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Reply to "Swept Away"



Thanks so much for your post – it expresses a lot of what I have been thinking about on this topic this week, as we've all been – like it or not - swept away in Madonna's media blitz. I cannot think of any other entertainer today who'd be able to get, in the space of one week: the cover of People, huge features in the New York Times and USA Today, Today show, Regis & Kelly, Will & Grace, countless hours on MTV and VH1 (even recycled interviews that are years-old), Dateline special next week, not to mention 900 pages in W. She has commodified herself. But as she famously said on the cover of the New York Post in the 80s, when nude photos of her surfaced in Penthouse, "So what?"

In a way, it is sad that people who are much better singers and performers – like Cyndi Lauper and even Cher – could never hope to achieve such mass exposure. Maybe they wouldn't want to... Nevertheless, Madonna does SOMETHING for an awful lot of people.

Yes, she steals others' ideas and pawns them off as her own, yes she fucked over many kind-hearted folks who paved her way to success, yes she used her bellybutton and tits to sell records for years, yes she's now resorted to world politics to create a stir, yes her voice ain't that great, yes she's a megalomaniac, yes she cannot act, yes she's a hypocrite and does seem unaware of how contradictory it is to sing about "American Life" while carrying the new rainbow-hued very-limited-edition Louis Vuitton bag. But so what? I can't believe that a lot of folks, if they knew how to do it, wouldn't also be as exploitive to achieve untold fortune and fame. Doesn't make it right, per se, but...

The people who keep her in business, her fans, aren't stupid. (Though some may argue otherwise: since the Burning Up 12" I bought in 1984, I've snapped up every remix, every magazine cover, every concert program. I'm sure that does sound rather stupid!) But she's a guilty pleasure. There's something about the fantasy of who she is, who she thinks she is, and what she relates through her art that keeps my inner drag queen coming back for more. Her music, no matter how critically panned or acclaimed, is a fun escape for me. Might be off key, and her lyrics are not Shakespeare -- they're not even Sheryl Crow -- but she's entertainment. I really don't believe that with each new album, video, or magazine cover that she thinks she's fooled the masses. The point is, everyone knows that her real shtick is marketing, but that didn't keep me, and thousands like me, from lining up to purchase her new product, several songs from which, I really like.

You're right that her very apparent uneasiness onstage on MTV this week was unsettling to watch. It's the same whether she's in concert or in a theatre or on film. She does not "give it up" the way a lot of performers do, and Cher is a good example. Cyndi Lauper and Siouxsie Sioux, too. They really allow their audiences to connect with them. She does have this perverse need to continue putting herself out there, without ever really putting herself out there.

It's so fascinating how divisive she is, even now, 20 years on.
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