Monday, April 18, 2011

Evil Priests, Blasphemous Preachers & Dolph Lundgren's Crucifix Dagger

Here's a list of the Nine Most Heretical Onscreen Priests that I wrote for New York Magazine's Vulture website. To narrow it down from a long, long list of film and TV's corrupt holy men, I limited it to those who explicitly quote the Bible -- and was amazed at how few actually do.

To wit, here's a partial list of the bad bishops and perverse preachers who didn't make the list because they never say a word of Scripture onscreen:

Jonathan Pryce's evil priests in both Stigmata and The Affair of the Necklace
Pope George Carlin in Dogma
F Murray Abraham in In the Name of the Rose
Ewan McGregor in Angels and Demons
Bishop in Caddyshack
The Bishop of Aquila in Ladyhawke
The Bishop of Bath and Wells in Black Adder
Reverend Brian Darling in Dirty Sexy Money
Father Phil Intintola in The Sopranos
Bishop Anthony in V for Vendetta

Then again, maybe I wasn't watching closely enough. Did I miss any passing Bible quotes in these films? Who are your favorite un-holy men?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lady Gaga and the Fake Religious Controversy

If I'd been more on top of things, I would have set up a Religious Controversy Countdown clock the second Lady Gaga announced that her new single was called "Judas." Of course, we wouldn't have been counting down to a real religious controversy, the kind where people are thrown into crises of faith and forced to look at their own beliefs. No, the countdown clock would be ticking down the hours until some media outlet made up a story about how Lady Gaga was making religious groups angry. And by "religious groups," I mean Bill Donahue, the guy who calls himself The Catholic League.

Here's the headline from The Hollywood Reporter, posted one day after the release of Gaga's single:

Rather than waiting for an actual controversy to brew, HR took advantage of a statement Bill Donahue conveniently released to the media one week before the single dropped. Does that mean Donahue was reacting to a song he hadn't even heard yet? Yes. Yes it does.

So here's Donahue's statement, made on behalf of his official-sounding one-man crusade, The Catholic League: I find Gaga to be increasingly irrelevant. She thinks she is going to be groundbreaking. She is trying to ripoff Christian idolatry to shore up her talentless, mundane and boring performances. Another ex-Catholic whose head is turned around. This is a stunt. People have real talent, and then there is Lady Gaga. Is this the only way to jet up her performance? This isn’t random, we are getting closer to Holy Week and Easter.

He's right about one thing: the release of "Judas" right before Holy Week is no accident. It is a stunt, and it's a good one, because Lady Gaga excels at getting attention. I'm going to keep saying it: religion is the new sex. If a pop star wants to make headlines right now, talking about Jesus is the fastest route.

The thing that separates Lady Gaga, though, is that she's actually interested in religion. Her use of Christian imagery in "Judas" is very deliberate, and while it doesn't always make sense, it feeds into her message of cultural change through art -- which, of late, has included a lot of talk about reforming religion. The way she's going, it's entirely possible that Lady Gaga could spark some genuine religious controversy. But we'll never know, unless the media learns to tune out Bill Donahue's ranting and actually pay attention.