As soon as Lady Gaga’s epic “Telephone” video premiered, her ultra-obsessive fans (not to mention even the most casual of pop-culture observers) began picking it apart, frame by frame. It was a pretty big job.
Because while it’s a feast for the eyes, “Telephone” is also a sort of “all-you-can-eat” buffet for those who dine almost exclusively on popular culture, full of nods to cult films and comics, eclectic icons, underground bands and internationally famous pop legends, and even the occasional commercial (there are an awful lot of not-too-discreet product placements sprinkled throughout).
Sorting through it all is a head-spinning experience, which is why we’ve done all the dirty work for you. Here — after hours spent analyzing each second of the clip until our eyeballs frizzled in our skulls — is our pop-culture cheat sheet for Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video, alphabetized and cross-referenced for your convenience.
“Batman”: Classic ’60s-era TV series starring Adam West — animated “Smack!” and “Wroom!” graphics call to mind the Dark Knight’s “Pow!” and “Zonk!”-assisted fight sequences.
“Caged Heat”: Prototypical chicks-in-prison flick. Gaga’s schlocky, sexually charged jailhouse is ripped right from this 1974 feast of beefed-up guards, brawling babes and naked flesh.
Captain America & Wonder Woman: Iconic crime-fighting comic book superheroes. Beyoncé’s stars-and-stripes uniform during her post-murder-spree dance-sequence riff on the Captain’s color scheme and the Woman’s silhouette.
Diet Coke: Refreshing, sugar-free carbonated beverage, dangerous when coupled with Mentos. Doubles as Gaga’s impromptu hair-curlers during video’s “catfight” sequence.
Doom: English crust-punk band that burned brightly from 1987-1990, faded away, then reformed this year. Their logo is visible on Gaga’s studded leather jacket during same sequence.
Germanotta, Natali: Gaga’s younger sister. Looks eerily similar to pre-The Fame Gaga. Also looks eerily like a de-thawed Snooki. Appears in the video’s prison scenes.
Hermaphrodite: Rumors that Gaga was a hermaphrodite were widespread in 2009. They are jokingly referenced by one of the prison guards who, after stripping Gaga in her jail cell, remarks, “I told you she didn’t have a d—.”
“High and Dry”: Single off Radiohead’s 1995 album The Bends. Two videos were filmed for the song, one of which is set in a diner very similar to the one in “Telephone.” The fact that death (and contemplative drinking of coffee) is involved in both is also noteworthy.
Jackson, Michael: Late, great King of Pop. Gaga pays tribute to him by breaking into an MJ-esque shuffle after being bailed out of jail.
“Kill Bill”: Quentin Tarantino’s two-part martial arts epic. Uma Thurman’s garish P—y Wagon reappears as Gaga and Beyoncé’s getaway mobile.
LaChapelle, David: Photographer/director whose hyper-saturated work is clearly a touchstone for much of the video, particularly the scenes that feature Gaga wrapped in electric-yellow police tape.
Lava: Majestic female Great Dane, sister of the late Rumpus. Both featured prominently in Gaga’s “Poker Face” video and Lava has since worked with Gaga in “Bad Romance.” She is visible in the diner sequences in “Telephone.”
“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”: Guy Ritchie’s stylized take on the crime genre. The quick-cutting, sound effect-heavy diner murder scene is vintage Ritchie.
Madonna: Undisputed pop legend. Gaga has teamed with her in the past (on “Saturday Night Live” ), and her short blond tresses in the prison dance sequence seem like a direct homage to Madge’s hairstyle in the “Vogue” video.
Meyer, Russ: The campy king of sexploitation cinema. Top-heavy women in lingerie, the mix of female violence and sensuality, the often shoestring-budget aesthetic — all this and more points directly at Meyer.
“Natural Born Killers”: Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis’ serial-killing satire. With the diner’s dusty locale, Gaga and Beyoncé’s gleeful massacre and the send-up of news media reportage, “NBK” has its bloody fingerprints all over “Telephone.”
“Pulp Fiction”: Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning gangland revelation. From the diner setting to the casual “Honey” pet names that Gaga and Beyoncé exchange, Tarantino’s 1994 gun-and-drug-soaked adventure pops up again and again in this music video.
Radio KUK: Fictional station heard on the P—y Wagon’s radio. Could be an homage to the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise, or KLON radio, the station that makes an appearance on the Queens of the Stone Age’s 2007 album Songs for the Deaf. Or we may be reaching a tad.
Rodriguez, Jai: Former “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” culture expert. Makes a cameo as a TV reporter following the carnage inside the diner.
“Thelma & Louise”: Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon’s female-empowerment road movie. As Gaga and Beyoncé clasp hands and drive off into the unknown, there can be no mistaking the allusion to this film’s speeding-car-off-a-cliff shocker of an ending.
Twain, Shania: Canadian-born pop-country star. The leopard skin outfit she wears in her “That Don’t Impress Me Much” video seems to have directly inspired Gaga’s getup towards the end of “Telephone,” when she performs in front of the P—y Wagon.
WNS News: Fictional news outlet that employs Jai Rodriguez. Perhaps a nod to New York’s famous 1010 WINS news radio station, which Gaga undoubtedly heard every time she leapt into a cab. Then again, perhaps we’re reaching here.
Well, did we miss any refererences? What do you think of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video? Let us know in the comments below!