Friday, October 09, 2009

Lessons of Madonna

Sometimes I feel like all I do is reblog Madonna links from boyculture. I hope that if he ever sees me do this, he realizes that it is not because I am bereft of ideas and can only find material for blogging by mining his blog. Rather, I do it because the posts he does on Madonna truly interest me. He finds the most interesting and unexpected Madonna-related items on the web and posts them and I find them all fascinating, even when I don't agree with his opinions.

Today he posted a link to a post someone else wrote about Madonna. It is long but worth it, although I suspect that only Madonna fans will be able to persevere through the entire thing. This post was written by a gay man describing his "relationship" with Madonna. In many respects, he has the same kind of love/hate relationship that many fans have had with her throughout her career, although his certainly comes down more on the "hate" side of the equation. And part of his hate stems from the fact that since he is a gay man, he is "expected" to like Madonna. He relates the story of his coming to terms with his own sexuality and how it intertwines with his distaste for Madonna's music. He started out using the fact that liking Madonna was "gay" as a reason to deny his sexuality, and then, once he came to terms with being gay, he simply found her boring and derivative. He rather stubbornly refuses to compromise his principles and "give in" to liking Madonna, but also recognizes that trying to ignore her when you consume pop culture is nigh onto impossible.

This paragraph, while mostly talking about gay men and their relationship with Madonna, also really resonated with me.

People wonder what attracts gay men to her and the larger-than-life women of her ilk. I think some of it has to do with the fact that when you are gay, there are really no restrictions on taste -- you can enjoy the girliest of girly things because what are people going to do, call you a fag for liking something? They already have. But that's more circumstantial that specific. More to the point, I think gay men take an active interest in Madonna, because when whipped into her entertaining frenzy, she seems so free. While masculinity is so often defined by restraint (Sports have so many rules! Real men don't cry!), iconic women like Madonna are characterized by their lack of it. They're allowed to put it all out there, to be as emotional as they want (maybe they aren't always praised for it, but they don't receive questions about their womanhood or death threats as a result). For those of us who feel repressed in any way for being what we are, the Madonnas of the world offer a vicarious thrill, an exuberance in one's identity. It's something to aspire to.

The key line here is "feeling repressed in any way for being what we are." This speaks more broadly to the issue of masculinity in general and you don't have to be gay to understand this. You don't even have to particularly like Madonna (although that helps). While the paths of straight men and gay men are by definition different because of orientation and the expectations and preconceived notions placed on that by society, we are all still men and that is our common bond. I've put up with my fair share of shit because of misperception on the part of many in the past and I can say with great honesty that I have frequently felt a prisoner to the traditional definition of masculinity. Oh, sure there are many ways in which I am very typically male, but I would venture to say those are far fewer in number than the ways in which I am not typically male. One need look no further than my inability to play sports and my distaste for watching them. I am fond of saying that I don't care, but really I do. As Madonna herself said in Truth of Dare "even though it's not supposed to matter, it does matter what they think." You can't escape it.

I have said it before on this blog and will say it till I am blue in the face because I believe it so strongly - there is so much that we, as straight men, can learn from gay men. I don't like to group them all together because stereotyping of any group for any reason really defeats the purpose, but I think that if we have any hope of redefining masculinity, it will come from them. It certainly won't come from most straight men - I can't imagine that many even think about it much. But there are those of us that do, I even know a few personally. I actually really think that the issue really transcends orientation - we have so much to learn from EACH OTHER. I think about this a lot and I wonder how we will ever be able to help each other when we can't even talk to each other. Sometimes that makes me sad, other times it makes me angry, but mostly, I realize that it will probably not change much in my lifetime.

Blog posts like this push me to the edge of my comfort zone, and I often shy away from them. But sometimes, you just have to say something, and that guy's post on Madonna pushed it out of me. The path to the man I am has been a strange one - the mere fact that I can mention flesh eating zombies and Kylie in pretty much the same breath has me marked as intriguing to some and weird to others. Of that, I am actually quite proud. At least it is not boring.


John said...

Rich at fourfour makes me feel like a rookie every time I read his stuff. I wrote a similar blog a month or so ago, but I'm literally Bush League compared to that entry. He's a good one to bookmark or add to the feed.

Dan said...

Oh, me as well. I'll never be "through the wilderness" so to speak if I compare my writing to his. I'm really glad that there is someone out there writing like that - it inspires me toward more than just YouTube videos, etc.