When teen pop phenomenon Billie Eilish recently unveiled a drastic new look on the cover of Vogue magazine, the internet feverishly sped up. Previously distinguished by raven-dark locks and a loosely androgynous outfit that concealed the body, the singer instead resorted to a hyper-feminized exaggeration: bombshell-style platinum curls over a cinched pink bodice, with a polite nod to fetish clothing in its visible buckles and nude PVC skirt that accompanies them.
As showbiz makeovers progress, it was unexpected, though not unprecedented: Older viewers were quick to note that the 19-year-old had indeed “made a Madonna,” borrowing not just chameleon instincts from her over 62, but clearly riffing on the OG Queen of Pop’s most defining look: the wildly stylized pinup aesthetic of her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour, with its corsetry, tapered bras, and undergarment cheek-like outerwear. The motivations of the stars may have differed slightly: In line with her new single Your Power, Eilish’s outfit accompanied an interview in which she pondered body positivity, consent, and abuse, while Madonna set about pushing boundaries. sexual; Yet in 30 years, it seems, the pop impact of a well-chosen corset has not waned.
More coincidentally, Eilish’s Madonna tribute comes just as the biggest star’s most significant contribution to film celebrates its 30th anniversary. It’s been three decades since Madonna: Truth or Dare (or In Bed With Madonna, to use her international title) hit the screens with a thunderous bang, surpassing expectations with a record-setting $ 29 million gross, held. for 11 years, one of the highest. -Winning documentary of all time. In doing so, he altered popular perception of what the concert film was supposed to be, shifting the usual priorities of the record of acting on stage filmed from the inside out, or behind the scenes: Truth or Dare was a hit, not because it replicated. to the blonde. Experience of ambition for those who couldn’t be there, but invited fans to the star’s much more rebellious real-life performance.
None of this may sound particularly revolutionary to a generation raised on 21st century reality television, or even Instagram, where forging a heartfelt sense of privacy, off-camera but heavily on camera, is now a standard clause of the contract. of celebrities. In 1991, however, stars of Madonna’s magnitude were prized for their distant mystique, not their familiarity. Truth or Dare’s glimpses of the resting star, relaxing with her entourage, her family, and even her time grip Warren Beatty, felt genuinely revealing, even subversive. This was not a well-behaved personality profile. The goal, stage-driven or not, was to present His Highness as rude, strident, and difficult to pin down; real maybe, but nothing like us.
That was not always the plan. Truth or Dare was initially conceived, more simply, as a direct concert documentary, capturing what was already quite cinematic about the daring and elaborately choreographed theater of sexual revolution from the Blonde Ambition tour. David Fincher, who had made a name for himself with stylish music videos for the star singles Vogue and Express Yourself, was lined up to direct; the movie would effectively be a feature-length live version of that very flash.
However, when Fincher retired, the young Harvard-trained music video director Alek Keshishian came in with different ideas. He was less fascinated by Madonna’s impressive stage show than by the free circus of her life backstage, surrounded by her self-described “family” of predominantly queer assistants, adjuncts and backup dancers, with their own spiraling dramas and conflicts. . Keshishian compared the team to the raunchy ensemble in a Federico Fellini movie; Truth or Dare, in turn, was styled like the Dolce Vita of rockumentarios, chaotically free-form and a slave to sensuality and decadence, and shot largely in nimble, grainy black and white to get the most out of it. truth I suppose.
By right, it should have been an excruciating indulgence – it is certainly a captivated hymn to a celebrity of the force of nature who no longer wanted to attract attention. Yet Truth or Dare was, and still is, totally fascinating, both as a community study and as a solo portrait. Keshishian’s film is perhaps still underrated as a landmark of queer cinema, as it normalizes the outspoken and proud homosexuality of most of its dancers, without fetishizing or exoticizing their sexuality, relative, at least, to the fiery sexual energy of its brilliant Leader. . Truth or Dare was rare at the time in its everyday portrayal of queer artists at work and at play, hanging out, gossiping, or mingling around a New York Pride parade: Madonna is nature’s monster in the midst of them, not the other way around.
And yes, for Madonna cultists, it is an exhilarating snapshot of the star in her godly prime, never give a shit, long before Kabbalah and Guy Ritchie and that glass-cut American accent devoured her. In contrast, shot in bright, varnished colors, the film’s concert sequences may be the least interesting material almost by design, but they capture the brash and cocky presence of the performance that, far ahead of her vocal abilities, as herself. He admits, he turned her into a freak to begin with.
Behind the scenes, the magnetism remains intact. Thirty years later, the surprise of Truth or Dare is the wonder that is Madonna: disgustingly funny, openly horny, without disguising her contempt for anyone she considers less fabulous than herself and her blessed collaborators. A post-concert encounter with an out-of-element Kevin Costner culminates in his gagging behind his back after he describes his show as “orderly”; Elsewhere, she announces her furious infatuation with rising star (and future star Evita) Antonio Banderas, and her blatant rage at their marriage.
Such disarmingly awkward and spontaneous moments would never make the cut today, and if they did, the unholy alliance of Twitter and TMZ would scrutinize, analyze, and make all the fun memes straight from them: Truth or Dare captures celebrity culture in a cute It was a transitional era between ironic self-awareness and extensive training in public relations that weakens the personality. As such, the film paved the way for a documentary genre behind the music that has rarely replicated the genuine effervescence and freedom of behind-the-scenes Truth or Dare. Fan-service movies like Katy Perry: Part of Me or Justin Bieber: Never Say Never offer their viewers guarded and artificial access, carefully managing the private personalities of their subjects and never risking the level of offense and outrage that Madonna gleefully builds. in his act. here. Is she the “real” Madonna performing fellatio in a water bottle, or is she dramatically collapsing on her mother’s grave, or is this another version of herself she has devised for Keshishian’s camera? The whole deal with Madonna in the age of blonde ambition was that it didn’t matter much: the real Madonna was the built, and vice versa.
It’s a far cry from today, where celebrities are expected to project less polite, less arrogant, and generally less fabulous authenticity to their admirers. Which brings us back to Billie Eilish, recently the subject of an entirely different documentary portrait: the solemn, graceful, and quite poignant Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry by renowned documentary filmmaker RJ Cutler, who intimately focuses on the grim songwriting process. and introvert of the star, between more confessional Interludes in which he reflects thoughtfully on his fears, insecurities and mental health.
In its own way, it is as devout and ambiguous a feat of pop portraiture as Truth or Dare, inviting similar questions about what is real and what its enigmatic star presents as such; However, what he’s selling is vulnerability, not fiery, untouchable, self-confidence, which tells you a lot about how the ideal celebrity-fan relationship has changed in the last 30 years. Still, Eilish and her companions have many eras and makeovers ahead of them – perhaps the Truth or the Challenge of Gen Z still awaits us.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism