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Madonna Interview : NME

Madonna - NME / December 02 1995

Is a misogynist the worst thing a men can be ?

Plenty of talented, interesting men have been misogynists: Elvis, JFK, Hemingway, Marvin Gaye…

“Picasso…” Madonna adds thoughtfully.

Exactly. So, should this one characteristic be considered the measure of a man?

She ponders for a long moment. “Yes… in a way. Because If you’re not comfortable with a strong woman you’re not comfortable with your own feminine instincts. You’re not comfortable, period. You’re going to be threatened by everything that’s not exactly like you are… and that is the measure any man.”

We move on to Madonna’s use of religious symbolism in her work, most notably the black saint/Christ figure in ‘Like A Prayer’ who was, let’s face it, rather more attractive than the wimpy, hippy figure we’re usually presented with. Over the years Madonna has made her religion look sexy, ambiguous, interesting. One could even argue that she is to Catholicism what McDonald’s is to the hamburger. Next to her, the Pope lust comes across as an Irate employee; the sullen guy who serves up the fries.

Does she agree that she’s done more to popularise Catholicism than the Pope?

Madonna grimaces. “I’ve brought a lot of attention to it but I certainly haven’t made myself popular by doing so. I’ve pissed off a lot of people. But maybe I’ve gotten a few people unconsciously interested in it …”

You made me wish that I was a f***ed-up Catholic.

“Well, thank you,” she drawls sarcastically, “that’s flattering!… It can f****d you up but it’s good too. It gave me a love of structure in my life, it absolutely shaped me in that respect… I would have been a totally different person if I hadn’t been a Catholic.

“It’s such a dramatic religion, like going to the f***ing opera, y’know? There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance and ritual and punishment and the music is amazing and there’s beautiful stained-glass windows and when you’ve sinned you go to a dark curtained booth and get on your knees and you tell the priest all the bad things you’ve done and it’s all so… kinky!”

Can we safely assume that your God isn’t the same God that Billy Graham plays golf with?

“I think we all have the same God. In the beginning of time it was all one religion but then people got frightened and elitist and they had to say, ‘This is my God, this is my religion’… But my relationship with God is not that He is up there and we arc down here. I don’t believe in that I believe that God is in all of as and that we are all capable of being gods and goddesses. That’s my brand of Catholic mysticism. Throw some Buddhism in there and you’ve got my religion.”

If you believe in God, you must believe in the Devil, too?

“It’s not that I believe in the Devil – I believe in evil and the Devil represents evil.”

Your work is strewn with religious symbolism but no devils. Why not – isn’t evil sexy?

Madonna looks appalled “I don’t think evil is sexy! I don’t think being cruel and mean and hurting other people is sexy!… Although,” she grins. “I have been quite attracted to some very bad boys!”

Is it that the Devil’s too rock’n’roll for a pop girl like you?

“How do you mean?”

The Devil is part of rock’n’roll mythology, isn’t it? Bands meet the Devil at the crossroads, sign their souls away and then become Led Zeppelin.

Madonna sneers, unconvinced. “I certainly never thought of it that way… In fact, saying that rock’n’roll is the Devil’s music gives rock’n’roll a whole lot of depth and meaning it doesn’t actually have. So, let’s not get carried away here.

“I have got those sides to me,” she adds, “but I think it’s better to give people something to aspire to… Besides,” she grins sardonically, “some people would say that I offered up that side of myself with my Sex book and ‘Erotica’.”

The release of Sex and ‘Erotica’ is seized upon gleefully by Madonna’s detractors as the point when the chart-busting jezebel gat her comeuppance. In their view, she had French-kissed, groped and f***ed the world to the point where she herself ended up (commercially) screwed. Certainly, ‘Erotica’ was not popular with the public, although this could be attributed to the fact that it is actually one of her weakest musical ventures. But where Sex is concerned, it’s hard to see what the fuss is about.

Only the terminally sheltered or very young could possibly be ‘shocked’ by the photographs – which are mainly concerned with somewhat hackneyed bondage/bisexual fantasies. Indeed, Norman Mailer told Madonna that he didn’t think it was dirty enough and that she should have included a ‘beaver shot’. But this probably says more about Mailer than it does about Madonna.

The only real shock in Sex is in seeing a millionairess pop star cavorting about totally starkers and obviously having a giggle about it. The quasi-S&M text is also very funny – not that most people got as far as reading it. Madonna’s only real mistake could be that, at the time, she panicked and argued that Sex was not porn but erotica. Sex is not porn – although it does have the same darkly comedic effect of naming most male heterosexual readers into dribbling imbeciles. But nor is it erotica – which, after all, is just porn with a library card. Sex is more a collection of snapshots and Post-It notes from one woman’s ‘dirty mind’. Madonna’s tongue might get everywhere in the interim but, spiritually, it’s resting firmly in her cheek… as it were. Even if Sex doesn’t turn you on, it’s difficult to see just why it turned the world off so dramatically.

For her part, Madonna is characteristically defiant.

“Everyone went out and bought Sex, it was sold out in two seconds. And then everybody slagged me off. That, to me is a statement of the hypocrisy of the world that we live in. The fact that everybody is so interested in sex but won’t admit it,” she pouts mock-petulantly. “I made my point completely and people know I made my point and that’s why they’re so pissed off at me.”

Not everyone. A lot of people thought that the S&M passages in particular were very funny.

“Really?” she drawls, “I didn’t hear from them.”

“Y’know,” she continues, “that’s it, it’s supposed to be funny. I do think that you need to bring humour to it and that’s what I was trying to do with the Sex book. But no one got the subtlety, no one got the humour. What I wrote about S&M was supposed to be amusing. It was never meant to be this incredibly hot, arousing, erotic piece of porn. In face I was poking fun at everybody’s prejudices about other people’s sexualities and their own sexuality.”

You’ve long been accused of pandering to male fantasies. But you told Carrie Fisher in Rolling Stone that you hate giving head and won’t do it. With that kind of attitude you wouldn’t last a minute in most men’s fantasies?

Madonna laughs. “Oh, that wasn’t true… Of course I give head, it was a joke! We were just sitting around being smart asses in a conversation.”

It looked true written down.

“Everything looks true written down. What you read in National Enquirer and News Of The World looks true written down.”