Saturday, February 4, 2012

My Love Letter To "Give Me All Your Luvin'"

Like many of you, I am sick of the ageism being hurled Madonna’s way for the last, oh, say, twenty years. Megaforce’s “Give Me All Your Luvin”, Madonna’s first video of the new decade, is an affront to that ageism. 

It’s not the defiantly and effectively youthful quality of Madonna’s (fabulous) song that makes the most powerful statement about the triviality of a performer’s age. It’s the ripe-at-fifty-three sexuality on display in the video. Madonna's sexuality isn’t dark or intense in this video, as in Jean Baptiste Mondino's “Justify My Love" or Madonna's SEX book. Rather, it’s colorful and silly and fun and frothy, just like the song itself. It’s Madonna affecting positive change the way she does best: not with an overt political statement, but rather by being herself, without any hint of shame. Physical beauty will always be subjective and societal. But sex appeal is irrefutable and eternal. Madonna is sexier than ever at fifty-three, and she seems to be having more fun than ever, too. I don’t love this simply because I love Madonna. I love many women in their 40s and 50s who are sexy and funny and have many decades of living ahead of them. Their uniquely earned glory is being celebrated by Madonna, and in turn by the millions of people who are watching this video. After all, the young should be jealous of the experienced—NOT the other way around. 

I think that this is Madonna’s best work in music videos since the one-two punch of Johan Renck’s “Hung Up” and Jamie King’s “Sorry”, the former of which might be her best video and the latter of which might be my personal favorite. I also think that “Give Me All Your Luvin’” is her most important video since Guy Ritchie’s “What It Feels Like For A Girl”. Both are works of pop art meant to evoke “oohs” and “aahs” amongst the loyal fans who are bound to love seeing Madonna achieve the impossible in a music video fantasy world. But they’re also both chances for Madonna to express her frustration with the rules handed down on her, not as Madonna herself but as a representative of two overlapping demographics that she belongs to. “What It Feels Like For A Girl” was about the restrictions that are commonly and universally placed on women from birth to death, and the violent extremes to which one might go in rebelling against those restrictions. In “Give Me All Your Luvin’” Madonna lashes out at the constraints that society places on women over fifty. “What It Feels Like For A Girl” makes a statement through the glamorization of violence being committed by a woman against all men. Madonna’s similarly in-your-face approach in “Give Me All Your Luvin’” takes the exact opposite form: it is a display of adoration of an older woman by hordes of younger men.  There are many women who can and do attract the adoration of younger men, but few of them are celebrated for it. In fact most of them, like Madonna, are scorned for it, publicly and privately, by gay and straight men and by gay and straight women.

I haven't emphasized the invaluable contributions of M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj to the song and video because they will inevitably (and involuntarily) be credited with bringing young people to the clip. This is not to undermine their own brilliance as artists, nor the edginess and self-definition which prompted Madonna to see herself in them. Thankfully, there’s a sign on YouTube that the "Give Me All Your Luvin'" video is already making an important impact on young people, separate from its M.I.A./Nicki appeal. Special thanks to my friend Nelson for showing me a video that fills me with optimism. After all, nothing trumps ageism quite like brilliant teenagers.

Madonna’s career as an artist has coincided with her contributions as a liberating icon, and her comfort with her own sexuality has been at the center of her positive and vital impact on feminism and gay rights. Now, at the dawn of a new era in her career, I hope that Madonna will continue to shatter Western society’s concepts about aging. All people, male and female, reach a certain age at which they’re expected to act a certain way, dress a certain way, and restrict themselves a certain way. Madonna is saying NO to that "certain age"/"certain way" mode of thinking. The more her message reaches the masses, the better chance we all have of living in a world that is rid of the prejudices that shape our conscious and unconscious perceptions of people. 

I have actively followed Madonna's life and career since 1990, and I have witnessed the world's perception of my sexual orientation changing dramatically since then. Madonna’s once radical views on gender and sexuality have become absorbed into the mainstream in the two decades since her most famously progressive works of art achieved commercial success and media saturation. But there’s a new terrain for her to conquer, and that warpath is the world’s intense resistance towards women who do not age quietly.

And who better to change the world than the woman who rules it?

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