The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

On Gaga and more: “Using blasphemy as entertainment is cheap…”

Lady Gaga’s baffling — and, yes, tasteless — new video is raising eyebrows. But as this piece notes, she’s not the first to mock religion for entertainment:

Queen of controversy Lady Gaga is making headlines for yet another racy video featuring highly sexualized material combined with religious imagery. But while some argue Gaga has crossed the line between edgy and tasteless, her use of distorted Catholic imagery speaks to a rising trend in Hollywood.


The pop princess, real name Stefani Germanotta, recently released the music video for her single “Alejandro” and has sparked quite the outcry given its saturation of controversial imagery, including her swallowing rosary beads in a latex-version of a nun’s habit, holding the crucifix in front of her crotch and simulating group sex with a bunch of beefed-up men, who are nearly naked save for underwear and high heels.

Even fellow songstress Katy Perry, who comes from a religious upbringing, hinted her disdain for the music video last weekend when she tweeted, “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke.”

But Gaga, who attended Catholic school as a teen, is hardly alone in her use of distorted Catholic imagery, nor is it anything new in pop music.


Madonna sparked several outcries in the late ’80s and early ’90s when she touched on issues of abortion in her video for “Papa Don’t Preach,” kissed a black Jesus in “Like a Virgin” and danced in front of a burning cross in “Like a Prayer.”

More recently, supermodel Miranda Kerr (who intends to release an inspirational book for young girls later this year) posed for edgy European fashion mag Numero in a spread that touched on homosexuality and Catholic imagery, as she sensually embraced a woman dressed as a nun. And last year “Dancing With the Stars” beauty Joanna Krupa starred in a PETA campaign to encourage people to adopt pets from rescue shelters, which just so happened to be set in a church – with Krupa, in the nude, holding a strategically placed crucifix to cover her private parts.


Meanwhile, Larry David urinated on an image of Jesus Christ in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and comedian Sarah Silverman made a viral YouTube video urging the Vatican to be sold in order to solve the world hunger crisis and suggested that, in return, our “caped crusader,” the Pope, would get sexual favors in heaven.

And just last week Pop Tarts reported on Comedy Central’s possible plans to develop a satirical series about Jesus Christ.

So why is it that the entertainment industry isn’t afraid to twist, tease and ridicule Christianity, or more specifically Catholicism, but rarely dares even to touch other religions? Would Gaga have dared hold a Koran to her crotch? Would David have been brave enough to relieve himself on a painting of Allah?

Check out the link for some answers.

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posted June 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm

More proof of just how “enslaved” our culture is to sin. I watched a news TV video a few days ago where a reporter was interviewing people on the streets of NYC asking if the video had crossed the line. Sadly, most thought it was great, espeically for someone as “daring” as Lady Gaga.
This also further validates Fulton Sheen’s statement: We profane what we no longer revere.

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posted June 11, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Lady gaga graduated from the Convent of the Sacred Heart in NYC. The other day she arrived at her sister’s graduation from the same school in see thru pants. She deliberately tried to disrupt it the day by being outrageous.
Today’s NYC papers show her at last night’s Mets game shooting her middle finger to everyone.
The girl is not right to put it mildly.

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posted June 11, 2010 at 4:26 pm

This too shall pass. Folks got upset with Madonna. The best solution to this is to not buy it/watch it, if it offends you. Whether one likes it or not she has a right to do it. The controversy will just cause more folks to buy it.
Personally, as a retired woman and a grandmother, I feel there is a lot more to spend time worrying about….the oil filling the Gulf of Mexico for instance….or 2 wars with our service men and women fighting and dying. What Lady Gaga does really doesn’t bother me one way or another. Every generation has had it’s “shock” personalities.

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Ruth Ann

posted June 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Deacon Greg, I know about Lady Gaga only through secondary sources, like your blog and the comments above. I would never want to sample her “entertainment” first hand.
What can we Catholics do, if anything, to change the tide of our culture? Is more concerted prayer the answer? Can we Catholics exert a communal voice of righteous anger? All the negativity about Catholicism in the media and in entertainment is sad beyond words, really.
I’m thinking of Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Dear Pagansister, I suppose if you are, in fact, a pagan, it might explain why you may not find entertainment by provocateurs offensive. But, still, I don’t think paganism is the same as indecency. I’d like to believe most pagans are decent people who have the ability to walk in the shoes of others and to have sympathy.

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posted June 11, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Ruth Ann:
As I said above, if what Lady Gaga(not my generation, obviously) does is offensive, then don’t support it. IMO it really doesn’t effect anyone’s personal life unless perhaps you have children(or are Catholic) who are of the age that buy/want to buy into current singers, etc. then the parents will hopefully be involved with what their children buy or watch. I do understand that some, particularily in the Catholic faith would be offended by this. I’ve lived long enough to know that in all generations there have been personalities that have made people upset. (rock and roll and Elvis did at one point!) It all comes out in the wash eventually.
I taught in a RC elementary school for 10 years. There were some parents who thought Harry Potter books were inappropriate. There were some who had no problem with Harry Potter…were glad that their children were reading. So even in the RC faith not everyone agrees.
And yes, we who are Pagans are very decent people and in my case, understand your reaction to Gaga. In my life, she isn’t important. The oil spill, the losses in the stock market, 2 wars with all the deaths on both sides…those bother me a lot more than Gaga jumping about with the dudes in the video. She will either flame out or will change and mature as time goes on. Madonna did, and she was considered outrageous at one time. (as I mentioned above).

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posted June 11, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I think the reason why Lady Gaga wouldn’t dare hold an image of Muhammed in front of her crotch is because if she did there would likely be mass riots in Islamic countries, a fatwah placed upon her and she’d never be able appear in public again for the risk of being assassinated and hence her career in pop music would be very suddenly over.
Maybe we should get loud and ugly and start rioting in the streets as well and then people might take notice? I don’t think so though. As Christians we are ordered to love and forgive and not to judge and get angry. That’s what sets us apart. The best we can probably do is pray for people like this. The Bible warned that the world would make fun of us and whom we believe in.

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Civitas Occiduus

posted June 11, 2010 at 5:55 pm

I think the “why don’t other religions get this kind of negative attention?” question is a red herring, or at least it isn’t phrased the right way. Daniel touched upon the pulse of the matter when he pointed out that Christians/Catholics generally don’t riot, kill, maim, etc when our God is mocked.
While I don’t think any Catholic should ever be afraid to intellectually defend their faith (Peter enjoined us to always be prepared to give a reason for our joy), this world is passing. Christ was spit upon, flogged, broken, and crucified. He has already defeated death and we are a people of hope for this reason. God does not need us to riot for Him or to kill for Him or to become crass and rude for Him. That’s what sets Christianity apart; it’s not about defending a temporal people, language, “promised land,” or the honor of some prophet. It’s about eternity.
The proper reaction to this and all secular blasphemies is what I imagine is Jesus’s reaction: quiet, concerned pity — and prayer.

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posted June 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Ruth Ann you asked what can we do? I suggest starting with a listen to Dr. Peter Kreeft’s Culture War lecture. It’s free (mp3), on his web site. I think you will find it fascinating, especially when he explains who the “real” enemy is. He also has a book Culture War, but suspect you will learn all you need from the free audio.

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posted June 11, 2010 at 8:47 pm

The thing I find most perplexing about Lady Gaga is that she just recently encouraged women to practice chastity saying she would do likewise for the next year? (or some other substantial time frame), then proceeds to give the exact opposite message in her videos (and actions do speak louder than words). As long as she can milk the cash/publicity cow, she will. The same happened with Madonna, Spears, Miley Cyrus et al.
…and as long as people cover this type of garbage, then they’ll keep doing this for the sake of controversy. The worst thing we can do for these therapy cases is give them more attention (the one thing they were clamoring for from the beginning).

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posted June 12, 2010 at 2:35 am

You can also add the makers of south park creating a broadway musical soley based on making fun of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to your list of inapropriate, distasteful entertainment making fun of a sect of Christianity in order to compensate the lack of talent and creativity of the entertainers

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posted June 12, 2010 at 8:54 am

That was surely the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. Why anyone would want to advertise to the world how stupid and completely tasteless they are by producing this video is beyond my imagination. Maybe it’s a cry for help–she surely needs it. God help her.

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posted June 12, 2010 at 9:26 am

As I pointed out in a post on Rod Dreher’s blog, Lady Gaga deliberately courts controversy. It’s a career path for her, and it’s all in line with the old saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” What she actually believes is inscrutable, and deliberately so. Thus, to that extent I agree with pagansister. If a kid (or entertainer) is doing something outrageous in order to get attention, the more you holler and fume and get steamed about it, the more you’re playing their game. The simple solution is to ignore. The broader question of our culture’s tolerance of pretty much anything is far too complicated to be solved by arguing over what Lady Gaga does in a video.
I think a large part of the reason the Catholic Church is the typical recipient of such stuff is because it’s a sacramental, and thus visual religion. I mean, how would you do something equivalent in a video with the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, or Quakerism? The fact that Catholicism is replete with crucifixes, habits, stained glass, etc. makes it much more visually interesting.
The flip side of this is that even to this day, when a religion is depicted positively, or when a movie or TV show wants to establish that a character has a religious background, it is almost always Catholic. It’s much more visually interesting to have a character sit in an exquisite Gothic-style Catholic church, or in a confessional, or some such, than to have him talking to a pastor about his relationship with Jesus. It’s no accident that there were scads of movies back in the day with a significant Catholic presence (Going My Way, The Bells of St. Mary’s, Angels with Dirty Faces, We’re No Angels, On the Waterfront, and on and on). On the other hand, how many movies/TV shows can you think of (only Seventh Heaven springs to mind) with specifically established Protestant characters, let alone pastors?
I’d also say that much of the lack of sacriligious (or other) treatments of other religions is not so much out of fear as out of ignorance and lack of interest. Most people in this country simply don’t know much about non-Christian religions. The second part is that one who wants to shock usually does so in the context of what is part of his culture. There is plenty of precedent, over the last several centuries, for ex-Catholics being blasphemous in order to be bad little boys or girls flaunting their “ex” status. You can’t shock by flaunting something from someone else’s tradition, particularly if the majority of people wouldn’t recognize it. Thus, why in the world would Lady Gaga, or Madonna, or whoever want to have a Koran or a Hindu mala in a risqu&eactue; context? What, from their perspective, would be the point?
Having said all this, I agree that the coarseness and esthetic of gleeful sacrilege and blasphemy in our society is a problem; but I’m not quite sure as to the best way to deal with it.

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posted June 12, 2010 at 9:34 pm

I agree with most of the story,especially about “entertainers” using religious imagery for shock.Lady Gaga is really just a Madonna 20 years later.She does things for publicity and it works.I have to disagree about Larry David though.He didn’t urinate on a picture of Jesus.There was a picture of Jesus on the wall in the bathroom and due to medication his flow was very strong(you had to see Curb Your Enthusiasm)So the picture was splashed,not urinated on.And he does make fun of EVERYONE(like Southpark)especially Jewish people.Larry David really is an equal oppotunity offender.No one is safe with him.And he’s very funny.I love that show.

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Steve Phoenix

posted June 14, 2010 at 11:24 am

I think all the above comments I have read put this sadly blasphemous sensationalist in context; especially Kim, noting she is Madonna-copy for 20 years later; But also, Turmarion is on to something when noting that it’s “much more visually interesting to have a character [be blasphemous and] sit in an exquisite Gothic-style Catholic church, or in a confessional, or some such.”
Beyond just visual, the shock value is there because there is real substance to the true traditional Catholic Faith (and by contrast, not that much identifiable substance with its Protestant variants.) That’s why “we” get it in the chops. Something much more powerful on the spiritual and mind level to electrify and outrage.
And finally, I only co-observe what we all know: so many angry, hateful former Catholics in the modern media (yes, shocking to me “Lady Gaga” had such an excellent ‘Catholic’ education, which I knew about, @ Manhatten’s Convent of the Sacred Heart): Sinead O’Connor, Michael Moore, ‘Madonna’, Mrs. Sarkozy (as a former model), and now Gaga Caca.
I think we just have to endure it and pray for these people. I look at some electrifyingly bad acts I did in my former life. I truly regret them, knowin what an insult they are to the Sacred Heart and the Divine Godhead. We have to pray that they understand in their own lives, before it is too late, for One prays for them “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Ave Crux Spes Unica.

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posted July 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Personally I do not think that “Alejandro” was “baffling” or “tasteless.” The music video is riddled with symbolism.
I think overall there are a few very powerful messages Gaga is trying to get across. One is a protest of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy. She wanted to display that “a soldier is a soldier.” She wants equal rights for the gay community and women. 
There is also religious imagery throughout the video. While it caused confusion and stirred some negative comments, I think that her intention was to show her struggle with her own beliefs. She was raised a Catholic, but now everything she has believed seems controversial to her. 
In the same article quoted above, it states: “‘Alejandro’ director Steven Klein told MTV that the video wasn’t meant to ‘denote anything negative, but represents the character’s battle between the dark forces of this world and the spiritual salvation of the Soul. 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 toward prayer and contemplation.'”

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posted July 27, 2010 at 9:34 am

For the last paragraph of the article I don’t know if someone actually has a comment on it but the thing is
It is always easier to make fun of something you are a part of than something your not; mainly because you don’t want to offer something from another plate, and also it is more offensive to make fun of other religion (that you’re not part of) than making fun of something that you, yourself is a member. Just like some comedians, they are telling how there country is so messed up because it is always funny to find out yourself what is wrong with you.
I am not saying that she is right for doing that, or using such medium to have or gain publicity, or use such materials to offer entertainment. what I am trying to answer are those questions, that served as closing statement of the article, that do not appear as smart questions.
But I do believe lady gaga crossed a line but not the line between “edgy and tasteless” but the line that separates offensive jokes and controllable jokes…

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