There’s nothing like starting a new year off with Madonna.
She has ignited a fire storm with photographs of beloved historical martyrs such as Jesus, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela with their faces bound in black wire to promote her new album. The wire over the face is part of a Madonna marketing campaign for her 13th album, “Rebel Heart.” The images, created by fans and posted on her Instagram account, didn’t play well with the public, to say the least.
Of course, this is exactly what Madonna wanted. She pissed off people, they bought into it and now everyone knows she has new music. Free media – good or bad – is always a good thing, and no one knows this better than Madonna.
Madonna followed up the first set of photos with another one of the beloved Princess Diana with the same wire over her face. Its caption read: “Anyone who fights for freedom is a #rebelheart.” Then, in case anyone didn’t get Madonna’s message, she posted a picture of herself lying in the snow giving the middle finger to the camera with the hashtag #unapologeticbitch. (Another marketing mantra for her new album.)
And she’s not stopping.
Two days after the Charlie Hedbo office attack in Paris where 12 people were murdered, Madonna used Instagram again to post the now infamous “Je Suis Charlie” graphic, saying: “These are very scary times we are living in. Ignorance breeds Intolerance and fear. We can only fight darkness with light! We are all Charlie.” She used the hashtag #rebelhearts along with #revolutionoflove.
Naturally, people were pissed, again, leaving comments for her to stop using tragedy to promote music. Come on, it’s Madonna. She launched her global career and empire rolling around the floor in a wedding dress at the MTV Video Awards singing about virginity in the conservative Reagan ’80s.
That was a baby step for the rest of Madonna’s mesmerizing career.
She followed up that with “Papa Don’t Preach,” a song about an unwed pregnant girl who chooses to “keep her baby” that seems tame now but wasn’t in 1986. And Madonna never stopped.
Let’s roll through a few more controversial Madonna moments: In 1989, she pissed off the Pope, the Vatican and Pepsi all in one swoop. Pepsi paid Madonna millions to promote their soft drink but her “Like a Prayer” video showing a stigmata, burning crosses and a black Jesus figure made the Vatican and other religious groups see red. Oh, Madonna.
She next filmed the hot-hot-hot black-and-white “Justify My Love” video in 1990 and MTV bans it. Whatever. Madonna transformed it into the world’s first video single and sells millions. The next year, she delves deeper into the world of fetish and bondage with the “Erotica” video. MTV banned it. They apparently didn’t like it that Madonna carried a whip. Shame on her!
That same year, she published “The Sex Book.” God love her.
Madonna has simulated masturbation in concert, rubbed the Puerto Rico flag between her legs at a show in the country, said f*ck on television talk shows more times than can be remembered, kissed Britney Spears at the 2003 MTV Video Awards and impersonated Jesus on the cross in concert while singing “Live To Tell.”
Should we now expect Madonna of all people to restrain herself as a visual artist to promote her album? No way. That would be so unMadonna like. She loves attention, and people give it to her. But, ultimately, in the end Madonna doesn’t really give a f*ck what people think. And that’s why I love her.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Echo Ellis: Adventures of a Girl Reporter,” “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt” and “1000 Best Bartender’s Recipes.” She writes frequently for The Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, and numerous other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.
To schedule an interview with Suzi or book her for a speaking engagement, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.