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Ed Driscoll

You Heard It Here First

August 27th, 2013 - 7:04 pm

“Miley, Go Back to School,” Camille Paglia writes in Time:

The Cyrus fiasco, however, is symptomatic of the still heavy influence of Madonna, who sprang to world fame in the 1980s with sophisticated videos that were suffused with a daring European art-film eroticism and that were arguably among the best artworks of the decade. Madonna’s provocations were smolderingly sexy because she had a good Catholic girl’s keen sense of transgression. Subversion requires limits to violate.

Young performers will probably never equal or surpass the genuine shocks delivered by the young Madonna, as when she sensually rolled around in a lacy wedding dress and thumped her chest with the mic while singing “Like a Virgin” at the first MTV awards show in 1984. Her influence was massive and profound, on a global scale.

But more important, Madonna, a trained modern dancer, was originally inspired by work of tremendous quality — above all, Marlene Dietrich’s glamorous movie roles as a bisexual blond dominatrix and Bob Fosse’s stunningly forceful strip-club choreography for the 1972 film Cabaret, set in decadent Weimar-era Berlin. Today’s aspiring singers, teethed on frenetically edited small-screen videos, rarely have direct contact with those superb precursors and are simply aping feeble imitations of Madonna at 10th remove.

Pop is suffering from the same malady as the art world, which is stuck on the tired old rubric that shock automatically confers value. But those once powerful avant-garde gestures have lost their relevance in our diffuse and technology-saturated era, when there is no longer an ossified high-culture Establishment to rebel against. On the contrary, the fine arts are alarmingly distant or marginal to most young people today.

Great minds think alike, as the kids say on the Interwebs, and that last paragraph sounds awfully familiar. As I wrote last Wednesday, linking to Paglia’s recent interview in Salon:

Pop culture, whether in the form of the original modernists, or pop music, in the form of rock and roll in the 1950s and early Beatle-era 1960s, only really produces anything interesting and new when it has a more conservative and traditional overculture to push against. The original modernists had a millenia of tradition to rebel against — or reject outright — in the late 19th and early 20th century. At least until another group of leftists, led by their own wannabe artist, were even more eager to “Start From Zero” in Germany’s post-Weimar era. (Philip Johnson, who founded the Museum of Modern Art’s architectural department really hedged his bets, by maintaining a concentration camp in both groups.)

By the 1960s, there was nothing left other than modernism, which is why every office building built in America looked like Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building and 860 Lakeshore Drive, and every corporate and government logo incorporated Helvetica:

Similarly, MTV was the perfect platform for Madonna to mount (OK, pun slightly intended) to release her early videos, to blow off (sorry) 30 years of the network Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters. Once that was gone — and particularly, once Madonna released her Mapplethorpe-inspired “Sex” book in 1992, where else could the culture go?

As I asked last week, how does an artistic movement continue its “nostalgia for the mud,” once it’s wallowing in it?

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Top Rated Comments   
Madonna? please...that old nasty gap toothed skank looks like a Nazi prison guard in a 70's B movie. Miley is just another passing pop phenomena, a balloon with the air slowly easing out. She'll grace the covers of the National Enquirer for the next few years of rehab and public humiliation. Her hillbilly dad, if he cares, will find out what an achy breaky heart really is.
Miley does a nice cover of Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go". Unfortunately we won't miss her a bit.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
In my early 20s I saw Bonnie and Clyde, which was a must-see event among the people I knew. As a visual artist I was captivated by the credits, which announced that the film that followed would be an authentic recreation of the period instead of the usual reinterpretation of period style wrapped in a familiar and current guise. Up until then only the Brits successfully made films in which earlier 20th century periods were done accurately. In this regard the film was brilliant, a feast of gorgeous production design. But I was very troubled by the film all the same. To me it was a glorification of nihilism for nihilism's sake and, to my knowledge, the first American film in which two killers were portrayed in a very sympathetic light. They were just two glamorous romantic kids larking about, sewing some wild oats. The violent ending was choreographed so lovingly, so like a ballet, that I almost expected the corpses to get up and take an elaborate bow. I sensed that the film signaled a significant cultural change that I found disturbing. I think I was right. This film marked the beginning of a new cultural era, call it The New Dark Ages, that has seeped its way into every aspect of our society.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
I remember when Madonna was trash. Now rap and Miley Cyrus have elevated her to Art.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
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upto I saw the receipt 4 $4952, I accept that...my... mom in-law had been actually receiving money part time from there new laptop.. there uncle haz done this 4 less than 18 months and at present cleard the debts on their mini mansion and got a great new Lancia. read what he said >>>>http://www.wep6.com
Go to website and click Home tab for more details.
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33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Am I the only one who thinks discussing Madonna as an artistic milestone against which Cyrus' raunch can be revealingly measured hardly worth the effort?
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
I found nothing titilating or sexy about Cyrus' performance. Nor shocking. A boyish body with demonic Gene Simmons tongue extensions. Dancing around with Pedo Bears.

It's just sick twisted self hatred.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
What's hard to take seriously about Paglia is her insistence that Madonna (as if!) is Art.

I'm with Allen Bloom on this one!

Looks like maybe the Lefties will convict Miley of racism, somehow, for her execrable performance; perhaps that (if anything) will shut her up!
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
What's next? Bestiality? Human sacrifices on stage?
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Didn't some British rocker bite the head off a poor innocent mouse on stage once?
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah. The mouse asked for it. Apparently it was the only way he could stop hearing the music.

Now seriously, you are right: they'll do whatever it takes to shock the public.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Another adolescent desperately trying to be one of the "cool" kids.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
From inconsequential Disney starlet to primitive, perverted, pornographic,
sexual exhibitionist. Miley Cyrus is at the root core of our culture's
depravity and obsession with sex......degrading us just a liitle bit further by
pushing all the "twerking" buttons. Surely, next time on T.V., she will
no doubt have to outdo herself with full frontal nudity and newer, more exciting objects in her hands.
Can't wait......can you?





33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
About those old time stars Madonna imitated in the beginning of her career: there tended to be an element of pride, of haughtiness, in their performances even when they played the sluts. Think of somebody like Marlene Dietrich - even when she was the bought woman she always gave the impression that she was doing it because she had to, not because she liked it. That you could buy her body or her time, but you could never buy her, and she'd get out of it the second she was able to. And that the hero would have to offer her something much, much more if we wanted to have her for real, not just get the illusion of having her.

That is definitely missing with most of the women who sell with sex today. Most of them just appear very cheap, women anybody could have for nothing, or for the price of a drink. Something one might use and then throw away when it breaks or he gets tired of it, with no regrets. Not many Bugattis in that bunch.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
And not many people who even know what a Bugatti is.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
My problem with Paglia is that she likes Madonna. Madonna was cheap trash in the 1980s, not the art that Camille thinks she is/was. Bad music and cheap thrills images.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's right. Madonna in the 80s was merely recycling cheap trash from early modern period.

We are swirling the toilet bowl. Our cilvilization is in a death spiral.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
Paglia merely defends an ever coarsening, decadent, death spiral, neo-Pagan culture using the better diction and fancier vocabulary of the Academy but, nonetheless, it’s still just a defense of decadent, barbaric scheisse.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
What is kind of funny: anybody remember her father's song where the singer compares a girl he met to a used cheap sporty car - looks kind of flashy, and nice, on the outside, but once you look under the hood there is nothing much there?

Seems like she matured into that. A cheap car which has been made up to imitate a sports car, but only a bit and only on the outside. What people who dream about a Bugatti Veyron while knowing they will never, ever be able to buy one may go for, and perhaps even keep for a while, and have slightly amused memories about if they mature past that stage and finally buy something more sensible, although when they talk about it it's more in a joking manner, how weak the engine turned out to be, or how the exhaust pipe fell off in the middle of a highway.

While it evokes amused pity, at most, even from those people who can afford just a Mercedes, and isn't really even noticed by those who can afford that Bugatti, except maybe when gets on their way.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
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