MIA: Revolutionary Genius or Hypocritical Hipster?

I came across this article about MIA on Racialicious today.  Is anyone else confused about MIA’s politics/persona?

Here are some excerpts from different commenters that sort of put things in perpective:

MIA’s father is the famous Tamil Tiger freedom fighter known by the nom-de-guerre Arular. Unlike most Western ‘progressives’ who care more about feel-good image than directly combatting global deprivation and mass oppression, the Tamil Tigers aren’t playing around. They lay their lives on the line to fight for what they believe in. Yes, they innovated the suicide-bomber vest and MIA makes no bones about it (‘Galang’, ‘Sunshowers’); that’s how they killed Indira Gandhi. Those who find this too upsetting or disturbing to get past, and who aren’t willing to dig any deeper, should probably just stay away from her music and denounce her politics and stay on the safe side of this whole discussion…

I find M.I.A.’s politics confusing. She comes out in support of the PLO (and winds up having to pay for it when the US government wouldn’t let her into the country) and tries to draw attention to Liberia. She openly and audaciously disses the racism/sexism of indie rock reporting…But at the same time she sells her songs for car commercials, tours with Gwen Stefani and the Harajuku 4, and claims to be THE voice of the civilian refugee (see the Sepia Mutiny post) – a claim which effectively silences any other artist who wants to talk about being a refugee.

I think she’s a really complicated and contradictory figure. In a sense by being so slippery she refuses to be poster person for any cause. But is that an intentional move on her part? Who knows! Is she a revolutionary hero, or genius at media manipulation and self-promotion, or is she simply an inconsistent hipster rockstar and (it pains me to say) a hypocrite? Who knows!

Also, have you seen her Marc Jacobs ads?

I guess I’m confused too.  Maybe I don’t know enough about Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers (I didn’t even know about their links to the Panthers until just now!), but it all kind of makes me want to learn more (genius?).  But, honestly, touring with Gwen Stefani?  I really don’t get that.

In a weird way, this kind of reminds me of the time I became a bit disenchanted about Le Tigre.  I still like them & Kathleen Hanna, but, like, they’re only human.  I kind of knew once they switched over to a big label and This Island got so, so popular, it was like too good to be true.

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