The dust is starting to settle around “G.U.Y.,” Lady Gaga’s latest “short film” release, and writers across the board are scrambling to interpret it beyond the obvious W.T.F.
It’s easy to see how it could create a gulf in opinions. The movie combines a number of songs on Gaga’s latest album, ARTPOP, played over hectic visuals—a DJ Earworm-style mashup of icons like Bravo’s Andy, Michael Jackson and the Real Housewives—set around Central California’s gaudy Hearst Castle. (It does manage, however, to include zero shots of the chameleon-like pop star vomiting on camera. So that’s a bonus.) Still, there may be some sense to be made of the madness.
Throughout her musical opus, Gaga rides a classical undercurrent that alludes to various mythological tales. Don’t see it? Two ARTPOP songs featured in the movie, namely “Venus” and “Guy,” directly reference gods of Olympus and elements of classical culture. Plus, Hearst Castle looks an awful lot like a Hollywood set for Troy.
But don’t take our word for it. We got serious and spoke with a classics grad student in his sixth year (who asked to remain anonymous for professional reasons), to get help parsing Gaga’s lengthy clip. According to him, if the pop maven had any intention of presenting historically accurate scenes, it looks like she may need a fact checker. (Note: Of course, one can only guess at Gaga’s intention.) Check out the video and our classics wiz’s breakdown below.
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On the beginning scene when Gaga is thrashing around in wings:
“In the Illiad Book V, Aphrodite comes down to help Aeneas. She gets wounded in the process of helping the Trojans. She doesn’t get shot through with an arrow, but she does get hit with a spear. Aphrodite doesn’t have wings. In contemporary culture, we associate wings with Cupid and love. Cupid being her son, I assume Gaga has conflated the iconography.”
On the hordes of men (Trojans?) who surround her on the ground, after the injury:
“These are undying gods. There’s never a threat that she’s going to die, but she does get hurt.”
On Hearst Castle:
“Olympus is the home of the gods. You can expect extravagant things.”
On Gaga’s helpers on Mount Olympus:
“There are attendants and nymphs. You have these half-gods and quarter-gods that have access to Olympus. They can hang out there.”
On the Real Housewives as a band:
“There is music on Olympus. Music is very important to the gods. Aphrodite’s brother is Apollo—one of his domains is music.”
On Gaga’s call to Himeros:
“We have the major Olympian gods, but then we have these minor deities. A lot of them are personifications of ideas or emotions. Himeros is the personification of desire, and he’s the son of Aphrodite and Mars. It says a lot about Greek culture that the goddess of love is married to the god of war, and their son is the god of desire.”
On Gaga’s gaggle of nearly naked backup dancers:
“Is the language of Aphrodite consistent here? No, you don’t get this sort of ‘touch me, touch me’ or explicit sexual language from goddesses.”