Clifton: If Gaga’s “Judas” offends, wear ear condom

Derrick Clifton

Move over, Prof. Bailey, there’s a not-so-new shock jock back in town.

If you thought her eggcentric entrance to the Grammy Awards, the VMA’s meat dress or the birthing imagery in the “Born This Way” video weren’t shocking enough, then chances are you haven’t heard about all the hooplah surrounding Lady Gaga’s latest hit “Judas.”

Featuring inversions of narrative surrounding the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus, for 30 pieces of silver when high priests were looking for a sly way to arrest Jesus, “Judas” is supposedly told from Mary Magdalene’s perspective. The song gives Gaga’s lyrical twist on many elements of the story – from the artistic depictions of Mary’s washing Jesus’ feet with her hair, Peter’s denying Jesus three times when confronted about their affiliation and Judas’s epic act of kissing Jesus to identify him for the arrest.

Sure, it’s no coincidence that the single is being released just days before Christians around the world commemorate Easter, which – contrary to popular opinion – celebrates Jesus’ death and resurrection and not the advent of Peeps, the Easter Bunny and Cadbury Eggs. But religious groups, the Catholic League among them, and many others are resurrecting old tension with Gaga (i.e. swallowing the rosary in “Alejandro” dressed as a nun) even though the video hasn’t been released yet – and for all the wrong reasons.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue said that Gaga “is trying to rip off Christian idolatry to shore up her talentless, mundane and boring performances” and accused Gaga of devising a stunt to agitate Christians and Catholics everywhere. I’ll accept that this is a stunt, but – for a woman who disclosed in a 2010 interview with Larry King that she believes in Jesus, God and prays often, even if she questions how religion can be the source of much societal oppression – to accuse Gaga of actively attempting to offend Christians with “Judas” is off target.

Gaga’s creative director for “Judas,” famed choreographer Laurieann Gibson, had to caution the restraint of some colleagues as someone who “believes in the Gospel” during discussions by Gaga’s team while shaping the direction “Judas” would take. Gibson disclosed that behind-the-scenes discussions engaged believers and non-believers on Gaga’s team in a discussion about salvation, searching for truth and other values rooted in Christian values. Though she says “we don’t touch on things that we have no right touching upon, but the inspiration and the soul and idea that out of your oppression, your darkness, your Judas, you can come into the marvelous light.” It is quite evident that the creative decisions were carefully devised and, largely, I get Gibson’s point.

When Gaga sings “Jesus is my virTuesday, but Judas is the demon I cling to,” she makes a twist on Mary Magdalene’s actual affinity for Jesus, morphing the traditional narrative as a vehicle for people to understand the ease of clinging to hypocrisy and lies even while understanding reality’s honesty. Even when Gaga rants on Mary Magdalene’s supposed reputation as a prostitute saved by Jesus, she looks at Mary both how she’s viewed biblically as a sinner and how we’d look at her in the cultural present as something relatively normal. That’s a commentary that provides interesting dialogue on the meaning of salvation as Christianity presents it compared with our current life experiences.

Thinking about it, that “Judas” might be religious hypocrisy, wronging those you love only to serve yourself or any other means of betrayal. It’s a narrative we all can relate to and Gaga couldn’t have chosen a better example than a spin on one of history’s best known traitors. There’s nothing wrong with using religious narratives to make a larger point, as long as you walk a fine line.

I may be just a holy fool myself, but peeps are way too cruel and I’m still in love with “Judas,” baby. If offended, take a tip from the song and “wear ear condom next time” you listen to it.

Derrick Clifton is a Communication junior. He can be reached at [email protected]