Madonna -not- on the hook for 333,000,000 rubles

There’s been a suit running against Madonna in connection with her concert in St. Petersburg earlier this year. She was charged with violating a recently-passed law against propagating homosexuality. The case was just heard and found in her favor. (Here in English.) This more or less accords with what I’ve been hearing anecdotally about the law: it’s on the books, but cases so far have been few and largely unsuccessful.

But as I read the linked article, what I found striking is the claims made by the plaintiffs (in agreement with the law and its justification) that Madonna was threatening the traditional family by promoting immorality. In a certain way, isn’t this…precisely true? Madonna first became famous (slash infamous) as a symbol of modern female sexuality. Her image, even her stage name, are directly opposed to the demure maternal femininity of “traditional values.” To the extent that Madonna is celebrated by feminists (and certainly there are plenty of feminist critiques of her, as well), it is because she expressed a certain freedom and unabashed sexuality. Which is to say, celebrated because she transgressed “traditional” morality.

The RFE/RL post I linked above makes fun of the case, as we often like to do with court cases in Russia. And it would be exceedingly hard to make such a case–plenty of dissertations are written about suggestive evidence that pop culture influences values, but it’s extremely hard to prove one way or the other, particularly to the standard required by a court of law. Still, I wanted to suggest that it’s not absurd to take seriously the influence of a pop figure like Madonna, and that bringing a case against her is, in a way, taking her quite seriously.


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