Fame Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

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At the Super Bowl, gargoyle Madonna performed alongside British “singer” M.I.A.  To most everyone’s surprise, the show was relatively tame, with the stiff-looking 53-year-old prancing around with her oddly-clad team of backup singers, including a weird guy doing tricks on a wire (not Guy Richie).  The most amusing part of the performance was Madonna disappearing into the stage, Wicked Witch of the West-style; as Jim Geraghty of National Review hilariously tweeted, “Wow, Bane got her in the end.” (For those of you who aren’t Batman aficionados, Bane is a Batman villain featured in the upcoming Christopher Nolan flick The Dark Knight Returns, who collapses a football field.)  Personally, I thought it was just the earth finally swallowing up the scarlet woman for her prior blasphemies.

There was a bit of controversy, though: at the end of her cameo, M.I.A. flipped off the crowd.  What was the point of that little gesture?  M.I.A. is nowhere to be found for comment, but the rationale is pretty clear: nobody would have cared about M.I.A.’s appearance had she not decided to tell Americans to screw off.  It was an attention getter.  And it got attention.  Mission accomplished.

This is how we do celebrity in America.  Bad behavior gets you noticed; as you age, you go mainstream.  M.I.A. is simply a less talented Madonna (if there is such a thing), 20 years younger.  Undoubtedly, M.I.A. will eventually mainstream herself, and we will pretend she was never a problem.

She can follow Madonna’s path in doing so.  When the Material Girl first popped on the scene with “Like a Virgin,” she shook up the world with her ability to shock.  When she released “Like a Prayer” in 1989, people understood that her lyric – “When you call my name, It’s like a little prayer, I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there” – was a veiled reference to fellatio, and that the song was supposed to transgress boundaries between the holy and the sexual.  The Vatican actually condemned the music video.  On Sunday, Madonna sang the song before an entire country, complete with backup choir, as though it were a plain spiritual.

America’s forgiving nature is wonderful.  But that forgiving nature means that we’re often taken advantage of by celebrities, who act out in an obnoxious way and then demand our forgiveness over time.  In fact, America is so forgiving that we don’t even bother asking our celebrities to apologize for past transgressions – we just assume they’ve matured.  Madonna’s old now, but she’s just as nasty as she ever was – yet we treat her like a musical Judi Dench.

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  • JakeTobias

    Elvis Presley was the end of western civilization too, you know.

    Except Elvis had sex just once with his wife, sired a child, then divorced. Madonna had children, and multiple divorces, but is still a mother. And alive, and looking great. Though she was stiff and slow, unlike Mick Jagger's astonishing performance in "Shine A Light."

    But Mick won me over immediately as a teen. Madonna took longer. It was the weird, slow version of "Like A Virgin" In "Truth OR Dare," that did it. She won me over musically.

  • Alex Kovnat

    Speaking as a resident of SE Michigan, I think that with the ongoing war against the automobile and the ever-ongoing regulatory onslaught against not only the automobile but other industries too, we have more important things to worry about than Madonna's performance at the Super Bowl.

    • L8gr8usa

      Yeah, good point!

      OK everyone, no more discussion on cultural decay until southeastern Michigan is fiscally sound again. Got it?? Thanks!

      Geez man, get real…

      • Alex Kovnat

        If the late Michael Jackson's sister's act of exposing herself a few years ago during the Super Bowl halftime show or Madonna's show at this year's S.B. are part of a George Soros-funded conspiracy to bring about a generation of youth that are too brain-dead to care about what may be happening to our standard of living, you might have a point.

  • Chiggles

    I'd think Madonna mite get some props from FPM for perfoming in Israel, something many musical acts refuse to do nowadays, such as Gary Moore (yeah, I never heard of him either) who, shortly before he died and went to hell, announced that he would never perfom in "the criminal state of Israel" because of "its racist policies against the Palestinian people (sic)".

    Perhaps Flipside will show up in awhile to excoriate Madonna and tell us what a great guy Moore (who?) was. Maybe he'll say that the Mossad murdered him in his sleep.

    • Chiggles

      "mite"= might

    • Questions

      The late Gary Moore, an Irishman, for some 40 years was one of giants of blues, rock and jazz guitar. He played for a while with the Dublin band, Thin Lizzy. I grant you, he was politically full of crap, but musically I have to give credit where due. As much as Page, Beck, Clapton, Hendrix, Zappa, Van Halen, Garcia and Knopfler, he had tremendous feel, speed and technique.

      On Israel he was repulsive (as is virtually all of the Irish Left), but even here, he was a close friend and pupil of another guitar great, a Jew, Peter Green (Greenbaum), of the original Fleetwood Mac. He credited Green as being his prime influence, and even did a whole album of his material. (Listen to his cover of Green's instrumental, "The Supernatural," which originally appeared on John Mayall's "A Hard Road" album of 1967, and tell me the guy wasn't amazing.). He deserved to be hammered on Israel, but his musicianship shouldn't be suspect for it.

      • Chiggles

        Well said, and I would never impugn his musicianship. Perhaps if his solo career had gone better in the States he might have had a better attitude.

      • trickyblain

        Good knowledge – never know Moore was part of Thin Lizzy. He was, indeed, an amazing guitar player. Also nice to see you include Garcia and Knopfler on your list of greats…

    • maturin20

      He may have shown up already. For the past couple of days he has been posting but the posts have been suddenly vanishing. The authors must have decided in email to try to erase him from the site by deleting his comments. I saw it happen about twenty times. I have to admit, it strains my interest in Frontpage to think that so many stupid comments are made here, but some of the more bombastic ones, true or not, have annoyed Greenfield, Shapiro and company to stalk and erase. It's not very real-world thinking.

  • Questions

    Madonna put on a splendid show. Ben is angry because she has more fans than he does. Culture war (Right), like class struggle (Left), peddles envy of the highly successful and disguises it as moral superiority. It's revenge rationalized as scholarship.

    Go, Madge!

  • Ghostwriter

    I remember growing up that Madonna was a controversial figure. Not a day would go by without some news story about her. She started off as a reasonably talented singer. But then,she had to get "edgy" and trying to be provocative,that her talent for singing was all but forgotten. You're right to say that M.I.A. is a lot like Madonna,minus any actual talent for singing.

  • UCSPanther

    I have to admit: Madonna has way more talent than many of the two-bit imitations that have since been churned out by the music industry…

  • fmobler

    We should just all be thankful Madonna didn't break a hip.

  • Jerry

    Great post, Ben. It reminds me of the recent repentance of Raquel Welch

  • elihu

    The best description of "Madonna", and her raunchy behavior, is outlined in the Book of Revelation: "The Whore of Babylon". Madonna of course, is not as evil as the whore, but each successor to her immoral behavior, and its resultant contamination of both the youth and adult audiences, takes it a step closer. Eventually, with the fulfillment of Revelation (and be sure that it will be fulfilled!), the true maiden of Babylon will surface. She also will be 'adored' for a time by a very deceived world.

  • jerry

    Suggestion for Ben

    I like your piece, but here are two editing suggestions.

    Bill Clinton did not sin in public with Monica, so it really isn't relevant to to be topic of celebrites publicly sinning to get attention. Bill Clinton's transgression is more on the subject of the extra moral responsibility significant people have even in their private life because, unfair or not, their private sin may end up doing more harm to the culture than the sins of non famous people.

    Even though you liked Jim G.'s National Review quote, it was a distraction from your piece. You probably lost a lot of readers who really don't care to figure out the Batman reference you need to explain.

    I am not as learned as you, but I didn't know who Judi Dench was and had to look it up. I'm not sure that there are so many people into theatre that the comparison instantly strikes a chord, but I could be wrong.

  • http://fantasycoinhq.3dcartstores.com Joy Black

    Good point! I really don't get it why they stick to their obnoxious behavior just to increase their popularity or are they really like that in person?

  • BS77

    My thanks to Madonna for a terrific half time show….She was great and all the folks I know who saw it, liked it, loved it. From her Lucky Star days to today Madonna appeals to a wide range of people. Thank you Madonna

  • Mariko Nightfire

    Madonna looked old, danced old, is old. She's old news.