Monday, April 18, 2016

Core Post #4: Madonna, Truth or Dare, and Bell Hook

In the reading for today, Bell Hook analyzes Madonna and her role in the documentary, Truth or Dare. Hook discusses the way in which Madonna systemically dominated her employees, particularly her treatment of people of color. In the film, Madonna and her relationship with her dancers is a major focus. She calls her dancers, mostly made of black gay men “emotional cripples” and “lost children.” She also goes on to crown herself the group’s “mother” leading her dancers and all her employees towards salvation. (163) But Madonna’s version of salvation, which means having a great tour and talking about Madonna to Madonna a lot.  There’s very clearly a power hierarchy backstage. Madonna rules every scene, every conversation. She leads a pray session before every performance. Ultimately, the documentary was uncomfortable and at times painful to watch. She positions herself as subversive to mainstream culture but in the film relishes in her power over really anyone and almost everyone. Hook points out that while Madonna dominates people of color and white working class women in the film, she does not really challenge any white men. (AKA Warren Beatty)  In fact, Hook goes on to say that Madonna may envy white male power and while trying to reject, actually embody in her work and offstage behavior. Her performances are often with black male performers. Hook suggests that Madonna uses black gay men in her performances and in her own personal life as tools to position herself in opposition to white patriarchy. Her sexual agency only comes from breaking the ties that establish her as “a white girl in white hierarchy” and “establishing new ties with black men.” (161,) This enforces ideas that blackness is in tuned to sexual dominance and whiteness comes from purity or a separateness from the body. On top of that, Madonna positions the men to be submissive to her will and dependent on her both on and off stage. She treats them like props that go with her outfit for the day and not real human beings.

In my opinion, Madonna was clearly self-involved, narcissistic, and obviously toxic to the people around her. Oddly enough, I was relieved when Warren Beatty told Madonna that her life was “crazy” and when you stay in it too long you start to act and feel crazy. “Doesn’t that worry you?” said Beatty sounding too sane to be in the room. (A strange thing to say because I never thought of Beatty as an example of sanity, at least prior to his Annette Bening years.)  In response, Madonna playfully shakes her head, no. No, she's not worried about it. At all.  

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