Madonna, the ever-illustrious and legendary Material Girl, is currently on her MDNA tour promoting her twelfth studio album of the same name. Over the weekend, she made a stop at the New Orleans Arena to give fans both a taste of her new material and nostalgists’ favorites including “Like a Virgin” and “Into The Groove.” Though she performed a quite epic two hour set featuring fire and break-dancing clowns — two requisites for giving an amazing show — Madonna was inexplicably booed. Why, you ask? Well, take a look for yourself:
If you couldn’t quite hear what she was saying — and/or you couldn’t believe what your ears were telling you in between the equally loud screams and boos — Madonna precipitously ventured into the dangerous realm of celebrity political activism by asking the crowd if they were registered to vote. Then, in part, she implored them to vote for President Barack Obama:
“I don’t care who you vote for as long as it is Obama.”
But then, sensing her endorsement might have gone awry — and subsequently asking if the crowd was booing her — Madonna immediately backtracks from her statement ten seconds prior and goes on a diatribe about voting and politics:
“I don’t care who you vote for, as long as you take responsibility for the future of your country. As imperfect and fucked up as our country may seem, we are very lucky people because we have a democratic government. We have freedom to choose who we want our leaders to be.”
Thanks for clearing that up, Madonna. But as a celebrity, what place do Madonna and other famous people with similar cult-like followings, have endorsing candidates and urging fans to vote one way or another?
In this particularly contentious 2012 election season, Stacey Dash, the Clueless actress, found out the answer to this question the hard way. Earlier this month, Dash used Twitter to voice her support of Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, in their bid for the White House. The resulting backlash Dash received, which was quite deplorable and unfair, stemmed not only from her identity as a black woman (two constituencies the GOP is having a rather difficult time engaging), but from her celebrity status as well. With the forum to reach millions of people as a public figure, Dash’s conservative political views were scrutinized quite intensely.
And this election cycle is not the first time a celebrity has received backlash for their political views. Remember The Dixie Chicks? Do you recall 9/11, the war in Iraq, and their 2003 comments about then-president George Bush? More importantly, do you remember how emphatically shunned they were after the “incident,” where death threats and radio boycotts ensued?
So again, do celebrities have a place imparting their political wisdom on the public? Furthermore, should celebrities even consider making their political views known, and if so, what is the appropriate venue to do so? Of course celebrities have the right to express their political opinions, whether that forum is the concert stage, Twitter, or an ominously placed chair. (Hey, Clint.) But doing so only opens them up to a level of criticism that you and I will probably never face. The only difference between celebrities and their fans is that, well, celebrities are celebrities, and they have access to millions more people than we do. Their only requirement is to use that power responsibly, whether we agree with them or not.