The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

Believers beware: Gaga has gone religious

Next to Facebook, Stefani Germanotta (more commonly known as Lady Gaga) is likely this biggest pop culture enigma of the twenty-first century. The diva captured our musical attention at “Just Dance” and has sustained fame with downright danceable, sticky pop jams; fashion-forward, ever-changing attire; and outrageous publicity stunts.

Progressively, however, Lady Gaga has moved from the realm of simply enigmatic and into the expressly religious.

The first signs came with the video for her single “Alejandro.” Not only does Gaga don a dark red nun’s habit and process down a road carry something closely resembling the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she also swallows an entire rosary and grinds on a group of men with a bright red cross on her groin.

This provocative use of Christian symbols garnered a response from several groups, including the Catholic League. However, at this point in her career, Lady Gaga stuck to taking already present religious emblems and deconstructing their given meanings. In essence, Gaga had cornered the market on sacrilege. The results were often shocking, racy and controversial.

With the release of her new album, “Born this Way,” Lady Gaga seems to have transitioned from her sacrilegious campaigns against religion to an outright attempt to create a new religion. Yet, this does not mean she has made her peace with religion or with religious discourse.

Rather, Gaga has begun creating a religion of her own distinct (at least in her eyes) from the other religious options available.

Interestingly, the religion that Lady Gaga seems to be creating starts with a creation story. In her new video “Born this Way,” the lady tells the story of the creation a new race. A creation story, for every religion, is a mainstay. Within this story of creation, Gaga appropriates both the origin and role of good and evil forces. The video even gives moral and ideological prescriptions. Not to mention the chorus of the song is nothing short of theology, asserting “I’m beautiful in my way ‘cause God makes no mistakes.”

With the release of her new single “Judas,” the Mama Monster is sure to heighten the religious rhetoric and the use of religious symbols.

While all of these qualities seem to be the basis for a religion, they are indeed irrelevant if not accompanied by religious practice.

The first necessary ingredient is a religious leader. Lady Gaga herself obviously fills this role, often professing a passionate message of self-acceptance, self-expression and embracing differences on and off the stage. These are the “teachings” of Lady Gaga.

Moreover, Gaga has begun to refer to herself as the “Mother Monster” and to call her fans “little monsters” and “baby monsters.” This positions Gaga as both creator and messiah (i.e. deity) and her fans as both her followers and her children (i.e. created).

But, Lady Gaga is not alone in her practice of this pop-religion. Countless fans worship her music, her style and her ideas. Interviews with fans reveal countless testimonies of “finding a place,” “understanding oneself,” and “feeling empowered.” This suggests that the fan’s encounter results in both emotional and spiritual effects with Gaga. Many “monsters” express the kinds of transformation usually associated with religion.

Nonetheless, the religious practice does not stop with passive transformation. Many little monsters go on to mimic their “mother,” dressing like her, adopting her teachings and listening obsessively to her music.

These practices, Gaga’s teachings, and the employment of traditional religious components (i.e. morality, creation story, theology) suggest that the “Lady Gaga” phenomenon is itself religion.

Indeed, understanding Lady Gaga within the context of religion allows one to more critically and objectively understand the content of her work and its impact on society.

Not to mention, it may make you think twice before you just dance with your disco stick, get caught in a bad romance, call my name Alejandro, start telephoning me or profess the way you were born.

Drew Konow is a senior religious studies, foreign languages and literatures major. He can be reached for comments or questions at [email protected].

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