In a revealing interview Mama Madonna talks about single parenthood, ‘trainable’ men and her uncertainty about the future. by Jonathan Alter
Madonna is repeatedly depicted as cocky, shameless and curt, especially, when challenged. But recently, on the eve of the birth of her two biggest projects to date – her daughter, Lourdes, and her movie Evita, opening Christmas Day in New York and L.A. and nationwide in January – I found none of these to be true. She was emotional about motherhood, impassioned about playing Eva Peron and surprisingly uncertain about what the future holds. In place of her legendary self-confidence, Madonna seemed unusually vulnerable, not in the contrived coquettishness of one of her earliest acts, but as an expectant mother truly unsettled by the prospect of a child. She made it clear she intends to resume her career, but she was unsure about how she would balance it with motherhood. She was outspoken and brash, per her reputation, but her patented exhibitionism had been replaced by a more traditional concern for privacy. And when she learned midway through our conversation that I had written critically about the poor example she has set by becoming a single mother, she was angry but did not cut the interview short. Instead we kept talking – sometimes heatedly – for more than an hour beyond the allotted time.
As we sat in her Los Angeles home, brimming with baby presents, Madonna struck two main notes. first, her pride in Evita, which she considers her best movie by far. And second, her unwillingness to assume responsibility as a “Material Girl” role model for her young fans. But she insisted on the importance of fathers – including her baby’s father Carlos Leon – in raising children. And she stressed it is up to parents to make sure their young children don’t watch inappropriate TV: “It’s not my videos per se. There are lots of things on television children shouldn’t be allowed to watch.” Excerpts:
Q: Shouldn’t people like you who have tremendous influence try to use it to help save the American family?
Madonna: I cannot be this crusader for the rest of the world. The only thing I can do is in my own small way be as true and honest as possible. That’s the only way I know how to be a good role model.
Q: Couldn’t the late ’90s be the time for the “Material Girl”? In other words, to make it cool to respect the family?
Madonna: I don’t want to be the Maternal Girl. I don’t want that ridiculous moniker any more than I wanted to be called the material girl. If a bunch of us decided to get married, we would not save the family in America. My responsibility is to my child, not everyone else’s children.
Q: Are you saying you don’t want to tell 9-year-olds they shouldn’t watch MTV ?
Madonna: I’m not talking to 9-year-olds. I don’t have a dialogue with 9-year-old I don’t know. The only dialogue with children I should ever have is a dialogue with children I know. My message isn’t for children. My message is for…
Q: Parents ?
Madonna: Parents. It’s for adults. It’s the parents’ responsibility. It’s the adults around them… Too many people just sit their kids in front of TVs to baby-sit them.
Q: Presumably, the values you pass on to your child will be different than if you had had a baby when you were a lot younger?
Madonna: Yes. It’s much better that I waited. I am much more centred and sure of myself, and I think I’ll be a much better parent than I would have, perhaps, if I’d had a child, say, when I was married. (Madonna divorced actor Sean Penn in 1989 after four tumultuous years of marriage.)
Q: You really understand men –
Madonna: I’ve certainly tried to reform my share of men. You have your standards. I feel like I have definitely gotten involved in a fair share of men who turned out to be incredibly narrow-minded, and I have made it a task for myself to get them to look at life in a different way. i haven’t always been successful, but the thing that makes me different is a lot of women settle for things, OK? Maybe that is why people have looked at me and said, oh, I’m heartless, I’m cruel, I don’t need men, I’m a man-eater.
Actually, I’m a very good role model, because I say, ‘Look, these are my standards.’… If the man I’m involved with can’t grasp those things, I don’t want to have anything to do with him. Which isn’t to say that as soon as you see it, you run in the other direction. I mean, there are some people who are trainable. (laughs)
I can’t tell you how many women I know who take back men who’ve abused them, who’ve abused their children. It’s wretched. it’s disgusting.