Love her or hate her, you’ve got to admit that [artist id="3061469"]Lady Gaga[/artist] knows how to make a music video. Her clips always have been a mixture of high-art posturing and knowing nods to pop-culture ephemera, and “Judas” is no different. While it’s not filled with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references like “Telephone” or odes to German Expressionism like “Alejandro,” there’s still plenty to wrap your eyes around in “Judas,” offering a mixture of the sacred and the profane. Gaga merges mentions to religious iconography and cult biker flicks (and pretty much everything in between) in the video, and so, we decided to take notes. Here’s our “Judas” pop-culture cheat sheet, alphabetized for your perusing pleasure … you can’t tell your Botticellis from your Brandos without it.
“The Birth of Venus”: Iconic 15th century painting by Sandro Botticelli depicting the Roman goddess Venus emerging from the sea. Art historians have interpreted the work in many ways — a contemplation on physical and spiritual beauty, a celebration of the divine, a “wedding painting” meant to, uh, inspire the bride and groom — but in “Judas,” when Gaga strikes a pose similar to the painting, she seems to be paying tribute to all three.
“Electric Chapel”: Gaga has said that she created her Monster Ball Tour so that her fans “would have a place to go … a safe place … an ‘Electric Chapel.’ ” It’s also the name of a song on her upcoming Born This Way album. In “Judas,” the Chapel is reimagined as a biker bar, where LG attempts to warn Jesus about Judas’ impending betrayal.
Eye of Horus: An ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, closely associated with the goddess Wadjet. In “Judas,” Gaga wears eye makeup that recalls the symbol, which makes sense, since, as Mary Magdalene, she attempts to protect Christ from Judas’ backstabbing.
Foot Washing: A religious rite observed by several Christian denominations. In the Bible, Christ washed the feet of his apostles before the Last Supper, the final meal he shared before his crucifixion. Gaga washes Christ’s feet in “Judas,” perhaps symbolizing his forthcoming demise, something that Judas certainly had a hand in.
Golden Gun: Fictional weapon from the 1974 James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun,” and a totally kick-ass sidearm in the “GoldenEye” video game. Gaga wields a similar piece in “Judas,” though hers doesn’t contain bullets; instead, it’s a rather grandiose tube of lipstick, which she smears on Judas’ face.
The Kiss of Judas: In the Bible, it is Judas’ final act of betrayal — he kisses Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper as a way of identifying him to the soldiers who have come to arrest him. The same scene is played out in “Judas,” as the betrayer plants a pair of kisses on Christ’s cheeks.
Mary Magdalene: A disciple of Jesus and one of the most controversial characters in the Bible, early scholars painted her as a repentant prostitute, while in the 20th and 21st century, she has come to be celebrated as a patron saint of women’s preaching and ministry. Not surprisingly, Gaga takes on the role of Magdalene, reimagining her as a badass chick with a penchant for chola fashion.
Norman Reedus: American actor/model known for his roles in “The Boondock Saints” and, more recently, AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” In “Judas,” he plays the titular apostle with gleefully evil aplomb.
Rick Gonzalez: American character actor who has appeared in dozens of films, most notably “Coach Carter” and, uh, “Old School,” where he played “Spanish.” In “Judas,” he’s given a gangster makeover as Jesus Christ.
Sacred Heart: Religious icon that symbolizes Christ’s divine love for humanity. Often depicted as bleeding and wrapped in thorns, in “Judas,” Gaga can be seen wearing a Sacred Heart on her wardrobe.
Simon Peter: One of Christ’s 12 apostles, also known as Saint Peter, he is regarded by the Catholic Church as the first pope. Before the Last Supper, when Christ washed his apostles’ feet, Peter originally refused, claiming he was not worthy. During Christ’s arrest, Peter sliced the ear of a servant of the High Priest who had come to seize him. In “Judas,” Gaga singles out Peter at the “Electric Chapel,” patting him on the back.
“The Wild One”: 1953 biker film starring a young Marlon Brando as the leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club. That leather-clad gang of ne’er-do-wells seems to be the direct inspiration for Christ’s biker-apostles in “Judas.”
Can you spot any other literary, historic or pop-culture references in Lady Gaga’s “Judas” video? Tell us in the comments.