Accused of contaminating youngsters with “satanic” dance moves and “intolerable” outfits, the cult of Lady Gaga is on a collision course with Asia’s moral guardians ahead of her mammoth world tour.
In other words, the performer – who goes by the name of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta when not clad in outfits made of raw meat or tottering on vertigo-inducing footwear – is doing her job as a provocative pop star.
The multi million-selling artist arrived in South Korea last week ahead of the first date of her “Born This Way Ball” at Seoul’s 70,000 seat Olympic Stadium Friday, the start of a touring juggernaut encompassing 110 dates.
“I will perform the tour of your life,” the performer tweeted to her 23 million Twitter followers.
The tour, featuring elaborate sets designed by in-house team Haus of Gaga, follows up on the success of her album “Born This Way”, which has sold nearly six million copies worldwide since it was released in May 2011.
But amid the hype and clamour for tickets is a drum beat of protest from those who do not take the gender-bending antics of the frequently scantily-clad US performer lightly.
Gaga will in June head to Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim nation, where Islamic leaders have said her risque outfits will not be tolerated.
“I call on Lady Gaga to respect our cultural and traditional values. Most people here are Muslims and we cannot tolerate her revealing outfits and sexy performances,” the Indonesia Ulema Council leader Amidhan told AFP.
He added, however, that the country’s highest Islamic body has no plan to issue a fatwa against her performing.
“It’s better for Lady Gaga to cancel her show in this country if she has no willingness to respect our demand. Please do not destroy our nation’s morality and ruin our dignity,” said Amidhan, who goes by one name.
Big Daddy, the promoters for the concert in Jakarta, said tickets began selling in early March and were sold out within two weeks.
“We have informed Lady Gaga’s management (about these concerns), and they said that they will respect the country where she will perform”, said Hanny Marpaung, corporate secretary for Big Daddy.
But he added “we still don’t have any clue” about what she will wear.
Four of the Giorgio Armani outfits Lady Gaga will wear for her Seoul concert were unveiled Monday, including a leotard fashioned from guitars and black body suit made of hundreds of glittering vinyl tubes sewn together with metal studs.
Conservative Christian groups in South Korea have rallied against the self-styled “Mother Monster”, accusing her of promoting pornography and homosexuality on malleable young minds.
South Korea has East Asia’s largest Christian community after the Philippines, with about 8.6 million Protestants and 5.1 million Catholics. About 10 million South Koreans are Buddhists.
Scores of Protestant church members held a group prayer on Sunday against the concert, calling her dance moves “satanic” performances that “contaminate souls” of the country’s youth.
South Koreans aged under 18 have been banned from the show, Lady Gaga’s second concert in the country, after the government rated it unsuitable for younger audiences.
Internet portals and social network sites have been abuzz with intense debates, with most commentators accusing the religious groups of bigotry.
“What an international embarrassment they are! Do they really believe they can violate other people’s right to enjoy her show?” said one anonymous user.
In the Philippines, a youth organisation urged people to stay away from Gaga’s May 21 concert, saying it poses a threat to moral values in Asia’s largest Catholic nation.
Organisers said fans have swiftly snapped up most tickets for the show, including the highest-priced 15,850-peso ($372) options.
But Laurence Pintero, head of the Manila-based Youth for Christ, criticised the government for allowing the concert to take place.
“If the government thinks she is a threat, first and foremost they should stop it,” he said. “I think we should be bold. We discourage (people from) attending her concert.”
Elsewhere in the region, Gaga has been embraced.
In Japan, whose Manga art and cosplay – a phenomenon in which participants wear costumes representing a character or trend – are clearly some of her biggest influences, she is affectionately known as “Lady Gaga-san”.
Gaga won more friends after declaring “Japan is safe” when she visited three months after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left 19,000 dead and sparked the Fukushima nuclear crisis that helped decimate tourism.
And in Australia she was crowned “Honorary Citizen of Sydney” for using her star power against “prejudice directed at gay men and women”.
Then there’s the tiny Pacific atoll of Niue, about 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) northeast of New Zealand, which pledged that all of its 1,600 inhabitants would attend a Lady Gaga concert in a bid to lure her to its shores.
Tickets for Lady Gaga’s shows in Singapore and Hong Kong sold out within hours, with three extra dates shows added at the Chinese territory’s Asia World-Expo venue as buyers queued for days for tickets.