More on Madonna

Commentator David Moore has posted this link underneath my previous article on Madonna:

This month, the singer covers the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar, in which she talks about her out-of-the-ordinary lifestyle, touring the globe and dating much-younger men

I’ve created a very unconventional family. I have lovers who are three decades younger than me. This makes people very uncomfortable. I feel like everything I do makes people feel really uncomfortable,” she said.

No, it doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable.  What it does is attract commentary, some of which might be unflattering, and some of which might consist of speculation as to your overall happiness despite your wealth, fame, and fortune.

Most recently, those ‘lovers’ included 25-year-old model Aboubakar Soumahoro. In 2014, she dated now-29-year-old back-up dancer Timor Steffens, and she famously dated Brazilian model Jesus Luz, who was 29 years her junior, from 2008 to 2010.

While people have always had much to say about her younger lovers, though, there isn’t usually as much buzz about men who date much-younger women. In fact, Madonna said, she faces a lot of criticism and commentary for things that men do without comments from the outside.

Firstly, let’s just dispel a myth.  Everyone is aware that wealthy, famous men can attract women much younger than them, many of whom are very good looking.  However, nobody thinks this is something especially noteworthy other than the fact that young women are often attracted by money and fame in a way that young men are usually not.  Although men might give the occasional grunt of approval towards famous men who serially date much younger women, the practice is hardly universally admired, let alone seen as something to be emulated.  To use a contemporary example, for all of Trump’s womanising he seems to be on good terms with his ex-wife and children and has been married to his current, ex-model wife for 11 years.  Men will always admire a guy who settles with a beautiful woman and starts a family more than they will a perpetual bed-hopper.

Secondly, any older guy who hooks up with a young, beautiful foreign girl always stands accused of being used for a passport, especially if she is from an altogether different culture.  The same applies to women.  Aboubakar Soumahoro is from the Ivory Coast.  Timor Steffens is born in the Netherlands of Moroccan origin.  Jesus Luz is Brazilian, as the article says.  What you don’t see is high-profile American male celebrities dating exotic foreigners who may need money and a passport.  What you do see is wealthy but ageing European women dating exotic young men in places like Egypt and Gambia who turn out to be interested in a residency visa, cash, and not much else.  Madonna is of course free to date whom she likes, but people are also free to draw their own conclusions and those conclusions aren’t all that different when the situation applies to men.

Speaking about why she continues to work into her 50s, Madonna said: “It’s inexplicable; it’s like breathing, and I can’t imagine not doing it.

“That is one of the arguments I would get into with my ex-husband, who used to say to me, ‘But why do you have to do this again? Why do you have to make another record? Why do you have to go on tour? Why do you have to make a movie?’ And I’m like, ‘Why do I have to explain myself?’ I feel like that’s a very sexist thing to say.”

Perhaps he just wanted to spend more time with you, and didn’t like you being away?  Then you called him sexist, went and did whatever the hell you wanted, and now you’re divorced and dating a string of foreign kids.

“Does somebody ask Steven Spielberg why he’s still making movies?”

Yes, ever since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Hasn’t he had enough success? Hasn’t he made enough money? Hasn’t he made a name for himself? Did somebody go to Pablo Picasso and say, ‘Okay, you’re 80 years old. Haven’t you painted enough paintings?’ No. I’m so tired of that question.”

It’s a reasonable question to ask though, isn’t it?  I mean it’s just a question, and nobody is disputing her answer.  And I imagine the wives of Spielberg and Picasso did ask them whether they didn’t fancy taking it easy for a while and spending more time at home, and one would hope they had an adult discussion about it rather than an argument that ends in accusations of sexism, divorce, and lingering bitterness.

“I’m political. I believe in freedom of expression, I don’t believe in censorship,’ she said. ‘I believe in equal rights for all people. And I believe women should own their sexuality and sexual expression. I don’t believe there’s a certain age where you can’t say and feel and be who you want to be.”

Then thank heavens you were born in the modern United States and thus have enjoyed such freedoms your entire life.

She often speaks out about this issue. In 2016, she took to Instagram to decry ageism after she met criticism for a very revealing dress at the Met Gala.

Madonna, dear: being free to do what you want is not the same as being free from criticism of your wardrobe choices for high-profile events.

“When it comes to Women’s rights we are still in the dark ages,” she wrote on Instagram at the time.

She either doesn’t know much about women’s rights or she doesn’t know much about the Dark Ages.  Or both.

“My dress at the Met Ball was a political statement as well as a fashion statement. The fact that people actually believe a woman is not allowed to express her sexuality and be adventurous past a certain age is proof that we still live in an age-ist and sexist society.

Nobody is saying you cannot express your sexuality.  You can do whatever you please, and indeed you do just that.  What you cannot do is make, by your own admission, a political statement and expect to be free from criticism.

I have never thought in a limited way and I’m not going to start. We cannot effect change unless we are willing to take risks By being fearless and By taking the road leas traveled by.

Wearing a certain dress to a celebrity ball is being fearless, is it?  And turning up in risqué outfits is “the road less traveled” in celebrity circles?  Really?

Thats how we change history.

Another one talking up her own legacy.  Leave that to others to decide, eh?

If you have a problem with the way I dress it is simply a reflection of your prejudice. I’m not afraid to pave the way for all the girls behind me.

As the David Moore says in his comment: it all comes across as rather desperate.

Feminism According to Madonna

My underpaid but highly appreciated research assistant has pointed me towards this video of Madonna’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Billboard Women in Music awards in which she won Woman of the Year, or something.  It deserves a bit of a fisking, and thankfully somebody has produced a transcript here.

She starts like this:

It’s better this way. I always feel better with something hard between my legs.

[Crowd laughs.]

What is it with modern-day feminists that they believe making crude, unfunny jokes of a sexual nature is somehow useful to the cause of women being afforded more respect?  Let’s remember this opening as the speech goes on.

Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant misogyny, sexism, constant bullying and relentless abuse.

Madonna is by far and away the most successful female pop star to date.  Her career has been absolutely staggering: her latest tour alone saw her rake in $170m.  Much of her success has come from the shock value of her challenging societal norms regarding women and sexuality, and hundreds of millions of people bought her music because they liked what she did.  This tells us two things: she is far more popular than she is disliked, and her career has depended on the existence of misogyny and sexism to generate the controversy which fueled her fame.

When I first started writing songs I didn’t think in a gender-specific way.

Like a Virgin and Material Girl were not gender specific?  Papa Don’t Preach?  How dense do you think we are?

I just wanted to be an artist. I was of course inspired by Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde and Aretha Franklin

All of whom were miles better singers than you, but didn’t feel the need to court controversy at every step in their careers: they relied purely on musical ability.

There are no rules  –  if you’re a boy. If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. What is that game? You are allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion. Don’t have an opinion that is out of line with the status quo, at least. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat, do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world.

And if you do break those rules?  Why, you become the most successful female pop artist of all time and a multimillionaire!  Don’t do it, girls!

Be what men want you to be. But more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age, is a sin. You will be criticized, you will be vilified, and you will definitely not be played on the radio.

Madonna isn’t played on the radio?  Whut?  And yes, you will be criticised, you will be vilified: every celebrity is.  The important thing is whether the criticism and vilification prevent genuine talent from shining through, and in the case of Madonna that is clearly not the case.  Cristiano Ronaldo is vilified and I remember David Beckham being subject to appalling abuse in his prime.  It’s not nice, but unfortunately it comes with the territory, and it is not limited to women.

When I first became famous, there were nude photos of me in Playboy and Penthouse magazine. Photos that were taken from art schools that I posed for, back in the day to make money.

And there is nothing wrong with that: it’s a woman’s choice, after all.  But let’s not forget all those women who choose not to take their clothes off when they need money, eh?

They weren’t very sexy. In fact, I looked quite bored. I was. But I was expected to feel ashamed when these photos came out, and I was not. And this puzzled people.

Which people?  Not being ashamed of posing for nude photos is absolutely fine, but people can and will make judgements about your character depending on whether you do or not.  Personally I have no problem with your decisions, nor of your lack of shame, but I’m not going to place you in the same category as a woman who either kept her clothes on or is capable of some self-reflection regarding daft things she did when young.  My guess would be that those who were puzzled expected higher standards, or something.

Eventually I was left alone because I married Sean Penn, and not only would he would bust a cap in your ass,

Fine qualities in a husband that all feminists can aspire to, I’m sure.

Years later, divorced and single – sorry Sean –  I made my Erotica album and my Sex book was released. I remember being the headline of every newspaper and magazine. And everything I read about myself was damning. I was called ‘a whore’ and ‘a witch.’ One headline compared me to Satan. I said, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t Prince running around with fishnets and high heels and lipstick with his butt hanging out?’ Yes, he was. But he was a man. This was the first time I truly understood that women really do not have the same freedom as men.

Except you were free to do so: you made an absolutely fortune in the process, and your career went from strength to strength.  And for all your complaints about the headlines and the damnation, it was this very notoriety that you carefully nurtured because it translated directly into record sales.  True, Prince might not have come in for the same criticism but I notice you didn’t use Michael Jackson as an example: had you done so, your argument that men don’t get vilified for controversial and weird behaviour while selling millions of records would have fallen a bit flat.

I remember feeling paralyzed. It took me a while to put myself together and get on with my creative life — to get on with my life.

You experienced unprecedented, staggering musical success but you needed to “get on with your creative life”?  This is supposed to be a rallying speech for oppressed, downtrodden women everywhere?

I remember wishing that I had a female peer that I could look to for support.

That you didn’t have one speaks volumes, don’t you think?

Camille Paglia, the famous feminist writer, said that I set women back by objectifying myself sexually.

Imagine.

Oh, I thought, ‘so, if you’re a feminist, you don’t have sexuality, you deny it.’

If that’s what you thought then you’re an idiot.  It is perfectly possible to be a feminist who is both sexy and comfortable with their sexuality without flaunting it everywhere in the crudest, most classless way possible.  One of the biggest failures of modern feminism is believing that adopting the worst aspects of male behaviour will advance the cause of women.  That “joke” she told at the start of her speech was unfunny and the sort of thing a twelve year old boy would say.  If this is the behaviour modern women want to emulate, God help them.

So I said ‘ **** it. I’m a different kind of feminist. I’m a bad feminist.’

[Crowd applause]

Yes, and your sort seem hell-bent on undoing the work of the good feminists.  Here, have an award!

People say I’m so controversial. But I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around.

No, your ability to stick around is not controversial, it is remarkable.  People say you are controversial for wholly unrelated reasons.  But hey, don’t let me stop you from telling us what you think about yourself.

What I would like to say to all the women here today, is this: Women have been so oppressed for so long, they believe what men have to say about them.

Presumably men do nothing but lie to women.

And they believe they have to back a man to get the job done.

Which women believe this?  The ones in the audience?  Really?

And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they’re men –  because they’re worthy.

In other words exercise good judgement about men, says the twice-divorced single woman.

As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth.

Right, but women have a nasty habit of looking beyond another woman’s net wealth and musical talent and forming an opinion about their character based on their behaviour and appearance.  If women don’t appreciate you as much as you think they should, there are probably reasons why.  What this has to do with men, misogyny, and sexism I don’t know.

Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to be inspired by, to collaborate with, to support, to be enlightened by.

Women need Madonna to tell them this?  Only let’s hope that when choosing “strong women” they don’t entangle themselves with a bunch of demented, third-wave feminists sporting neck-tattoos and like Madonna believe sexual promiscuity is something to be celebrated.

Look, I think Madonna is an incredible entertainer and her ability to reinvent herself and sustain a career that long is astonishing, and I am happy that she receives so many awards and has made so much money for herself.  Good on her.  But in the face of such astounding success her complaints of sexism and misogyny ring somewhat hollow, particularly when one considers how she went about building her career by shocking people and continually courting controversy.  The violence she experienced in New York notwithstanding, downtrodden and oppressed she is not: sure she’s faced obstacles and criticism, but haven’t we all?  She’s good at what she does but the brand of feminism she is pushing is poisonous rot, and young women would do well to listen to her music rather than her speeches.

What’s the opposite of a rose tint?

From the BBC (which considers this front-page news):

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres was praised by the US president for her influence on the gay rights movement as she received the country’s highest civilian honour.

Barack Obama said it was easy to forget the risk Ellen DeGeneres took to come out as gay in 1997.

He said her bravery helped “push our country in the direction of justice”.

“It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far… just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” he said during the award ceremony at the White House.

“What an incredible burden that was to bear – to risk your career like that – people don’t do that very often. And then, to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders.”

It is probably easy to forget how far we’ve come in twenty years because it’s equally easy to remember what 1997 was like, and a hotbed of homophobia the western world was not.

I was in university in 1997, the year Tony Blair won the General Election for Labour with no little help from Peter Mandelson.  Julien Clary was a household name and Graham Norton was getting there.  Diana died in 1997 and Elton John – who came out of the closet in 1976, when times really were different – wrote a song for her which reached number one on the singles chart.  The Mardis Gras was a mainstream event in Manchester, and Canal Street was as much a feature of the city as Maine Road.

Perhaps New York was different, and perhaps women coming out as gay was less common, and hence more difficult, than it was for men.  I just get the feeling there are vested interests out there trying to convince people that twenty years ago the world was a darker place than it was, and any progress is due to the benevolent actions of our enlightened political classes.  So we must grant them more power and allow them to intrude more deeply into our personal lives, of course.

Obama would have had a stronger point had he said 1987, and definitely 1977.  But 1997?  Nah.  Sex and the City hit the screens in 1998, and the (many) references to gay life and culture in there were hardly shocking.  Philadelphia came out in cinemas in 1993.  Things have improved to some degree of course, but I think any changes in public attitudes towards gays in the last 20 years have come almost exclusively from the older generations dying out and being replaced by people for whom homosexuality is unremarkable.

Keep Talking

This caught my eye in the wake of the Brangelina fallout:

But perhaps the flow of headlines about unhappy endings actually gives us the wrong impression about Hollywood relationships, because there is a long list of high-profile couples who have proved stars can have staying power.

The Sex and the City actress has been married to the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off star for 19 years. The couple have three children.

Parker has admitted their marriage has been through “some rather treacherous train rides”.

But in 2014 Broderick said: “We really are friends beyond everything else and we talk a lot.”

Asked his advice for other couples, he said: “Just keep talking I guess. I know how cliched that is. Too much silence is definitely not a good idea.”

There is probably more wisdom in those last two paragraphs than there is in ten thousand dollars’ worth of marriage guidance counselling and a decade of contemporary opinions on what a modern relationship should look like.

When I look back at the relationships I’ve had that have worked, and compared them against those that haven’t, the differences between them can probably be linked to communication.  I can talk the hind legs off a donkey, and I believe problems can be solved by talking about them (and writing about them, hence the blog).  I start any relationship – platonic or romantic, male or female – by talking three times as much as I’m supposed to and keeping that up indefinitely.  Listening is also important, and I have often been accused of not doing so.  Although every serious instance of that has been in a professional capacity when a manager has mistaken “listening” for “agreeing”.  There may have been a time when I thought I didn’t listen to people in relationships, but that long ago gave way to a confidence that I know the people close to me very, very well indeed.  And you don’t get to do that by not listening, and thinking about what they’ve said.

Communication is everything in a relationship.  When things are going well, communication tends to go well.  But when things go wrong it often suffers, and you can quickly see who is in it for the partnership and who is in it for themselves.

Whatever the issue is, no matter how bad, keep the lines of communication open.  Sure, take a ten minute break, or take a couple of hours to reply to a message.  But tell the other person you’re doing that, and let them know when you’ll reply.  The moment one party or the other decides they’re going to fall silent for a period of more than a few hours, or (worse) a few days, or (even worse) an indefinite period; or they’re going to completely ignore a message or an email; the relationship is over.  Dead.  It won’t recover.

Sure, I get people say nasty things, and if a situation breaks down into a slanging match of hate-filled invective and insults then it is wise to take a step back and have some time off.  But the lines of communication must stay open: clearly say you’re having a break, and that you’ll be ready to talk again the next day at the latest.  Get back to talking as soon as possible.  Stomping off into indefinite silence and dragging it out over days will result in only one thing: a failed relationship.  If one party doesn’t want to talk then better to just end the whole thing right there and then, because the outcome is inevitable.

And if you are stupid enough to think that adopting a position of silence and ignoring a partner who is reaching out to you in order to punish him/her, and require that they come grovelling back with an apology and take all the blame regardless in order for you to respond, then you deserve all the misery that is coming your way.  A decent partner wouldn’t do this, and Matthew Broderick is right again when he says:

We really are friends beyond everything else

Your partner might not be your greatest ever love, but if they’re your friend they’ll not fuck you over and will keep talking to you no matter what.  If he or she stops communicating, they’re not your friend, they don’t have your interests at heart, and they’re in it for themselves: walk away.

Keep talking, as the BT ads used to say.

(No, this is not related to any current personal issue I have.  I just saw Broderick’s remarks and decided to look back on relationships I’ve either been in myself or those of others I’ve been around.)

Brad’s Pit

Speaking of Brad Pitt, there is an actor who cut his own career off at the knees by choosing to play himself halfway through.  Granted, in one sense is career has been doing just fine and he’s an A-lister landing the best roles, but nobody is going to look back in twenty or thirty years and say he was one of Hollywood’s greats.

Which is a shame because back around the time I was in university (1996-2000) I thought he was shaping up to be a decent actor.  I first noted him when he played a murderous redneck alongside David Duchovny and Juliette Lewis in Kalifornia (1993).  Lewis stole the show as a seriously retarded and sexually active teenager whom Pitt’s character exploits, but nevertheless I thought he put in a convincing performance which showed he wasn’t just going to play the pretty-boy roles people wanted him to (e.g. Thelma and Louise, A River Runs Through It).  He showed up in a minor but memorable role in True Romance (1993), a film with more memorable roles than you can remember, as pot-head Floyd who my schoolmates at the time thought was a character to aspire to.  For some reason I missed out on seeing Interview with the Vampire (1994) but found him convincing as the young detective in Se7en (1995), one of the most highly-rated films of that era.  Next came Twelve Monkeys (1995) in which he played an ideologically-driven nutcase, which showed he was interested in complex roles that weren’t written just to make him look pretty.  Sleepers (1996) was a good film but not because of Pitt’s performance, although he was made to look like Orson Welles by the film’s lead (whose name I forgot).

Then came Fight Club (1999) which all the pot-heads in university loved and everyone still raves about it.  Me, I thought it was overrated at the time and not that clever, and recent viewings have done nothing to convince me I was wrong the first time around.  Whereas I thought Ed Norton did a great job, it took a friend of mine to point out what I found wrong with Brad Pitt in that film: he was playing himself.  Whereas everyone says how great the character of Tyler Durden is (and you have to credit the scriptwriters for coming up with it), Pitt’s portrayal consisted mainly of standing around in a buff body looking cool and relaxed while shooting off pithy one-liners (or two-liners in the case of the film’s most famous quote).  It was hardly a difficult role to pull off, at least compared to Norton’s.  But I overlooked this when I saw him in Snatch (2000) which I absolutely loved, and particularly for Pitt’s portrayal of gypsy boxing champion Mickey.  I grew up in West Wales where there is no shortage of “pikeys”, and some exaggerations aside, the characters could have been pulled from a documentary and Pitt’s accent was right on the money.

However, it appeared to all go downhill from there, and I think Ocean’s Eleven (2001) was where it started.  For whatever reason, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and (to a lesser extent) Matt Damon decided they were going to make a film in which they play themselves: suave gents standing around in nice suits shooting off witty remarks at each other.  Pitt’s character is eating in most shots, something he apparently suggested because it would be funny.  Although not a bad movie, it is mostly a vehicle for the leading actors to mince about on a screen looking and sounding cool, and that’s rarely a good reason to make a film.  It’s fine for an actor to look and sound cool in a film, but that should not be the primary purpose of the picture.

Unfortunately, his next feature film was Troy (2004), which was probably his worst.  If in Ocean’s Eleven he looked as though he wasn’t acting, in Troy he looked as though he couldn’t even if he wanted to.  He followed this up with Ocean’s Twelve (2004) to which my comments from Ocean’s Eleven apply, then Mr & Mrs Smith (2005) which wasn’t a bad film but it was hardly a defining role.  So since Snatch in 2000 it’s largely been crap.  I wasn’t convinced by his performance in Inglourious Basterds (2009) despite being handed a half-decent character and script to work with, and everything else I’ve seen him in has failed to impress.  With him now being 53, it’s hard to see him doing anything which will make him a Hollywood legend in what remains of his career.  I expect he’ll end up a bit like his pal George Clooney, starring in films such as The American (2010) which get made seemingly only to demonstrate that the lead is still a Casanova who can bang hot, young chicks.

One could contrast Brad Pitt’s career with that of Leonardo DiCaprio, who around the time of Pitt’s peak was filling pretty-boy roles in Titanic (1997) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998).  I’d written DiCaprio off as a serious actor until he surprised me in The Aviator (2004), followed up by mature performances in good films such as The Departed (2006), Blood Diamond (2006), Body of Lies (2008), Shutter Island (2010), and Inception (2010) to make him what is probably Hollywood’s top-billing male star.  DiCaprio is only 42 and already has a solid stable of decent films and varied performances under his belt, and has avoided the temptation thus far to play himself in fun-to-make films.  I wouldn’t say I thought The Revenant (2015) was a great film (although the cinematography was wonderful) and I didn’t think DiCaprio’s performance was brilliant.  But he tried something challenging and gave it a damned good go, and you could see the effort he put in.  If he keeps this up for another 30 years he will most likely become known as the best actor of his generation.

Brad Pitt, on the other hand, will probably be known as the fool who dumped Jennifer Aniston for that whats-‘er-name nutcase.

Brad Splitt and Angelina Lonely

So Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are going to split up.  Frankly, I’m amazed they’ve lasted this long together.  I always thought she was a complete weirdo, wearing vials of blood around her neck and getting weird tattoos, collecting a flock of multi-coloured foreign children, and having been through two husbands already.  Sure, she was cute enough when she was in her late teens but she quickly became, in my opinion, one of those actresses who they shove onto the screen in the knowledge that everyone will marvel at how beautiful she is rather than notice she can’t act for shit.  Which is great, only if you think – as I do – that she looks more weird than pretty then you’re left wondering how she ever got through an audition.

She’s recently turned her hand to directing, something which I am sure causes Hollywood’s established directors to snigger at behind closed doors.  I couldn’t manage to get through more than the first half hour of Unbroken, saccharine-laced guff that it was, and By the Sea sounds like just the sort of self-indulgent shite you’d expect from her: it currently enjoys an IMDB rating of 5.3.

My opinion at the time was that Brad Pitt fucked up royally when he left Jennifer Aniston, who I’ve always thought was adorable.  I’m not sure if Aniston would have made a great wife, but she is one hell of a lot less weird than Jolie and appears to be ageing a lot better too.  She must be having a chuckle to herself now.