Madonna’s marketing circus takes after P.T. Barnum’s old adage, “No publicity is bad publicity.” This time, the Queen of Marketing firmly implanted the name of her new album “Rebel Heart” into the Internet’s collective psyche. How? By posting an attention-getting photo of what appears to be a Jewish man about to canoodle with a Muslim man. The Material Girl posted the photo by Ziv Sade on May 18 with a heart emoji and the hashtag #rebelhearts.
After two days, the photo had 80,000 “likes,” close to 5,000 comments and a million-plus views. It also received thousands of comments on Twitter and hundreds of thousands on Facebook.
There were, of course, controversial comments up the wazoo. But, many are surprisingly supportive, thank goodness.
Alex Ma’Re wrote on Madonna’s Facebook timeline, “Oh, my god! This is so cute! Love knows neither religion, nor social status, nor gender! This is what Madonna means by a Revolution of Love, I guess: letting us all know we are all under the influence of love.”
Others, not so much.
Meriieem Jadi Rahal wrote, “We Muslims dislike this picture please Madonna take care of your business and leave Palestinians alone you’re not a politician an [sic] what you do on stage won’t make Arabs forget about what Zionist made to Gaza and all Palestinians during all these year, min [sic] your music and leave them alone your message is pointless on my point of view + this is so gay like what are you trying to prove here ? Astaghfiro Allah”
As it turns out, the photo is of two Jewish men who live in Israel, and it was taken during the Gaza war last summer. They’re Tel Aviv party promoters, Imri Kalmann, 28, and Dekel Aiden, 24, who organize a weekly gay club party called “Dreck,” a self-described “successful dance party every Wednesday night specializing in electronic beats and offering a different party concept each week such as fashion show, hip-hop party, music concert, etc.”
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, fashion and portrait photographer Sade said, “Originally this photo was taken for an [ad] for a gay party line called ‘Drek’ [sic] in my studio in Tel Aviv last summer during the last war, during the bombing on Israel. We were deeply frustrated and fearful with the situation and we wanted to shine some light on both sides of darkness. It was our way to scream for freedom and peace.”
Provoking the public with images and comments is nothing new for Madonna, though. Geez, remember when her “Like a Prayer” video was actually kinda shocking? If you’re too young to remember, watch it. It’s still beautiful. I will forever be impressed by Madge’s talent.
While reading about this Instagram post and the web’s reactions to it, I stumbled upon a couple of Madonna scandals in January.
One was about the photo Madonna posted of her 13-year-old son Rocco Ritchie — who is white, by the way — boxing. The caption read, “No one messes with Dirty Soap! Mama said knock you out! #disnigga.” After receiving a flood of outrage, she re-posted the image with a new caption, “Ok let me start this again. #get off my dick haters!” (It looks like a comma is missing there, after the word ‘dick,’ and getting your commas right is very, very important).
Soon after posting that caption, she deleted the whole post and replaced it with this mea culpa:
“I am sorry if I offended anyone with my use of the N word on Instagram. It was not meant as a racial slur. I am not a racist. There’s no way to defend the use of the word. It was all about intention. It was used as a term of endearment toward my son who is white. I appreciate that it’s a provocative word and I apologize if it gave people the wrong impression. Forgive me.”
The other incident that garnered some hoopla was when Madonna Photoshopped her “Rebel Heart” cover art onto the faces of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. There was some confusion and misunderstanding — possibly by-accident-on-purpose by our marketing maven. People seemed to think she was comparing herself to these two iconic leaders. She posted this apology on Facebook:
“I’m sorry I’m not comparing my self to anyone. I’m admiring and acknowledging [their] Rebel Hearts. This is neither a crime or an insult or racist! Also did it with Michael jackson and frida khalo and marilyn monroe. Am I saying I am them NO. I’m saying they are Rebel Hearts too.”
I wonder how many rebel hearts Madonna’s recruited with her latest shenanigans? Many more I hope.
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.