Madonna offends the world

Controversial singer strips, speaks out on fascism, gay rights

By Nicholas Nehamas

Madonna performs on her MDNA tour at the National Stadium in Warsaw August 1, 2012. (Reuters)

Madonna can’t help it: she offends people wherever she goes.

Forget the infamous kiss with Britney. Or her 1989 music video “Like a Prayer,” in which the Michigan-born artist gives herself the stigmata, makes out with a black Jesus and dances suggestively in front of burning crosses.

Now, Madonna’s newest enemies are overseas, thanks to her politicize, sexually-charged MDNA World Tour.

At a concert in Istanbul in early June, Madonna flashed her nipple to the crowd. A few days later in Rome, she exposed her derrière.

That’s the kind of controversial act we’ve come to expect from the provocative singer.


But it’s not going to fly in Russia, says a pro-Kremlin lawmaker ahead of Madonna’s August 9th concert in St. Petersburg.

“We will warn the organizers of the concert that everything should be decent. Otherwise they will face [harsh punishment],” claimed Vitaly Milonov, a deputy in the city’s local Duma, or parliament.

That could be the least of Madonna’s worries. The singer has promised that she’ll use the concert as an opportunity to criticize an anti-gay law adopted by St. Petersburg in March. The statute makes it a crime to spread “information that can damage the health and moral development of underage children, and make them believe that . . . gay relationships are normal.”

Homosexuality wasn’t decriminalized in Russia until 1993 and “anti-gay sentiment” there remains strong, according to RIA Novosti, a state-backed news agency. The government has never allowed a gay pride parade.

Madonna has also spoken out in favor of the jailed feminist punk protest band Pussy Riot.

While some gay activists in Russia have praised her stand on the St. Petersburg law, others say the singer should boycott the country entirely. Either way, it’s not the only example of Madonna’s knack for stirring things up while abroad.

Express yourself?

Scottish police asked the singer not to use a prop handgun in her routine in Edinburgh just two days after the Dark Knight shooting in Aurora, Colorado. But Madonna decided her show would go on unchanged. Scots are particularly sensitive to the glorification of guns: handguns were banned in the country after a 1996 incident in Dunblane where a man entered an elementary school with four pistols and murdered sixteen children.

Then Madonna scheduled a concert in Warsaw on August 1st, a national day of remembrance in Poland that commemorates the 200,000 Poles who lost their lives during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis.

A conservative politician called her show an “anti-Polish provocation.” The Archbishop of Warsaw described the event as “blasphemous.”

In France, Madonna might at least have made some friends on the left: a video montage briefly displayed far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen with a swastika on her forehead, before replacing the image with one of Adolf Hitler.

But the singer caused a near riot among angry fans by walking off the stage after just 45 minutes. Meanwhile, Le Pen says she plans to sue Madonna.

So far, the controversy hasn’t hurt Madonna’s bottom line: Billboard reports the tour has made nearly $80 million.