You gotta hand it to Madonna: she knows how to keep her name in the headlines. Even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Madonna seems to be on a streak of outrageous and tactless behavior, her worldwide MDNA Tour apparently turning into an equal opportunity offender. From wielding an AK-47 onstage in Israel, to flashing and/or mooning audiences in Italy, Turkey and France (really? Come on, Madonna, you’re 53!), to drawing the ire of the French government for superimposing Nazi symbols on the foreheads of government officials, Madonna’s repeated attempts at shock value have mainly just pissed off a lot of people.
Her latest antics occurred last night during her show at Denver’s Pepsi Center, where local news outlets report that she showed up onstage two hours late, only to open her show by pulling a fake gun and pretending to fire shots into the audience. Some audience members were so upset over this that they called local media outlets to complain about her.
While by today’s standards behavior of this sort would be thought of as tame, consider the context. This is the town still reeling from the horrific Aurora theater shooting not three months prior, where a man donned military gear and opened fire on a helpless crowd, killing 12 and wounding 58—not to mention the inevitable flashbacks to the Columbine school shooting. While this is not the first time Madonna has done this routine during her tour, she could not have chosen a more offensive opening for this particular crowd.
Admittedly, an offense like this is more easily forgiven if it is an isolated incident due to oversight; but it isn’t an isolated incident. There are so many offenses at this point that the MDNA Tour is more known around the world for Madonna’s tactless acts than her actual performances. It seems Madonna is absolutely bent on creating outrage. And that begs the question: why? What is she trying to prove? Is this a desperate plea for attention? An attempt to prove that she has still got the shock value that first garnered her fame and fortune? Is she afraid of getting old?
The real tragedy about all this is that Madonna is truly talented; she doesn’t really need to create all this negative attention. The upside is that the MDNA Tour is poised to break attendance and sales records as the most profitable tour ever. Yeah, some people are coming because Madonna is provocative, but most are coming because they were already fans. In other words, they would have come regardless of whether Madonna showed them her 53-year-old nipples or pretended to shoot the crowd. That means that the only thing this tactless behavior is accomplishing is throwing a dark cloud over what should be a triumph of a tour. That, and perhaps revealing that Madonna might not be quite as confident a person as she pretends to be.
So, while hurt and offended Colorado fans await an apology from Madonna’s “people” (which they probably won’t get), the question is whether this streak of offense will be broken at some point. I’m not holding my breath. Ever the provocateur, Madonna seems to thrive on negative publicity. The problem is that when you’ve built a reputation on shock value, you have to do more and more shocking things to keep that reputation going—and eventually it’s just going to devolve into a cesspool of offense for its own sake. Right now, it’s still making her money. But only time will tell whether Madonna’s latest string of offenses will ultimately hurt or help her career.
(PHOTO: Ronald Woan/Wikimedia Commons)