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Madonna Power, December 22, 1990

Madonna Power

by Teodoro M. Locsin

December 22, 1990—That’s what she is after: power.

And she has it. Power over the feelings of hundreds of millions of the young who go ecstatically delirious as she gyrates, bounces, quivers, throws her body all over the stage and sings—barely audibly over the backup music of the rock band behind her. The teen-age and early twenties audience go wild and clap her back to the stage for more of the same, and she obliges after an hour of physical exertion in a music and dance Olympiad. She puts a champion long-distance runner to shame. To watch (and listen to) her Tokyo performance on videotape is as pleasurable as it is exhausting. What other human being, male or female, is capable of that?

And power over the livelihood of hundreds who depend on her for their jobs, whose dependency she matches with an equal sense of responsibility. That is power in the high sense of the word: power to be good to others.

“It’s a great feeling to be powerful. I’ve been striving for it all my life. I think that’s just the quest of every human being: power. There’s a constant struggle for power in a relationship too—no matter what…I’m not interested in anyone I can’t compete with. There’s got to be that fight.”

(As in the best marriages. Without competition over who has the emotional and other forms of ascendancy in the union, without love plus combat, marriage is “stale, flat and unprofitable” as Hamlet calls the uses of this world.)

Madonna’s world is far from that. She has made $90 million in the last four years and has this company and that to make the most money out of her untiring act. Unlike God, she never rests:

“I sleep a certain number of hours every night. Then I like to get up and get on with it. I set aside the three hours I have to make phone calls and do business. Then I set aside the hours I have to exercise. [Jogging miles everyday.] Then I set aside the hours for creativity…Yes, I can summon my creativity.”

Creating a new act.

All for power. Power is not a dirty word as the despots of history including ours, not to mention those who make a joke of power, have made of control over human destiny. Power could lie in the creation of works of art—literary, musical, pictorial and the rest of human achievement of the sublime. It could be religious: power over the souls of men—which the religious record both extols and warns against. It could be, in its grossest form, financial and political. But power is the prime human motivation, as Bertrand Russel elaborates in his book with that title. (The FREE PRESS editor read it on a mountainside in a guerilla camp during the war.) Power is what all are after—before attaining its true consummation—no longer feeling the need for it: peace.

Madonna, at 32, is not looking for peace. What a piece of womanhood she is, putting men in their place as she outdoes them in command of worldwide audiences. She’s woman triumphant—careless of male-imposed convention, uninhibited, completely letting go, shocking and exhilarating. Crazy? Crazy like a fox—making tens of millions. How will she be when time, which she holds in bay, finally catches up with her? Time alone can tell. But now it’s go-go-go Madonna!

What made the Italian-French Canadian-born child, Madonna Louise Ciccone, just, superbly “Madonna”? (The word is derived form Mia Donna, Italian for “My Lady”, and she is the “lady” of the world of the young though not in the genteel sense, having slept casually around.) Her records—Like a Virgin, have sold millions. “you make me feel”—thrusting her hips—“like a virgin”—rolling her belly—“touched for the very first time,” mocking the no longer revered institution of virginity. “this is a material world. And I am…a material girl.”

A power-full girl. Whence came originally the power? Perhaps form her mother—or memory of her:

“I have a memory if my mother in the kitchen scrubbing the floor. She did all the housecleaning, and she was always picking up after us. We were really messy, awful kids. I remember having these mixed feelings. I have a lot of feelings of love and warmth for her but sometimes I think I tortured her. I think little kids do that to people who are really good to them. They can’t believe they’re not getting yelled at or something so they taunt you. I really taunted my mother. I remember also I knew she was sick for a long time with breast cancer, so she was very weak, but she would continue to go on and do the things she had to do. I knew she was very fragile and kept getting more fragile. I knew that, because she would stop during the day and just sit down on the couch. I wanted her to get up and play with me and do the things she did before.

I know she tried to keep her feelings inside, her fear inside, and not let us know. She never complained. I remember she was really sick and was sitting on the couch. I went up to her back and saying, ‘Play with me, play with me,’ and she wouldn’t. She couldn’t and she started crying and I got really angry with her and I remember, like, pounding her back with my fist and saying, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Then I realized she was crying. [Madonna stops talking and covers her face with her hands and cries.] I remember feeling stronger than she was. I was so little and I put my arms around her and I could feel her body underneath me sobbing and I felt like she was the child. I stopped tormenting her after that. That was the turning point when I knew. I think that made me grow up fast. I knew I could be either sad or weak and not in control and say it’s going to get better.”

Madonna is in control of her life as few are. And she did it all on her own. Stole from no one.