VULTURE DROPPINGS OF THE WEEK: Madonna
Its Friday! Which means it’s time once again for the weekly round-up of my favorite pop culture atrocities, misfires and entertaining train wrecks. This week’s theme: Madonna.
The reigning pop diva, who is careening recklessly past the age of 50 while still singing about her “candy shop” may seem like too easy of a target, but…oh, what the hell. Here goes.
1. ‘WHO’S THAT GIRL’ (1987)
Who’s That Girl is one of Madonna’s first (of many) unsuccessful attempts to become a legitimate actress. Despite the fact that it’s a hilariously dated, incomprehensible mess of a movie, and that her awful performance was nominated for a Razzie, it does appear that Madonna is having a blast during the filming, as seen in the behind-the-scenes featurette below. That’s usually the first sign of trouble. The second sign is director James Foley‘s mullet, also on display in the featurette.
In the Washington Post, Hal Hinson wrote:
“Coming out of the new Madonna film, Who’s That Girl, you may not feel as if you’ve seen a movie. You may not quite know what you’ve seen. It looks like a movie (sort of). I mean, it’s projected on a screen and all that; there are actors acting (boy are there actors acting), cars are wrecked (sounds like a movie), and a camera seems to have been used. In other words, there’s every indication that this, in fact, is a movie. But, but, but . . . for the purposes of review, let’s not call Who’s That Girl a movie; let’s call it an experimental work.
What kind of experiment is it? The kind conducted in that obscure branch of science where they try to mate monkeys with shellfish… It’s deeply, strangely bad, but in a way that’s fascinating. It’s got a weird spirit.”
Upon its theatrical release, its “fascinating” quality wasn’t enough to entice Madonna fans into the theater. To put it lightly, Who’s That Girl tanked. It has since become somewhat of a cult classic and, at the time, the movie’s title single reached the top of the Billboard charts. In other words, this bomb is actually one of the highlights of Madonna’s cinematic career, one that includes such turkeys as Shanghai Surprise and Swept Away.
2. MADONNA ON LETTERMAN: THE F-BOMB EDITION
In Madonna’s notorious 1994 appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, she managed to drop the F-bomb more than 13 times. It was at a period in her life when she must have been having identity issues. In 1992, her coffee table book Sex hit the shelves as a companion piece to her album Erotica. The following year she appeared in the two critically lambasted erotic thrillers, Body of Evidence and Dangerous Game.
When 1994 rolled around, Madonna must have grown tired of her sexually explicit persona while still unsure of how to re-invent herself next. Thus, we have her conversation with David Letterman, at a vulnerable period in her life.
Her brother, Christopher Ciccone, wrote about the incident in his tell-all book, Life with My Sister Madonna:
She was so terrified and couldn’t think of anything else to say. Yet when I broached the subject, she refused to admit to TV fright and just said, ‘Because I felt like it,’ defiant as a four-year-old caught with her hand in a cookie jar. That’s her way: downplay any insecurities, cover them up. Take the offensive.”
Madonna received much criticism for her behavior that day and it must have shook her to the core, as, for her next persona, she became Evita.
3. ‘AMERICAN LIFE’ (2003)
Madonna produced a memorable video for the title track of her 2002 flop, American Life. I use the word memorable because its hard to forget any song that has Madonna rapping the following lyrics:
I drive my mini-cooper and I’m feeling super duper. They tell me I’m a trooper and you know I’m satisfied. I do Yoga and Pilates and the room is full of hotties and I’m checking out the bodies and you know I’m satisfied. I’d like to to express my extreme point of view. I’m not a Christian and I’m not a Jew. I’m just living out my American dream and just realized that its not… what it seems.”
I wonder who the genius is that thought up the idea to rhyme “soy latte” with “double shot (tay)”? It’s probably the same producer who advised Gwen Stefani to yodel.
The “American Life” single is a fascinating cookie. It’s Madonna’s post 9/11 attempt to be socially relevant. It’s also Madonna’s failure to be socially relevant. Instead of coming across as self-satirizing and controversial, the subject matter is laugh-out-loud ridiculous.
The video makes the song seem even sillier and, with touches like the cigar-disguised hand grenade that’s thrown to the W. look-a-like at the end, it remains a colorful oddity from the early Bush era; a time when even pop superstars like Madonna tried to be like Bob Dylan. Ah, nostalgia!