Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Call My Name, Alejandro

June 9, 2010

“Well I struggle, I struggle with my feelings about the church in particular, but I guess it’s, quite honestly, completely separate, isn’t it? Religion and church are two completely separate things. But in terms of religion, I am very religious, I was brought up Catholic, I believe in Jesus, I believe in God, I am very spiritual, I pray very much, but at the same time there is no one religion that doesn’t hate or speak against or be prejudiced against another racial group or religious group or sexual group and for that I think religion is also bogus. So, I suppose you could say I am quite a religious woman who is quite confused about religion and I dream and envision a future where we have a more peaceful religion or a more peaceful world or a more peaceful state of mind for the younger generation, that’s what I dream for.”

-Lady Gaga on Larry King Live, June 1st 2010

Yesterday, Lady Gaga’s video for Alejandro (finally!) released over the internet. Now, I’m not going to pretend to have some secret insight into what it all means or anything like that. I can only tell you what it means to me.

After all, it wasn’t but a month ago that I was sitting into a coffee shop in a business meeting with one of my professors, the Reverend Dr. Robert E. Shore-Goss, the head of MCC In the Valley, and we started talking about Lady Gaga.

“I’m in a ‘bad romance’ with God!” I realized with a laugh. It only makes sense that my patron saint of discovery should be Lady Gagalupe.

Amongst imagery of homosexuality, Nazism, Cabaret, Fosse, Madonna, war, sodomy, and rape, there was very clear religious symbolism. A few of her costumes include a red, latex nun’s habit and a red and white robe (Wikipedia says this is reminiscent of Joan of Arc) that opens up to reveal panties with an upside-down, red cross. Near the end, in what appears to be a direct homage to Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” video, Lady Gaga sings in front of a thin, black cross. At one point in the video Lady Gaga does something quite controversial, if Twitter is to be trusted: in her nun’s habit, she swallows the rosary she has been holding.

Described on its own, this all seems to be sending a message that she is subverting, perverting, queering religion. As an audience, we are left to ask why? What does religion have to do with a song seemingly, on the surface, about a relationship between a woman and a Hispanic man (or plural Hispanic men?). The Bad Romance video and song had very similar themes, and we can even see extremely subtle religious symbols in the Bad Romance video as well. But this video takes all of the subtlety away, making me wonder: are all of these songs, much like how I’ve been using them in my life, about a complicated relationship with God?

Finding an answer to this question is quite impossible; in fact, waiting for an explanation for this music video would be quite as futile as waiting for God himself to come down and tell me the secrets of the universe. However, I have a few theories. Much like what I am trying to do with The Bible and find clues to interpret it, I am searching for clues on how to interpret the Alejandro music video.

(Yes, I am putting too much thought into this. Yes, I know. Yes, it’s two in the morning. Why do you ask?)

One of the themes that I found so interesting to notice throughout the video was the theme of role-reversal. During some points in the video, the soldiers were dressed up in male underwear, shoes and socks, and at other times their underwear was female and they wore high heels. (One even wears fishnet stockings, both near the beginning and the end of the video.) Similarly, we see Lady Gaga being taken in quite submissive, sexual positions by a soldier, and then at other times (as pictured above) she is pictured as the dominant, in a “male” role. However, the most important instance in which role-reversal takes place is at the end of the video, in which we see flashes of what could either be rape (a circle of soldiers throw Lady Gaga, in her robe, between them and surround her) or an orgy (Lady Gaga sings to the camera as she seems to enjoy being in this circle of soldiers, who are paying more loving attention to her). The last flashes we see of this scene are of her getting rid of her robe, stripping down to her underwear from the bed scene, and staring at the camera. If it weren’t for this robe, this would seem to be saying that she is fighting to take control of her relationship (supposedly with a man named Alejandro). However, because this religious symbol is there, I am left to hypothesize that what she is ultimately struggling with is religion. If the end of the video is any clue, in which herself as the nun appears to be dead, she decides to either go without religion or rise above it.

Again, I note how fitting it is that my patron saint of discovery should be Lady Gagalupe.

“Do I believe in heaven? Or hell? I guess I believe I’ll go to heaven but I suppose I could go either way, couldn’t I.”

-Lady Gaga on Larry King Live, June 1st 2010

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