I hope David Bowie never turns normal. I would be very sad for him to stop being David Bowie. That said, I’m going to complain about his latest music video (you can find a link to the video there), but probably not for the reasons you might think.
In Bowie’s latest video, a priestly Gary Oldman (words you never thought you’d see together, right?) walks us into a seedy bar, where several other priests and bishops/cardinals (they’re wearing red, but no hats, so how can I tell?) are debauching themselves with variously undressed women, including the lovely Marion Cotillard. Bowie, dressed as a Jesus figure, and his band play from the stage.
Oldman, as anyone would, finds Cotillard’s form fetching and selects her to join him on the dancefloor–validating the theory that old, white guys can’t dance. Cotillard experiences what a Charismatic might call a slaying of the spirit, then presents with stigmata that goes off like geysers from her palms, hosing down herself, Oldman, a saint/angel figure, and the dancefloor (rendering it useless. Pity.)
His plans for the evening foiled by this fountain, Oldman shakes an angry fist at Bowie, yelling, “You did this!”
All along, Bowie has been singing these lyrics, so he’s obviously got something serious to say, and he’s got a real bone to pick with how religious leaders treat their flocks. I’m down with that. I couldn’t agree more. Even as a zealot, the worst of my anger and offense was always reserved for religious people who abused their power.
But here’s the trouble: When you use religious imagery to address serious issues with misuse and abuse of power, you’re attacking the wrong people.
Do you think any one of those pedophile priests gives a rat’s butt what you do with a crucifix? Do you think the church leaders who are stealing money from the elderly or the mentally ill care how you interpret stigmata? Do you think that the warmongering, hate-filled church is worried about David Bowie dressed as Jesus? No. Not a whit.
Why? Because they know that’s all bunk.
You know who it hurts? The faithful masses who are already being hurt and whipped. It’s a pile-on.
The Borgia Pope/Jim Bakker/Bill Carney wouldn’t care if you painted Jesus doing Mary–they’d probably hang it in the bedroom. You know who cares about that, and who is hurt by that? The lady who thinks Jesus lives in her toaster. That little woman who is staring at her toast, thinking God has blessed her is the one who is hurt by that imagery.
And, it is mean, it is bullying, and it is a total missed point to abuse that woman. Bless her heart.
Only the blind faithful, and the ignorant followers of hatemongers like that church whose name I refuse to give any attention are hurt, or stirred up by it. Otherwise, it’s just a lazy grab for publicity–and worse, it gives the wrongdoers something to point at, so that people look away from what is happening to the altar boys to throw rocks at a rockstar.
When you’re out there licking a crucifix (that doesn’t happen in this video, surprisingly, since everything else did), you aren’t making a statement about abuse of power, you’re giving the abuser something solid to take away attention from what people only suspect he is doing. “Your daughter came home crying from that mission trip? Oh! All these rock musicians are ruining our youth and confusing them with their sacrilege! It’s the devil! Look at this video. We should protest. And send your daughter back over to my office tomorrow night at 8pm. I’ll get her involved in making it happen. That will give her a purpose.”
We end up thanking the Problem for offering up a solution.
So here is my plea to legitimate artists everywhere: Don’t focus on what Toaster Lady loves, because when you stomp on her Jesus Toast, her pastor is going to tell her that you are the problem. Keep the focus on the ministers, and keep yanking on that curtain that hides what’s going on behind the baptismal.
And, David Bowie, stay weird.