Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I was truly sickened by the halftime show during the Super Bowl. Not because of Madonna’s halftime show itself, which seemed over-produced and generally, pretty lame. And not because of the obscene gesture made by the singer known as M.I.A.
No, I was upset because the entire episode smacked of premeditated manipulation. This is a blatant example of the publicity tactic gaining popularity among celebrities, and celebrity “wannabes.” First you do something “outrageous,” then someone claims how “outraged” they are by your words or actions, then someone “sincerely” apologizes for the original action and everyone is happy — not due to any heartfelt apologies, but because everyone involved receives tons and tons of free publicity.
It is really ingenious, and it seems to be very effective. It is also highly irritating.
M.I.A, a Sri Lankan-born singer who now makes her home in London, was, as far as I know, not a household name here in the states. She made an obscene gesture during Madonna’s halftime show at the Super Bowl, a game that was later reported to be the most-watched program ever. Madonna was said to have been “very upset.” She later phoned a morning radio show and upbraided M.I.A for the gesture, saying, “I was really surprised. I didn’t know anything about it. I wasn’t happy about it.”
Right. She was about as surprised as Capt. Renault was about gambling in Casablanca. First of all, who had ever heard of M.I.A before this little stunt? Anyone? I know I am not exactly on the cutting edge of pop music trends, but I have not talked to anyone of any age who knew anything about her before the show, but everyone certainly knew who she was afterward. Do you suppose that exposure helped her career any? Do you think anyone went online to read about her? Do you think she sold any CDs or music downloads from people who were curious?
Then, Madonna expresses her indignation over the episode. Isn’t this the same person who has made a wildly successful career out of wearing provocative outfits and producing soft-core porn music videos while occasionally singing? Isn’t this the same woman who shed her clothes in movies and produced a book of blatantly sexual images titled “Sex?” Do we really and truly think she was shocked?
Only a cynic would think that this whole thing was staged to give notoriety to the unknown M.I.A, and also serve to boost ticket sales for Madonna’s upcoming world tour, where a floor seat will run you more than $350 per ticket. OK, then I’m a cynic.
I am from a generation of music stars who certainly pulled stunts that were brainless and obscene. Jim Morrison of The Doors was arrested in Miami in 1969 and charged with indecent exposure while onstage. His allegedly lewd act was attributed to prodigious amounts of alcohol.
Morrison’s alcohol-fueled stunt was selfish and stupid. But it still somehow seems a lot more honest to me than a series of coldly calculated publicity stunts. If I am wrong here, I will apologize to any offended parties. Who knows, maybe I’ll get some free publicity out of it.