Tuesday, May 3, 2016

4/12: Softcore Femininity: The Many Faces of Madonna (Arielle Sitrick Core post #4)

Stardom is an industry of desire.
Largely magic and light, but mechanics too, it drives forward on the impulses of its buyers and those of its suppliers.
To be a star is to be watched, absorbed and consumed.



As I write this blog post I am watching Beyonce’s Lemonade. Beyonce is one of the decade’s biggest stars, and Lemonade, her most recent release (a “visual album” as it has been marketed) is explicitly based in her relationship with Jay-Z and his infidelity.

It is hyper-dramatic, evocative, referential of different historical periods and settings, and a pastiche of history. The video is schizophrenic–Beyonce is a chameleon within the piece and within her career, but maintains Beyonce. She, like Madonna, is a post-modern celebrity.

“Let’s imagine for a moment that you never…[were] labeled as a king…never had the baddest woman in the game up in your sheets.” (“Hold Up”). Beyonce is aware of her existence in the public eye and outside of her role as a performer and artist, and of Jay-Z’s. She references these real roles in her music and videos. We spoke in class about the plasticity of certain aspects of pop culture. Plastic is fast, shiny, cheap, widely accessible and mass-manufactured. Pop culture moves fast, and even faster with developments in technology, and in the digital age it is virtually free. To stay relevant, stars expose themselves, giving themselves up to the camera to keep its lens focused on them. Beyonce does this with Lemonade. Madonna did this with her Blond Ambition tour video. Without existing in a voyeuristic fashion, a star cannot exist.

Madonna and Beyonce exhibit the ability to take on their surroundings while maintaining their personas. Madonna has outlasted other celebrities by her ability to transform. In contrast to movie stars, confined to the scripts of patriarchal Hollywood, pop stars have access to being chameleons, but they are still constricted by social regulation. There is a power to performativity.

As opposed to many sexualized female stars before her, Madonna had a stake in her aesthetics from early on. She placed herself in the limelight and commanded attention in an artful way. Performance art is constituted as any situation involving time, space, the performer's body/ presence in a medium, and a relationship between performer and audience. While each of these tenets carries weight and can be incorporated into other performance mediums, the relationship between performer and audience is crucial in creatively redressing social wrongs; it is quite often lost in creative mediums in which audience members are merely voyeurs. Creative mediums lacking audience involvement provide entertainment, and a chance for an audience to numb themselves or “zone out”. However, no social wrongs can be redressed when a performance asks nothing of its audience because to resolve conflict, people must engage in dialogue.

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