It’s post-Communion Sunday in the Catholic-heavy, Hispanic boroughs of Miami, so why no talk about Jesus, Judas, Lady Gaga, and pop ascension?
Lady Gaga is getting everyone nailed to their repeat buttons with her latest single and video release, Judas, and all its silvery-pieces of electro-pop tragedy.
And like that crowded parking lot, the craze that surrounds the Church of Gaga is not just a random gathering. It is a pop mass ritual – a musical cathedral – whose doors have been opened to all and whose halls have been decked-out by an array of powerful symbols, hand-picked by Gaga’s ever-vigilant, one uncovered eye.
And as earthly ambassador to pop heaven, it is precisely Gaga who runs the Pop papacy at the moment.
A New Testament
In this new chapter of her Electro-pop gospel (1:39 video), Gaga plays several roles as she straddles the tension of being between living ideas of virtue and ambition – Jesus and Judas – modernly depicted here as two men in a 13-man apostolic biker gang (Peter, Thomas, John – they’re all there).
But it’s not just about Gaga using cross imagery and a familiar biblical story to make make an eye-catchy, good music video backdrop.
Gaga is doing something that takes true talent of show-and-tell: getting a familiar tale and creating from it a story that speaks on multiple levels.
On it’s most basic level, it’s a tragic look at how a noble dude gets back-stabbed by one of his 12 best friends for some liquor money and some powerful hook-ups. But it can go much, much further.
Sure, it could also just be about a love-struck girl (in this case Gaga) stuck between a good guy and bad-boy. But it could also soar to a level of interpretation that includes ideas about artistic identity, the peaks and pitfalls of the music industry, and the burden of being a pop icon.
Gaga takes her fans for a ride as she examines these problems in a pop cruci-fiction of sorts. By costume-changing between several roles throughout the video, Gaga tackles the greys on good, evil, love, hate, the hardships of pop-star symbol status and being a part of pop music as a whole.
1. Mary Magdalene: Sinner and Saint
By beggining the video as a biker-babe Mary Magdalene, Gaga is making her statement as a woman within the pop-music gang. Magdalene, as a sinner struggling to be a saint, is a perfect perspective on Gaga’s conflicted position under the gaze of the mass media’s flashbulb eye.
Must she restrain herself from offending society with her ideas on sex, liberation, and the heady, artistic fast life?
It can be interpreted that, even when she can commit herself to imitating the noblest answers (Jesus), Gaga’s Magdalene is a human being with desires, faults, and, hiddenly, a crush on the shadows beyond the blinding pop spotlight.
Judas, then, represents the question, the unpredictable, the untamed, the unknown: he is the thrill-drunk make-out session in a dark alley, with no regard for consequences, just a French-kiss taste for abandon. In other words, temptation, incarnate.
Gaga’s Magdalene identity, then, is in an eternal struggle between peddling to perceived pop purity (her duty) or revealing and enjoying her actual artistic identity (her passions).
2. Mary Mother: Protector
As a musician, creator, taste-maker, and Mother Monster to a legion of fans, Gaga seems to portray that she feels a compassion and responsibility in her artistic work. The spiked bleeding heart jacket and veil are her pop armor as she must wade through the airwaves and try to protect her pop children (Jesus) from being broken by the likes of two-faced parasites like Judas.
3.Death, Reality, and the Pharisees: Heavy is the Crown
When decked out in her Death-black velvet bit, Gaga delves to the darkest side of her whole story. Here, she displays her knowing of the inevitable realities that surround her and other people just trying to make a happy living within the the world of today: two-timing Judas’ and scheming political Pharisees usually win.
These realities – of corruption, greed, ignorance, and hatred – are overwhelming at times, a wave of sensation and chaos that can topple anyone, even the most resilient of pop-stars, like Gaga.
By being so privileged and yet part of the powerful, money-hungry music industry, it could be seen that Gaga feels regretful that she must sometimes wield it’s deadly golden gun of publicity to package the art she wants to express with a bit of expensive pop lipstick.
After this climactic scene of identity crisis, her humanity wins over her slick-sexy alter-ego, and she crumbles in tears of repentance.
Even if you’re still on the tip that it’s just a naughty love triangle story, you’d still be absolutely right. Whether it be between Mary Magdalene, Jesus, and Judas – or Lady Gaga, her passions, and her responsbilities – the video is all about relationships. Relationships with people, symbols, and reality.
By choosing a cross and a heart, Gaga has chosen icons that can mean many things to the millions of people that view her video. As an icon herself, Gaga is submitted by society to the same wide range of interpretation, and must deal with these in the best way that she can. And so, she is in a constant conflict between her cross (duty) and her heart (passion).
Whether they symbolize eternal love, struggle and dedication, death and resurrection, morbid beauty, the temporary or the eternal, independence and sacrifice : these icons, then, the cross, the heart, are perfectly interpretable and universal. Gaga, being such an icon but made of flesh and bone, must struggle to do that through her art.
And that’s tough. Especially with Judas around.
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