Why all the fuss about one superstar adopting one almost-orphan?
You’d think Madonna had knocked over a liquor store, for all the hate being thrown her way for adopting David Banda from a Malawi orphanage. But all the pop star really did was travel to the African country on a charity mission to spread cash around for the suffering nation, pledge some more help (most likely of the Kabbalah sort) and then decide to take home a baby. Well, one of her assistants took the kid home, but still, she authorized the purchase. Most tourists just buy t-shirts. Celebrities, however, have more flesh-and-blood needs.
And while it all seemed cool at first, these things always get weird when super-rich people connected to fringe spiritual movements are involved. Accusations of culty proselytizing, press-whoring and kidnapping began to fly. The Malawi government broke its own adoption rules but they say there’s been no wrongdoing; the infant’s father, Yohane Banda, who’d given up his son to the group home, then claimed he was manipulated into signing adoption papers. And Madonna didn’t exactly go about this in anything resembling a quiet manner. That’s because she’s The Disco Mussolini and needs to conquer things to feel alive.
He will get to live: This isn’t always a given in countries where poverty isn’t just for some, but for everyone. He will not die of a horrible yet preventable childhood illness. He will not be malnourished. He will have a pediatrician on call 24/7. That pediatrician will most likely live in an annex to the mansion, stethoscope always neck-ready to remind the rest of the staff of his or her function.
He just won the lottery: Yes, being raised swimming in extreme privilege — the best schools, nannies, clothes and vacations, not to mention a slew of interestingly-cracked celebrity friends of the family — can be just as damaging as being raised without it. But guess what? Your therapy bills are taken care of when you’re rich. You don’t starve while you’re trying to sort out your unhappiness. You get to wear Burberry and your blankets are cashmere. You have a driver. These sorts of things really make a difference.
He’ll have a cool British accent: Between his new father’s real one and his new mother’s eagerly-assimilated one, he’s going to sound like Hugh Grant soon enough. And everyone likes Hugh Grant.
He won’t figure out Mommy’s secret identity for a while: In England she’s Madge. Sometimes she’s Esther. She’s publicly referred to herself as Mrs. Ritchie. So that confusion will keep him in the dark for some time. And it’s been reported that she doesn’t let her kids watch TV. So when the moment arrives that the kid figures out Who She Is and What It All Means, she’ll be as old as Bea Arthur and as musically relevant as Tony Bennett. Baby’s first Page Six quote will be, “Yeah I hear my mum was a famous singer once. Like when those Spice Girls ladies were young.”
He’ll still have a bio-dad he can run away to if he feels like it: This entire situation contains echoes of one of Mrs. Ritchie’s worst movies, "The Next Best Thing." That was the one where she had a baby with this guy and then got all crazy and mean and wanted to take the kid away from him. I’ve tried to put most of it out of my memory but I remember it ending somewhat happily ever after. Well, not for director John Schlesinger, but for the characters. If this kid’s father makes enough of a stink, he’ll get some kind of visitation. And an income. And a new house. And a hot tub. And a Prius.
He will grow up to be a big help to his home country: Did you even know where Malawi was last week? Probably not. And now one of their citizens is the son of the world’s most famous woman. All Mom’s got to do is be Not Joan Crawford for most of his formative years and she will have raised a kid with some progressive ideas about global peace and justice, one that people will listen to because his mother used to make a career out of happily simulating masturbation on stage to “Like A Virgin.” He could also turn out to be a heroin addict, but I like to look on the sunny side.
He wasn’t adopted by Tom Cruise: Let’s say you really do choose your parents, like the hippie spiritualists say. Well then this kid is already wise beyond his years. He could have set his “love-me-and-take-me-home” radar setting to creepy born-again Christian Stephen Baldwin or any number of Scientologists. If you have to select a legal guardian who’s part of an unusual (and possibly cult-like) religious practice, you can do worse than one that’s down with Kabbalah. Save for Sandra Bernhard, they’re all annoying, but the red string brigade seem the most culturally peaceful and benign. For now.
He is not the unlucky fetus of Kate Moss and Pete Doherty: In fact, Madonna, if you’re reading this, can you go put in dibs on that child too? It may need you very soon.
Dave White is the author of “Exile in Guyville”. Find him at www.imdavewhite.com.