A “Rebel” Criticized and Constrained …
From an article by Liz Smith on newyorksocialdiary.com:
As a matter of fact, the public, the public hates to ‘recognize’ what is familiar. It hates to be disturbed. It is shocked by surprises. The worst that can happen to a work of art is to have no fault found in it, so that its author is not obliged to take up an attitude of opposition.
That was playwright, designer, artist, filmmaker Jean Cocteau, in 1923. I found this remark, and dozens of others, in the fabulous new book “Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair.” I’ll tell more about this collection of essays later in the week.
But as to Cocteau’s assertion, I was reminded of it over the weekend when our consistently “artistic” friend, Madonna found herself embroiled in yet another controversy.
The cover of her upcoming album, Rebel Heart, which was hacked and released in demo form – forcing Madonna to put out six of the completed songs months in advance – shows The Big M with twine binding her face, emphasizing her view of herself as a “rebel” who has been constricted and disparaged. (She achieved this point more compellingly in her famous Human Nature video, some years ago.)
Fans of the lady then made up their own “rebel art” sending her photos of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela with ropes across their faces. Madonna put these efforts online and immediately found herself accused of being “racist” and, of course, an egomaniac, daring to compare herself to King and Mandela.
Madonna is many things, but a racist she is most assuredly not. She has had African American and Latino lovers as well as adopting two African children from Malawi, David and Mercy. Children, by the way, whom she does not parade like “accessories” as her critics insisted she would do at the time of these adoptions.
Egomaniac? Let’s say she has a healthy dose of ego, mixed with a sense of victimization. This makes her exactly like all big stars. (She is also surprisingly vulnerable – but you’d have to know her, to know that.) And in this world of not thinking before one goes to Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, Madonna is no more cautious than hundreds of other public persons and millions of just plain folks. Madonna has now had to address the fake outrage of critics, apologize for any offense, refute charges of being a racist and deny she compares herself in any way to King or Mandela.
Others whom Madonna has wrapped in twine include Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Marley and Jesus, all of whom, in Madonna’s view, fought the good fight, against the odds.
Some Madonna fans wish she’d confine her artistic expressions to the recording studio. Silly! Why should she “confine” herself to anything? The six songs she felt forced to release, in the wake of the hack on her material, went straight to number one on iTunes in 40 countries. She managed to make lemonade out of lemons. As to the songs themselves, three of them are truly beautiful and much reminiscent of the romantic Madonna of the 1980s and ’90s. (Ghost Town is particularly affecting.) The other three are dancy and techo-infused. Not my taste. There are six more tracks to come, in March.
I do wish Madonna would get over this business of self-reverential, self-referencing songs. One of the new ones is titled, Bitch, I’m Madonna! Honey, we know you’re Madonna. Nobody is likely to forget, ever. Relax.
Read the full story on newyorksocialdiary.com.