Queen of Pop creates (another) controversy

July 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

The Queen of Pop has sparked controversy once again.

Madonna, who has caused plenty of outrage during her 29 years in the music business, finds herself on the wrong end of a ‘public insult’ lawsuit after showing an image of France’s National Front (NF) leader, Marine Le Pen, with a swastika superimposed over her face.

The image appeared in a video during the singer’s Nobody Knows Me song, which also features images of other political figures including Pope Benedict, Chinese leader Hu Jintao and US Republican Sarah Palin and was followed by another image resembling Adolf Hitler.

Multiple screenings

It’s not the first time the Queen of Pop has shown the video during her 30-nation, 80-date MDNA tour, with the image initially seen during her concert in Tel Aviv back in May, though she wisely did not show it while performing in Germany.

After the screening in Tel Aviv the NF had warned the Material Girl if she showed the video in France they would sue, with Le Pen saying, “If she tries that in France, we’ll see what happens.”

The politician then added a jibe towards the 53-year-old singer, saying, “It’s understandable when ageing singers who need publicity go to such extremes”.

Ignoring the warnings issued by the National Party following the Tel Aviv concert, Madonna showed the video during her concert at Stade de France, drawing support from French anti-racism group SOS Racisme, who have commended the singer for her “resolutely anti-racist and feminist discourse.”

Le Pen has tried to reinvent the image of the far-right National Front party, known for its Nazi-sympathies and extremist elements, after taking over from her father, Jean-Marie 18 months ago. The party won 18% of votes in the first round of France’s presidential elections, but only managed to bag two seats in the end.

Provocative pop-star (and prince) 

She may be deliberately provocative but the American singer is not the first well-known public figure to make the mistake of displaying Nazi symbols. Prince Harry was heavily criticised in 2005 when photos of the royal wearing a Nazi uniform, including a swastika armband, during a friends’ fancy dress party appeared in the papers.

Without a doubt Madonna is no stranger to sparking controversy and debate. In her 1989 video, Like a Prayer, the singer was seen burning crosses and making love to an African-American saint, causing outrage in the Vatican and causing Pepsi to cancel their contact with the pop-star. Two years later her Justify my Love video, complete with female nudity (in other words, naked breasts), lesbian play and sadomasichism was banned from MTV.

What I think (if you care) 

While not personally agreeing with the desecration of religious iconography or flaunting sadomasichism in a video seen by impressionable young minds, I’ve always been a firm believer in freedom of expression. But this time it seems Madonna may have gone a little too far.

We may be 67 years on from the end of the Second World War, but for many the horrors that occurred during that time are still very real. Just walk through Berlin and you’ll see that the past is very much present. Using the swastika image, apparently lightly and without thought to the offence it would cause has been an error on Madonna’s part.

Perhaps the singer is, as SOS Racisme believe, taking a stand on anti-racism and not-so-subtly voicing her opposition to those with anti-Semetic views. If that is the case, I agree with her completely.

But given the delicate nature that surrounds the use Nazi symbols, and what it represents, even in today’s society, maybe it wasn’t the best way to go about expressing her beliefs. Hopefully she’ll leave the video out when she plays in London’s Hyde Park this Tuesday.

Originally written for Mouth London 

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