Bill O'Donahue of the Catholic League may not like it, but one has to admit, seeing Gary Oldman punch out somebody in the first five seconds of a music video makes it much more interesting. Thus opens David Bowie's new music video "The Next Day," in which Oldman appears as a priest, French actress Marion Cotillard as a prostitute, and of course, Bowie in the title role of the Christ-like rock singer. Donohue thought the video was a major event, while fans on i09 thought the video for the most part was not that shocking (unlike say, Madonna's "Like a Prayer" video back in the 80's….), but the video did manage, quite nicely, to stimulate conversation on everything from the Catholic Church, religion, atheism, the Christian right, and fundamentalist theocracy. But first, the review from Mr. Donohue:
David Bowie is back, but hopefully not for long. The switch-hitting, bisexual, senior citizen from London has resurfaced, this time playing a Jesus-like character who hangs out in a nightclub dump frequented by priests, cardinals and half-naked women.
Donohue goes on to say that the video is a "mess," that Bowie is "confused about religion," and goes on to say that Bowie can't stop thinking about the "Cadillac of religions," which is Roman Catholicism. On iO9, it did spark some interesting conversation about religion in America. Some samples:
–I like this video clip. I like the visuals, and its got just enough weird and playfulness.
As for the dig at religion, hardly. The catholic church has already firmly cemented its reputation as a bunch of twats, this video didn't hit hard at all considering whats on topic.
–Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of Catholics (including myself) have managed to get through the day utterly indifferent to a pretty banal and mediocre music video. Personally, I'm more outraged that a great image-maker like Bowie couldn't come up with something better than a half-arsed Lady Gaga skit.
–Christianity is an easy target because there's no real risk other than maybe a boycott and free publicity on Fox. "Edgy" would have been Bowie dressed as Mohammed and marrying a 9-year-old girl.
–It's a completely different situation in the USA. I don't know if more people are embracing Christianity, but religion is gaining more influence in politics and other areas of life. More school boards are being pressured to teach creationism alongside evolution in science classes. There are still places here where you legally cannot hold public office if you're an atheist, not that it matters, nobody would vote for anyone who openly declares themselves atheist anyway. I'm pretty sure it's more socially acceptable here to be gay than atheist.
If anyone in Europe tells you not to worry, that Islam won't take hold of life, just point them at the USA and show that it's happening with Christianity here.
The video showcases priests in a church turned brothel, who seem to be more obsessed with sex than helping the poor ( a representative of which Oldman punches out at the beginning of the video, when the poor man asks for a dollar because he's hungry), with a cardinal who is standing by, uninvolved, except to watch the consorting priests. Meanwhile, a prostitute experiences stigmata (which immediately made me think of the film Stigmata). Here's what Rolling Stone had to say:
"Donohue wasn't the only one to take issue with the video for "The Next Day": YouTube briefly pulled the clip yesterday for violating its terms of service, before restoring ita few hours later. "With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call," a YouTube spokesperson told Billboard. The song comes from Bowie's latest album, The Next Day, which came out in March."
Spinner.com notes: 'The video was directed by edgy auteur Floria Sigismondi, who also helmed "The Runaways" and has made clips for the likes of the White Stripes,Interpol and Nine Inch Nails in the past."
At the end of the video, Bowie-the-Messiah winks at all of us, then disappears, perhaps ascending to heaven.
The video "The Next Day," make of it what you will: