When Madonna kissed Drake

After Madonna kissed Drake at Coachella a couple weeks ago, there were numerous articles, news stories, and memes circulating about it.  Many were making fun of it because of Drake’s reaction and Madonna’s age.  There were different groups of people with different takes on the event.  Some found it hilarious, some made fun of Madonna for being old, some thought “Who cares?” and some claimed that it was sexual assault.  I would like to think that I fall into the category of “Who cares?” but the fact that I’m writing about it would prove otherwise.

The first thing I noticed about people’s reactions was that so many people were commenting on Madonna’s age.  Even before the kiss, people had been commenting on her age.  When she announced her Rebel Heart tour, I saw posts and comments from people saying that she should retire and that she’s too old to be performing.  One could argue that her performance at Coachella and the fact that she had Drake be a part of that performance was part of her attempt to stay relevant and maintain shock value to an audience who questions her ability to do so.  In response to the kiss, people said things like “50 shades of granny” and called her geriatric and an old lady.  I didn’t think it made sense for people to refer to her as a senior citizen, when she is only 56.  People have pointed out to me that 55 is sometimes regarded as the age where one becomes a senior, but for me I’ve always though that began at 65.  Either way, I would never refer to someone in their 50’s as a senior citizen, and doing so would never really be regarded as a compliment.

I actually kind of want to see Madonna in concert, because I never have, and to me she is an icon, one of those people you just have to see in your lifetime.  I don’t care that she’s “old”.  My favourite concerts that I’ve been to were to see performers who you might consider “old”.  Earlier this year, I saw Bryan Adams, who is 55.  It was an amazing concert.  No one thought he was too old, in fact, he was better than ever.  I also saw Fleetwood Mac, whose members are mostly in their 60’s and it was awesome.  Last year I saw Cher, who is 68, Elton John, who is also 68, and Paul Simon & Sting, who are 73 and 61.  All these concerts were great and I’m glad these artists are still performing.  Next week, I am going to see Neil Diamond, who is 74.  Unfortunately, I don’t currently have a ticket for Madonna’s concert.  I was hoping she would announce a second show in Vancouver like she did in Edmonton, but that didn’t end up happening.

It seems like with older male artists, there isn’t that stigma of age and expected retirement.  No one says they should stop making music just because they’re older now.  I admit, that 80’s Madonna will always be my favourite Madonna and I’m not a huge fan of her current songs.  But that doesn’t mean that she should stop making music just because her best hits might be behind her.  I don’t really like any of today’s music by artists in general, young or old, as you can probably tell by the concerts I’ve attended in the last little while.

People have different viewpoints regarding the aspect of ageism and sexism when it comes to Madonna’s performance at Coachella.  Often times when a situation occurs, we tend to speculate about how things would be different if the genders of the individuals involved were reversed?  Like how I think that a male performer over 50 would not be ridiculed as much as a female.  Some people who claim Madonna kissing Drake was sexual assault, say that it has nothing to do with age or gender, and is fully about consent. I’ve heard arguments about how if an older man were to kiss a younger female in that manner, people wouldn’t be laughing at the situation, and instead would be outraged.  I’ve heard references to John Travolta’s behaviour at the Oscars, where many, including myself, believe that he came across as creepy when interacting with Idina Menzel and Scarlett Johanssen.  I would argue that that wasn’t about his age or his gender, and that his behaviour did just genuinely seem odd.  Even if he touched the face of an older woman, it would have seemed creepy.  And it wasn’t part of a performance.

I think back to the VMA’s a couple years ago with Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s performance.  I feel like while they were both judged for it, Miley was criticized more so for her behaviour, in this instance where it was a performance with a young woman and and older man.  Although, I realize that Miley was performing and twerking, whereas Drake was just sitting in a chair.  When I think about the issue of consent in relation to Madonna kissing Drake, I am reminded of the 2003 Oscars, when Adrien Brody kissed Halle Berry.  I remember it being a key moment in the awards show, but I don’t remember there being any outcry about consent.  I think that Halle Berry expected a kiss from Adrien Brody even less than Drake expected a kiss from Madonna. There is also the iconic photo of a sailor who grabs a nurse and kisses her on V-J Day in Times Square.  I recently found out that the nurse didn’t actually know the man, but the sailor, along with everyone else, was just so swept up in the moment.  The iconic moment is even replicated on a t-shirt at Old Navy.

I agree that consent is absolutely important.  If someone is sitting in a chair, minding their own business, you obviously shouldn’t just go over and start making out with them.  But in Drake’s case, he wasn’t merely sitting in a chair.  I mean, he was, but on a stage, and for the sake of performance.  There is a difference between everyday life and performance.  On the improv show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” the performers have kissed each other a few times in various scenarios for the sake of humour. Maybe improv isn’t the best example, because with improv anything goes and you leave yourself open to whatever happens since nothing is scripted.  But with performance in general, depending on the type, sometimes not everything is going to be scripted.  And especially in performances that include a sexual component, whether it be stripping, or dancing, or what have you, the people involved are generally more open to things.

Two years ago, I was at a New Kids on the Block concert.  I remember I did joke about how they should call themselves Old Guys on the Block instead, so I admit maybe it’s not just female performers who get critiqued for their age.  Although I find boy bands specifically are criticized more so than other male music artists, which is another issue entirely.  Nevertheless, I went to their concert, and am going again next week.  The guys are all in their 40’s.  At Rogers Arena, there are screens, so even if you’re not right in front of the stage or in whichever area they happen to be performing, you can still see close ups of what’s going on.  At one point, in the middle of a song, all of a sudden you see on screen, Donnie Wahlberg, making out with a random woman in the audience.  At no point did he ask if she wanted him to kiss her and at no point did she say “Yes, Donnie, I want you to kiss me.”  It just happened.  He didn’t even ask her to come on stage first or anything.  All of sudden, they were making out.

Have you ever been to a strip show?  I say strip show as opposed to strip club, as there is no male strip club in Vancouver.  If that’s not sexist, than I don’t know what is.  But there are groups of male strippers that perform shows, mostly at casinos.  If you haven’t been to a male strip show, maybe you’ve seen Magic Mike?  I have seen Thunder From Down under twice, once at the Excalibur in Vegas, and once at the River Rock in Richmond.  I’ve seen Chippendales once at Hard Rock in Coquitlam.  What does this have to do with anything?  Well, during these shows, there are moments when the guys will bring a woman on stage.  And maybe have her sit in a chair.  And then one of them will give her a lap dance, touch her, have her touch him, and yes, sometimes kiss her.  At no point does the male stripper ask her if he can kiss her, because it’s all a part of the performance.  You could say that she consented to go on stage, so she knew what was going to happen.  Similarly, Drake consented to going on stage.  I’m sure he was aware that he wasn’t going to merely sit there the entire time while, Madonna ignored his presence.  No, he was going to be a part of the performance.

This also made me think about Janet Jackson.  I have a friend who is completely obsessed with her, and therefore I’ve been subjected to watching videos of some of her past concerts.  And there is some pretty raunchy stuff.  If you think anything Madonna has done is overly sexual, watch some Janet’s videos.  There are times during her shows when she will bring a man from the audience up on stage.  She doesn’t have him sit in a chair.  She has him tied and strapped down, so he is lying down and she basically dry humps him and does whatever else she wants.  It’s way more intense than Madonna kissing Drake.  And it’s all a part of her performance.  (Side note, I still can’t believe that Janet Jackson is now Muslim.)  Like the guys who volunteered to go on stage with Janet, Drake agreed to go on stage with Madonna.

For those who say her age has nothing to do with the problem, I’d say that if Rihanna or some other young female performer had kissed Drake, there would have been no issue.  If Drake had still given the same grossed out reaction following the kiss, people would maybe question if she’s a bad kisser, but they certainly wouldn’t say that she had violated him in any way.  I wonder if his reaction had been positive instead of negative, would as many people still think of it as sexual assault?  I guess it’s impossible to know what he really thinks, but his response is that it was her lipstick, not the kiss itself that left a bad taste in his mouth.  Why shouldn’t we believe that?  Hell, sometimes my own lipstick gives me a bad taste in my mouth, so I totally get that.

I do understand and acknowledge that consent is extremely important.  And especially so in cases where there may be a sort of power imbalance, in terms status, or what have you.  I recognize, that just because Madonna is Madonna, that doesn’t give her free range to make out with whoever she pleases.  But it’s not as if she’s going around doing that on her own time.  She’s doing that as part of a performance.  Whether it’s Britney, or Christina, or Miley, or Drake, it’s all performance for the public.  But the fact that this has sparked so much conversation about the issue of consent is a good thing.

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