Here’s a blast from the past worth a second look. Good Morning America talks to Madonna in 1991 about Truth or Dare, a production “critics may see as a primitive home movie. A self-plotation film violating the boundaries of good taste.” In the age of Rock of Love and 50 Cent’s Twitter it’s hard to imagine this same criticism being lodged today. A notable passage from Madonna’s defense of the movie:
The movie isn’t just about me and the other side of me, the movie is also about, and I say it in the movie, it’s to explode the myth [of celebrity], that the people we raise up on a pedestal, the people that we turn into icons, we make them inhuman and we don’t give them human attributes, and so they aren’t allowed to fail, they’re not allowed to make mistakes…and so what I’m saying is, look, these things exist. For every bit of strength I have there’s this much weakness. For every bit of happiness I have there’s this much sadness.
Even if this particular video wasn’t produced for that reason, I’d argue that the world of reality TV, gossip blogs, and TMZ exists as a means to persecute and embarrass stars for being human.
But the most interesting portion of the video, at least as it pertains to public and private life today, comes later:
Good Morning America: We were at the scene where you were visiting your mother’s cemetary, your mother’s grave and you hadn’t been there for years, and this person I was with, this writer on the show said, you know there aren’t any private moments in this woman’s life. You let people look at the most intimate parts of you…your emotion. Why do you do that?
Madonna: But see, if that movie was all there was to me, if that movie was me, the sum total of me, maybe I would feel bad about what I’d done, but still, I give you all of this of my life and there’s so much more. Let me just tell you, I have to keep telling you this, this is not just a movie about me. It’s a movie about…
Good Morning America: Celebrity
Madonna: Celebrity but it’s also a movie that touches on a lot of different issues. It’s a slice of life. You don’t just see my life. You see the dancers that I work with you see bits and pieces of their life. I deal with a lot of topical issues. Family issues and what I think to be a big problem in the United States and that’s homophobia. There’s a real big section in the film devoted to that.
Here, Madonna makes a case for attempting to create a more complete image of herself and her concerns, while acknowledging that the “real Madonna” she presents is still incomplete. What does this branding look like today? Excluding the phenomenon of the Micro-celebrity – a status often achieved through some combination of “real” personality and either the presence or absence of talent — this branding still looks much the same. It’s worth mentioning, however, that while there’s usually some bleed, celebrities and non-celebrities alike typically choose a medium for their personal lives. AFC’s Will Brand, for example, saves art discussion for Twitter while using his Facebook to talk about baseball stats and chat with his friends. Neither, of course, represents the whole Will Brand. For that experience, you need to share work space in a basement office for several hours each week (though you’d still probably come up short). Problems that only existed for Madonna twenty years ago now exist for everyone on the web – well, other than Good Morning America giving us crap about our movies.