by Charlie Crooijmans
If you would compare Madonna (1958) to Lady Gaga (1986) in terms of generation, quality of voice, use of social media, Lady Gaga might very well be the winner. But there are more similarities than differences. Think of their spectacular presentations, ambitions, independence, extravagance, background (they’re both from Italian families), world-wide popularity, use of trends from the camp culture and their provocations. Madonna taught the young girls in the eighties to be self assured “virgins” and for Lady Gaga everyone can be her little monster. Both their music is accessible and danceable. And in the last few weeks they were both in the news but not because of their music.
Presenting her new album Madonna started her world tour in Israel. In the video clip Nobody knows me you can see Madonna’s face ingeniously changing into a soldier, a woman with a headscarf, a skull, Sarah Palin, the pope, Hu Jintao, and Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front. In the show, Madonna makes direct associations between Le Pen and Hitler. Her father, founder of the right-winged poltical party, is not amused. He demands a million dollar from the pop star (Hollywood Reporter). Madonna didn’t respond to that and she will be giving her show in France on the 14th of July and the 11th of August.
It wasn’t the first time that Madonna makes controversial “comments” on politics. To give an example: in 2008 when she showed presidential hopeful John McCain together with Robert Mugabe and Adolf Hitler. On the other hand, Barack Obama was put in the same category with John Lennon and Ghandi. It wasn’t the first time Madonna used the Le Pen family either: in 2006 she showed Jean Marie Le Pen (Marine’s father) in the video Sorry together with leaders like Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddafi.
Here you can see the clip Nobody knows me.
Like Madonna, Lady Gaga is doing a world tour: Born This Way. Last month she was forced to cancel her concerts in Indonesia (Huffington Post) because of the ‘offensive content’ of her show. Unlike Madonna, however, Lady Gaga is not offending anyone personally. The show itself, as well as Gaga’s general image, is what ticks the Indonesian religious lobby off. According to religious people she will corrupt young people. In Indonesia, after the passing the anti-pornography law in 2010, fanatic Muslims are extremely intolerant towards nightlife dwellers like dancers and transsexuals. These are exactly the people who are very much part of the world of Lady Gaga. The Indonesians were not the only ones to protest though: in South Korea and the Philippines (Huffington Post) conservative Christians objected against her presence.
Here is a video clip (mini movie) of Lady Gaga’s Marry The Night.
These cases are interesting not only in terms of political and religious censorship but also because of the (global) outrage concerning the ban of concerts etc. The singers themselves feel completely in their right to make these expressions. It is interesting to see that these pop stars believe in their cultural immunity. And how can they not? They are openly admired by millions of people. To reach such a level of fame makes a person feel unrivalled. One cannot help but wonder, however, if it would be more useful if they would use their fame (and infamy) to their political end by e.g. choosing collaborations with other musicians who are influential ‘on the ground’ in the countries concerned. We are guessing that that would not be sufficiently conducive to their general image of sex and fun.