Madonna is “that forbidden thing, the Nietzschean creative woman.” I didn’t know this until I read journalist Naomi Wolf’s complaint about reporters who diss the Material Girl whenever she “steps out of her pretty-girl-pop-music bandwidth” to make a movie or book. “Why can the press just not wait to hate Madonna at these moments?” Wolf asked before answering her own question:
Because she must be punished, for the same reason that every woman who steps out of line must be punished. Madonna is infuriating to the mainstream commentariat when she dares to extend her range because she is acting in the same way a serious, important male artist acts. (And seizing the director’s chair, that icon of phallic assertiveness, is provocative as hell)…
What is so maddening? She does what every serious male artists does. That is: she doesn’t apologize for her talent or for her influence. What comes across quite profoundly when one interviews her is that she is preoccupied with her work and her gifts – just as serious male artists are, who often seem self-absorbed. She has the egoless honesty of the serious artist that reads like ego, especially in women.
Which planet is Naomi on? In my world, Madonna was a smart, willful girl who jumped on the disco bandwagon and transformed herself into a pop star admired for her cocky attitude and funky-but-chic aesthetic. She’s a good dancer/bad singer who’s still cranking out songs that sound like background music in a salon full of girls with tinfoil in their hair who are dreaming of steamy romantic encounters.
In Naomi’s world, the Material Girl’s music isn’t even mentioned. She’s an artist of “immense talent” who “does not apologize for her Nietzschean self or her appetites” (poor Friedrich must be spinning in his grave), or for her “astonishingly opulent home,” with its “discreet, stunningly handsome young male staffers, from all backgrounds – from the gorgeous chauffeur to the gorgeous security guard to the gorgeous fellow who brought in the sparkling water.”
Madonna at home sounds like the female version of Moammar Gaddafi. Are we supposed to be impressed?
Wolf wanted to say something about sexism, but I wish she’d at least chosen a worthier woman artist as a jumping off point for her bizarre polemic. Madonna was a trend setter — a cultural icon, even. But those songs! Almost without exception, they are cheap things — robotic little minor-key confections, tacky, melodramatic and mindless.
People who don’t like Madonna don’t want to punish her. They just don’t want to hear her, if possible.