Wow. I bow down before the queen of media spin self-promotion. She may not
be able to act her way out of a speeding ticket. However, there's no
denying which bitch is on top when it comes to packaging controversy for her
own benefit. Just when you thought she was too old and weak for the game,
out comes the Material Girl, rapping about her latte and pilates boy-scoping
diva life. She won't snap America out of its war stupor and into
sensibility. She'll make plenty of money pretending to, though.
Listening to Madonna talk about her selfless devotion to hackneyed
dominatrix images as viable, effective art is like listening to Gene Simmons
talk about life as Hell's chief minion. Madonna's been shocking before, to
legions of suburbanites for whom "Playboy" is considered hardcore
pornography. She brings them sexual fantasy, up close and personal.
Nowhere in any of her music has Madonna once alluded to a universe beyond
her own. Even the birth of her children, a normally humbling and enriching
experience for any other human being, hasn't provided her with ego deflation
and human connection.
Some would say Madonna's been in a slide. Her last film was a monumental
turd. The one before that was only slightly less odious. Had it not been
for Moby, "Ray of Light" would have fallen off the Earth without a whimper.
Indeed, Madonna's only real hit of the last decade was "Sex," a book within
which was packaged a song. This dismal track record and litany of horrid
reviews had to torpedo her self-image. She wasn't the Queen of All Media
anymore. Rather, she was the ice bitch no one could afford to piss off
because all she needed to do was tap her legion of gay fans and all
entertainment work, along with half the U.S. armed forces, would call a
Before biological motherhood, Madonna experimented with the next best thing.
Convinced she knew how to make money at the music business, she formed her
Maverick label. Her A&R people wooed Rancid but failed to land them. Next
came The Prodigy, who made a smash landing with "Fat of the Land," then
promptly took an indefinite vacation. Alanis Morrisette became the next
experiment. Riding a crest of Girl Rock that included Fiona Apple and the
entire Lilith Faire lineup, Alanis also vanished into the ether after one
album and lots of MTV heavy rotation. Too bad the diva didn't raise these
kids better. They might still have an impact on the system overall, giving
her some credibility in the "world rectification" department.
I feel for Guy Ritchie. His films are great macho odes to system-dodging
anti-heroes. You can feel Ritchie's surging masculinity and deft cinematic
sensibilities in every frame. Madonna saw that too. Convinced he could
make her a star, she "bottomed from the top" by having dear hubby direct her
in "Swept Away." Apparently she forgot the horrid monstrosity known as
"Shanghai Surprise," which is now synonymous with "Montezuma's Revenge."
Unfortunately, so did Guy. Whatever integrity he formerly possessed
evaporated into temporary insanity brought on by a demanding, needy wife
insecure with the world and/or her place in it. In that regard, I can cut
Guy some slack. I only wish that sometime during or immediately after the
madness, some of his integrity had wiped off on Madonna.
But no. Quite possibly the one thing that will elude Madonna for the rest
of her days is integrity. She's smart enough to know that her kids will
begin reading one day. Mommy's history is all recorded and digested in
biographical books and magazines of various degrees. Similarly, a
smorgasbord of MTV interviews, public appearances, and other assorted film
and video material exists to sate the brood's inherent curiosity about mom.
Odds dictate that Madonna's offspring will be whip smart and able to detect
bullshit at fifty meters without even inhaling. If she continues waiting
for catastrophes to end before she acts to intervene, her pretense will be
on record for anyone who cares to take it in. Her eyes give it away:
there's no righteous rage burning an uncontainable intensity. Instead, we get the
cold, calculated demeanor of a corporate marketing maven touting the
company's newest and best product ever.
Even when "American Life" does something provocative in non-sexual ways,
Madonna's public comments effectively minimize the video's potential
influence. Take, for instance, the hand grenade she tosses at "Bush," which
he picks up and uses to light his cigar. Bravo to whoever thought this up,
even if it was Madonna herself. The montage could suggest many things, all
of them twisted and warped and absolutely necessary to unmask the heinous
charade that passes for our Democratic government. Yet Madonna's
explanation of the clip heretofore was that she "wanted to make something
good out of something bad." And -poof- an anti-personnel explosive becomes
a handy cigar lighter! Thank God Madonna was there so Bush didn't have to
ask anyone for matches!
After watching "Madonna Speaks" on VH1 last night, there can't be any
serious contention that she is anything but what she's been for nearly two
decades: a self-important manipulation master who defines success in simple
monetary terms. She's again worked the action she knows so best and come
out looking like---well, the same old Madonna. I have to admire her for
getting out her tired "shock and awe" show and hitting the airwaves once
more. Her superficial reinventions are a kind of contemporary constant in
our culture. One which would not be so missed if she pulled a John Lennon
and stepped off her own merry-go-round for a little while.