If I had a chance to meet Lady Gaga, I’d want to ask her two questions:
Who is Alejandro? And what have you done with his clothes?
Not that any explanation she might give would help matters much. When dealing with Gaga, the more she explains, the more confusing things become.
Lady Gaga is pop music’s profane Lewis Carroll. She delights in dumping fans into rabbit holes with each new ditty. At first listen, her songs—always groovy, often obscene—sound and feel like what clubbers would expect to hear on any given Friday night. Launch the artist’s accompanying video, though, and things quickly become curiouser and curiouser—filled with the 21st-century equivalents of Cheshire cats and flamingo-laden croquet games … not to mention a few other images even Carroll himself would find odd.
And so we’re back to “Alejandro,” yet another hit from Gaga’s album The Fame Monster. The lyrics suggest that the narrator (perhaps Gaga, perhaps another persona) is married (“she’s got a halo around her finger, around you”) but smitten with a Latin paramour (“You know that I love you, boy/Hot like Mexico, rejoice”) named Alejandro. Or Fernando. Or Roberto. Or all three-o. Each is named, with the narrator ultimately spurning them. (“I’m not your babe,” Gaga sings, “Don’t wanna kiss/Don’t wanna touch.”)
She hints that these “rejections” are postcoital, though, guilt following the aftermath of sex: “Just smoke one cigarette and hush.” It’s a suggestion that the lady is torn between passion (for her lovers) and duty (to her unseen husband). And then there’s the verse that describes the boyfriend as “just like a dad.”
The song’s video takes things further—much further—by quickly dumping the love story and diving into a world of orgy, androgyny, sacrilegious imagery and mostly unclad Nazis. Onscreen, Gaga changes faces like most of us change lanes: She’s a steampunk goddess with hinged goggles. She’s a wife in mourning, carrying a jeweled heart. She’s a nun, eating a rosary. She’s an underwear-clad group-sex participant.
In some respects, the video holds true to the spirit of the song: Gaga’s exploits with a horde of apparently bisexual dancing fascist soldiers visually convey the multipartnered passion we hear about in “Alejandro,” while her rubber nun’s habit suggests residual guilt. But any shame she may feel is eventually overwhelmed by lust as her getup transforms into lingerie—with a cross positioned on her crotch.
This is a fever dream of images and themes cribbed from Terry Gilliam, Madonna (even the song’s tune is reminiscent of “Like a Prayer”), R-rated orgy scenes and Nazi propaganda films. It is so outrageous as to be, at times, laugh-out-loud ludicrous. (Machine guns sprout from Gaga’s skimpy black bra at one point.) It is also so salacious that, if my computer had any scruples at all, it would’ve shut itself down midstream. Lady Gaga wears next to nothing throughout much of the nine-minute film, and her male dancers—who wallow in almost cartoonish levels of muscled effeminacy—wear only leather shorts, boots (or high heels and fishnet stockings) and the occasional spiky hat. Their writhing, groping, posturing and whipping would be enough to make Madonna blush. Maybe.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.