Oh Madonna Louise Ciccone, daughter of the Midwest, graduate of the Lower East Side, now living in…who knows…Paris? London? Abu Dhabi? Silverlake? It matters not, she is our American Aphrodite, embodying our many sexual contradictions, our sanctimonious morality and our most depraved fantasies, our love of religious iconography and hardcore pornography. If she doesn’t command the glare of the spotlight as she once did, if the national temperature now favors intolerance and anger over freedom and joy, she still reigns over this land where women become superstars by sharing nude photos of themselves on social media and we debate whether or not the President of The United States likes to watch prostitutes urinate on each other.
Now almost 40 years into her career, having buried most of her competition and watched usurpers struggle and falter, Madge could spend the rest of her life selling out arenas performing nothing but her ‘80s hits if she were so inclined. Like Elvis Presley, people are drawn to her divine star power like mosquitoes to a bug zapper. That she still puts great effort into creating new music and imagining how to present it on tour speaks to her artistry and work ethic. The 2017 concert film, Madonna: Rebel Heart Tour, shows the Material Girl hasn’t lost any steps now that she’s more a grande dame and is currently available for streaming on Showtime.
Filmed on the tour for the 2015 album of the same name, we see a video pre-roll where Madonna says, “Medieval warrior bitch goddess…that’s what I’m going for.” Sure enough, the stage if filled with dancers screaming their heads off and bearing feudal arms. Madonna’s version of feminism isn’t something you study in the classroom of a liberal arts college, but rather, she presents a confrontational sexuality, the right to be as sexy and as powerful as she wants to be, wherever and however she wants; if that gets complicated, then so be it. “I have tits and ass,” the video continues, as she writhes against a chain-link fence, “but I still want to start a revolution.” As if to capture her contradictory impulses, to titillate and liberate, she is then introduced via video by convicted rapist Mike Tyson before descending from a spear-laden elevator in a massive red kimono to perform “Iconic,” Rebel Heart’s lead single.
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