“Maya vacillates between wanting to be huge and maintaining her artistic integrity. That’s her dilemma.”
— New York Times, May 25, 2010
Less than two years later, she was on stage with Madonna, bookended by half-minutes parceled into $3.5 million chunks and purchased by beer companies and movie studios and the big gross league whose big gross product was being showcased in the first place.
Then, in a half-second that would’ve cost, say, Hyundai $58,000, MIA shot the finger at a camera. Maybe she got nervous. Maybe she knew exactly what would happen and didn’t care, because she needed something—anything—to serve as a counterbalance for her involvement in a night that goes beyond symbolizing and actually propagates American excess. Maybe she just didn’t know what to do with her hands.
Either way, she annoyed a lot of people—the FCC and station managers and overreactive parents and people like me, who initially take most signs of conflict as evidence of hypocrisy:
MIA is going to wear an Occupy T-shirt while performing at a Goldman Sachs corporate retreat.
And that’s not fair, either; humans often have conflicting views, and artists are humans. They shouldn’t go out of their way to hide themselves from reaching mass audiences, either—”wanting to be huge” is not inherently a hatable thing. So I’m not totally sure what bothers me about any of this.
But there’s a fine line between using a system against itself to accomplish a goal and actually getting sucked into the machine, and it’s tough to rectify the fact that MIA, the brain behind the “Born Free” video, would’ve followed a military flyover—had the roof on a football palace built with $600 million of public funds been open.
And nothing she did, whether walking out in a Tamil Tiger shirt or making herself puke in the middle of the stage, would’ve changed that. Whether it worked—the half-measure she seemed to take to keep her feet in both ends of the cultural pool—remains to be seen.