As more than one critic has pointed out, Madonna’s favorite video sexual theater–whether it’s her leather ‘n’ lingerie poses or footage of two women kissing each other–offers classic male fantasy poses. On the other hand, she has taken an active stance in various political causes. In addition to performing numerous AIDS fund-raisers, Madonna has put her mouth where her money is. Her now-celebrated (and much-faxed) interview with the Advocate was a raunchy, no-holds-barred affair–and more important, a rare example of a straight superstar unabashedly courting the gay press.
“I think my point of view is very political,” she insists. “Most people in entertainment don’t want to present their point of view about anything. But I think presenting my point of view about life, whether it’s about sexual equality or anti-homophobia, is a political statement. I know it has an impact. I know that people look at me and say, ‘She’s someone to look up to because she’s really in charge of her life. She’s doing what she believes in.’ “
Is being a role model a political statement? Perhaps not. But Madonna makes a telling point. Her enemies certainly view her as a subversive cultural force.
“Look at this Rev. Donald Wildmon character and all his Moral Majority people,” she says. “They’re obsessed with me–and there’s a hostility to that obsession. They have a hatred for the power and fame and freedom that I have. For them to go around, banning records and books and trying to get people arrested, it’s a pretty clear statement about their own obsessions.
“Obviously I’m tapping into something in their unconscious that they’re very ashamed of. And since they can’t deal with it, they tell everyone it’s shameful. I was really reminded of that in the ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibit. It’s like Hitler–they want to purify your thoughts.”
Near the end of the film, we hear one of the people on your tour say of you: “She’s very unhappy much of the time.” True?
Answer: I certainly was unhappy on tour.
Question: But why? When you’re out on tour, aren’t you doing what you love?
Answer: I’m a tormented person. I have a lot of demons inside of me. My pain is as big as my joy. It’s always been that way. I used to throw myself into a project to mask my pain. Now I’ve learn to exorcise my pain–and try to heal it–through my work. So it’s become more productive for me emotionally. I can act out whatever hostilities I feel onstage or write about my pain in a song.
What Warren Beatty says in “Truth or Dare” is at least half-true–Madonna doesn’t want to live her life off camera. But you sense it’s more than just a narcissistic craving–perhaps she simply finds solace–and inspiration–in the soothing warmth of the cameras’ attentive glow.
“The process of filming somehow set up certain interactions, especially between me and my dancers, that never would have taken place,” she says, popping a Bazooka bubble in the back seat of her limo. “It brought us closer together. For example, we played ‘truth or dare’ all the time. But the one that we got the best stuff from–that we used in the film–would’ve never happened if we hadn’t have done it for the filmmakers.”
(“Truth or dare” is a cheeky party game in which players either choose truth, where you must answer any query, no matter how personal, or dare, where you must perform any act requested of you. In the film, Madonna does both.)
” ‘Truth or dare’ was good therapy for everybody,” she says, working on her gum. “Once you got past the exhibitionist side of it–who’ll kiss who, who’s sleeping with who–then you got down to the real truth. People couldn’t hide. It became a real therapy session.”
In fact, the entire movie is Madonna’s therapy session. As the film’s star, she gets to work out her anxieties and live out her fantasies. But what makes “Truth or Dare” such a striking celebrity confessional is that it stars Madonna in both roles–as patient and therapist.
Trying to explain the film’s therapeutic value, Madonna returns to musing about her mother’s death. “I guess the die is cast when you’re 5 years old. Whatever has gone on with me began as a cry out to the world. I was saying, ‘I’m alone. I don’t feel loved.’ “
In “Truth or Dare,” when her assistant has a birthday party, Madonna gets up and reads a simple, heartfelt poem she’s written for the occasion. The key line? “You can’t count on much in this life,” she says. “I should know.”
“I really do believe that,” she says softly, nodding her head, as if savoring that small piece of wisdom. “That’s the school I come from–don’t assume anything. It’s a way of protecting yourself from being hurt.”
Looking out the window, she squints into the sun. “And it’s a way of allowing yourself to go on if you are hurt. If someone stabs you in the back or humiliates you, it’s a way of keeping yourself from being too devastated.”
As she slips her sunglasses back on, she displays a faint smile. “And you know what–it works.”
© Los Angeles Times