, and--or sexual group. For that, I think religion is also bogus.
So I suppose you could say I'm a quite religious woman that is very confused about religion. And I dream and envision a future where we have a more peaceful religion or a more peaceful world, a more peaceful state of mind for the younger generation. And that's what I dream for.
KING: Do you believe you will go somewhere when you pass on?
GAGA: Do I believe in heaven?
GAGA: Or hell? I believe I will go to heaven, but I suppose could go either way, couldn't I?
And then King moves on to ask about her relationship to the gay community. These are good, basic questions, but I'd like to know about whether religion influences her music beyond imagery in music videos.
Last month, Lady Gaga made similar remarks about her religion to Caitlin Moran of the Times, who offered a gushing interview with the star. Moran first described "scented candles burn churchishly" in her dressing room. "The effect is one of having been ushered into the presence of a very powerful fairytale queen: possibly one who has recently killed Aslan, on the Stone Table," Moran wrote.
You were raised a Catholic--so when you say "God," do you mean the Catholic God, or a different, perhaps more spiritual sense of God?
"More spiritual," Gaga says, looking like she's biting her tongue. "I don't want to say much ... but I will say that religion is very confusing for everyone, and particularly me, because there's really no religion that doesn't hate or condemn a certain kind of people, and I totally believe in all love and forgiveness, and excluding no one."
Would you play for the Pope, if he asked you?
"Yeah," Gaga says. There's a pause. Perhaps she considers her current stage show...
"Well. I'd do an acoustic show for the Pope," she amends.
Now there's an important question: would you play for the Pope? That's the question on everyone's mind, right? Instead, reporters could consider how her own religious background (and vague references to her personal faith) might inform the imagery we're seeing in the newest video. Maybe it's time for reporters to stop drooling over this bad romance and dig a little bit deeper.