I am still pondering the ‘Me Too’ movement and the feminist activism by show business personalities like Jennifer Lawrence who is taking a year off acting to ‘empower’ women and Emma Watson who has donated $1 million to further the cause of no tolerance for sexual abuse. It strikes me that all the women in the public eye coming forward are indeed ‘me too late’ rather than lifelong feminists who have fought the good fight with their every artistic decision.
Barbra Streisand is a role model of mine: a Jewish lady who believed she was ‘hello gorgeous’ and a star that deserved respect despite not fitting the Aryan beauty model. Barbra is majorly political and quite rightly uses her art to point out that women directors are still in a minority and undervalued. I consider Bette Midler a feminist icon as a woman who has taken bawdiness that would pass from a man and socked it to em unapologetically.
My number one feminist in the public eye is Madonna. Even back in the day when Like A Virgin was the first vinyl single I bought, I knew that her ‘Boy Toy’ incarnation was laughing at men rather than colluding with the submissive little woman myth. She took the Marilyn Monroe persona and made it strong and sassy for the 80s audience when women power dressed and had convictions to match and smash the glass ceiling.
Madonna has been ahead of the curve for her whole professional life. She was and is the Queen of Pop who would never demean herself by parading like a lap dancer as have her pretenders Britney, Beyonce, Christina, Miley and Arianna. When Madonna sold sex it was from the perspective of a powerful dominatrix of a woman. She anticipated all the heinous sex tapes that have emerged of young female stars when she produced her semi-pornographic black and white picture book Sex. To me that book said, ‘plenty to see here and I’m proud of my fantasies as well as my reality’.
Madonna appeals to gay men on so many levels; the most basic being her crusade for gay rights and her powerful work for equality and HIV prevention. Madonna was second only to Bette Midler to admit that the gays ‘got’ her first. And did she pay back in spades. Vogue was a hymn to small time boys and girls who dreamed big and chose to make their fantasies reality with no limits.
I have not always been able to go with Madonna’s music not least in her MDNA incarnation when she seemed to embrace Hip Hop and dance drug culture. However, she’s a braver man than I Gunga Din so I always knew she’d push it to the limits and open my ears to new music and my eyes to new experiences. Madonna is a self-confessed unapologetic bitch and that’s just what you have to be to survive in London as a gay man despite it being much more cosy and fluffy an environment than it was when I came out.
The chameleon quality of Madonna appeals to gay guys. We love the dress-up and the reinvention. Madonna has never let us down in this respect: leading fashion, taking inspiration and making it bigger than the originators. She hasn’t been lucky in love but which of us has? I admire her rainbow tribe family and love the thought that she is a strict parent while being without limits on stage.
The concert of my life was Madonna’s Confessions tour which I attended on the night in Wembley Arena when the show was filmed. I think perhaps that was M on top form though I have to admit Rebel Heart reassured me that the lady will still be wowing the live crowds into her sixties and seventies.
People are swift to criticise Madonna for being age inappropriate, bolshy and rude. More power to your elbow love! She’s always been a diva but I like the self-mockery in her delivery these days for example singing La Vie en Rose in the Rebel Heart finale strumming a ukulele dressed like a 1920s crystal clad flapper. Wherever she goes musically, Madonna in her own words ‘always makes it up to us’.
I suspect M is a workaholic and she never ceases to explore new musical genres and never shies away from a world tour as Gaga, Rihanna and Arianna have done delicate little flowers that they are. It isn’t so much a case of ‘the show must go on’ as ‘Madonna must go on’. I have criticised Madonna in the past for her heinous outfits at the Met Gala Ball in New York and that awful Grammy ‘Boss Hog with a camel toe’ white trouser suit and stetson. But with so many reinventions we can’t expect every new Dr Who to be to our taste.
It may sound like an odd comment but Madonna keeps me young. I love returning to her music played as it used to be on a turntable. I love rocking out in a club or in my kitchen to Four Minutes or shimmying around to Now I’m Following You’ from Dick Tracey. While we’re on the subject of film roles, name me another actress in the 20th or 21st century who could have played Evita with the conviction that Madonna did. That performance was legendary.
As with Streisand, nay sayers crit Madonna as a director. I thought W.E. was a better film than the critics gave credit though Swept Away is harder to forgive. Still, fortune favours the brave and all the divas have had flops. That’s the mark of a true queen: being the comeback kid. So a toast to Madonna who is the role model all those Millennials should be looking up to and bowing down, bitches. Until next time…