Man, I love me some Madonna, but her endorsement of President Obama in Washington, DC is half an illustration of why celebrities can make powerful spokesmen and half an illustration of why they are at risk of going terrifyingly off-message:
There’s the narrative she gives of of American evolution on race, which, if presented with some poetic license, fit nicely together with the on-message idea that “we are still a work in progress.” There’s her reminder of Obama’s personal evolution on gay rights, a well-tailored shout-out to the target audience they care.
And then, there’s the cheery reminder that it’s awesome that Obama is black…and Muslim. Which she means in a completely enthusiastic, affirming way. And to a certain extent, I’m with FX late-night host W. Kamau Bell: if the United States was in a place where we could elect a Muslim person president, no matter their race, it would be a sign of our improved national mental health. But Madonna’s apparently in enough of a bubble to not be aware that President Obama is not Muslim, and the accusation that he is secretly Muslim has been one of the most pernicious lies told about him in an attempt to emphasize his foreignness. It’s a striking reminder of how isolated the most famous people in the world are from the news cycle and from the rest of us, and of how their celebrity can ricochet off in directions they don’t intend, like light off a mirror that can blind and confound as easily as it can illuminate.
Madonna now says she was just kidding! Which if so, she might want to work on her comic delivery. And it still doesn’t take into account that she seems kind of unaware that it’s the sort of joke that counts as pretty unhelpful.