When Madonna’s Confession’s Tour came to New York City last week, I was one of the screaming fans in a jam-packed Madison Square Garden. I’ve wanted to go to Madonna concert since 1994 when my father forbid me to attend her Bedtime Stories tour. Now I feel like it’s time for me to make some confessions.
Papa Does Preach
“My money isn’t going to support a Catholic-hater,” Dad said as he refused to give permission to attend the concert with my friends. I was 17 and thought my parents were Draconian in their rules and regulations.
I was going to pay for it with my allowance money, I argued. No dice: It was still our family money going to support a woman who the Pope had accused of blasphemy just a few years earlier (for simulating masturbation during her Like a Virgin rendition on the Blond Ambition tour.)
I seriously considered disobeying him and sneaking off to secretly attend the concert anyway, but this was too big of a deal: I’d get caught. I didn’t go to that concert in 1994—and I’ve regretted that for the past 12 years.
So when I heard that Madonna was coming to New York again—for a tour based on her new Confessions on a Dance Floor album, which I loved—I decided I’d waited long enough: I’m an adult, I earn my own money, and it’s my choice what to spend it on. I wanted to go to this concert.
The concert set-up was spectacular—Madonna is lowered to a satellite stage in a glittery orb, there are a dozen of back-up dancers and acrobats and a large circular rotating floor on the main stage that just increases the speed and impact of all the moving parts. I was transfixed.
About half way into the concert, we heard the opening bars of “Live to Tell,” one of her classics off her True Blue soundtrack (the first tape I ever owned) and then there’s Madonna being lowered to the stage mock-crucified on a mirrored cross with a crown of thorns on her blonde head. On the side screens, images of impoverished children with AIDS in Africa flash on the screen. A minute or two later, a glowing pale yellow light shines on her to make it look like the halo behind the crucified Christ.
Well, I can see why the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights-and many other Catholic groups-has been screaming in protest against this tour.
Initially, I rationalized it as her political protest against the Catholic Church’s stance against the use of condoms in Africa, even in the face of a widespread AIDS epidemic. Fine. Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves. I was offended, but I was going to let it slide.
Shock and Gall
Then a few songs later, in a remixed version of “Sorry,” photos of dictators and evil leaders of the 20th Century flashed on the screen as she repeatedly sang, “don’t talk, don’t speak.” I was irritated, though not surprised, to see that she’d included President George Bush alongside Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden and Mao. But then came repeated images of Pope Benedict in his first audience as pope.
The crowd didn’t seem to have a problem with this at all: We were watching images of men who had brutally killed millions, and we’re OK with the fact that she lumps the Pope—a man who has devoted his life to God and saving people—in with evil dictators? It was just absurd.
Very few people in that concert hall, if asked one-on-one, would equate the actions of Pope Benedict with the actions of Hitler. Yet in this context, the crowd of more than 20,000 roared its approval.
Madonna has pushed the limits and offended Catholics for 20 years. She’s a performer who is known for her shock value. I knew this going into the concert, yet somehow it still surprised me to see it in person. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t an avid MTV viewer as a teenager, so I haven’t seen most of her videos. Or perhaps it’s because I like Madonna’s music as wallpaper for my life, not something I think too actively about.
Now I understand why my father wouldn’t let me go to that Madonna concert when I was 17. As an adult now, I make my own choices and I think I’m strong enough to see her sexual innuendo and offensive messages as what they are—attention-grabbing stunts—and not a whole lot more. Still, I probably wouldn’t be too excited if my teenager wanted to support performer who professed similar feelings toward our faith.
Every time I buy a concert ticket or a CD I am supporting Madonna—both her stunts and her music. I feel a moral ambivalence about Madonna like I do of so many things that I do in my life: I wear clothes that were probably made in a sweatshop. I’d probably rent the less expensive car without regard to its gas emissions. On a daily basis we pick and choose what battles to fight. But it doesn’t make it right.
I like Madonna’s music, I’d probably buy her next CD and I’m not really sorry I went to the concert. Yet I feel guilty about my part in supporting her deeply anti-Catholic messages. Do I need to go to confession for having attending Madonna’s Confessions tour?
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