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.

1 comment:

Linda Ryan-Harper said...

I found this piece to be well-written with clarity, rationality and maybe just a hint of justifiable condescension—or smirky-ness. I am a Christian (although I probably am the kind who sucks) and when I read the lyrics to Judas, I laughed to myself. I suppose someone should hold the song's content up to the light and decry its silly spiritual suppositions, but who would that be? Certainly not the multitude of consumers of pop music in general or GaGa's music in particular. But, GaGa is fair game for religious and other organizations if she's preaching religious reform or, to a lesser degree, cultural change through art. The former sounds very high minded for lyrics that take the "serious" listener down a wide and slippery road and the latter sounds ridiculous juxtaposed against the soul grinding workaday world. (Although, for me personally, the cultivation of creative outlets makes the world more tolerable in the vein of Make Art, Not War). What I object to is the personal attack upon GaGa by the Catholic League through its spokesperson, Donahue. GaGa is the least of the Church's problems and with militant atheism on the rise that calls for the destruction of all religion, I'd think the Catholic League could be better occupied. But, if it must object, then let it use sound theological reasoning against the lyrics to educate and edify—although, any such gravity of purpose in this context would make me laugh as well.