Toward the end of the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna took the stage with not one, but two tasks on her agenda: Pay tribute to the late, great Aretha Franklin and announce the recipient of the prestigious Video of the Year award. If you ask the internet, she did only one of those things — so congratulations to Camila Cabello on her award!
Before handing over the Moon Person to Cabello, though, Madonna dedicated five minutes to eulogizing Aretha — theoretically. In reality, the only person to whom Madonna paid tribute during her speech was Madonna. She spent the entire few minutes telling the story of how she went from living in a “crackhouse” to performing at the first-ever VMAs in 1984. Though she sprinkled in two or three references to her favorite Aretha Franklin songs, she neglected to explain the Queen of Soul’s impact or influence on her life, let alone on the world, choosing instead to describe her own triumphant rags-to-riches tale. Inspiring, sure, but not the point.
The Twitterverse was seemingly in agreement about the sheer inappropriateness of Madonna’s lengthy, self-centered speech. Not only was the whole thing confusing and hard to follow, as Twitter users pointed out, but the whole idea of a white woman making herself the subject of a speech ostensibly meant to honor a black woman was also disturbingly indicative of the widespread and dangerous trend of gentrification. “I hope the vmas plan to issue a public apology for allowing Madonna to disrespect Aretha Franklin’s legacy like that,” one person wrote, which about sums it up.
— K (@lilmonster_92) August 21, 2018
“You’re probably all wondering why I am telling this story.” Yes, Madonna. #VMAs
— Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) August 21, 2018
Madonna is giving a very moving tribute to herself
— Julie Fishbach (@heyfishbach) August 21, 2018
Madonna doing an Aretha Franklin Tribute or doing a tribute for herself
— Robert Littal (@BSO) August 21, 2018
Congrats to the producers for repeatedly cutting back to the giant photo of Aretha in order to remind us why we’re here.
— bobby finger (@bobbyfinger) August 21, 2018
Madonna presents an Aretha Franklin tribute by Madonna featuring Madonna with Madonna and Madonna as “Madonna”
— Marc (@MarcSnetiker) August 21, 2018
— 6’7-Eleven Inches (@LeBandzJames1) August 21, 2018
What a touching tribute to Aretha Franklin where Madonna talked about her goddam self for like 30 mins
— KFC (@KFCBarstool) August 21, 2018
"If it wasn't for Aretha, we wouldn't have Madonna"- Madonna
— Roy Wood Jr- Ex Jedi (@roywoodjr) August 21, 2018
I hope the vmas plan to issue a public apology for allowing Madonna to disrespect Aretha Franklin's legacy like that #VMAs
— Kia Kia (@kiiajai) August 21, 2018
MTV: We'd like you to give a tribute to Aretha Franklin
Madonna: Great, so this is how I got my career started…
MTV: No, no, a tribute to Aretha
Madonna: So I said "bitch, I'm Madonna"
MTV: This isn't about you madge
Madonna: Look at my African jewelry #VMAs
— lgreene91 (@lgreene91) August 21, 2018
— sassy peppa pig (@leviackerdamnn) August 21, 2018
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