Madonna’s Instagram account has a reputation as a playground for digital voyeurs. It doesn’t disappoint, featuring Madonna crying; Madonna drunk; Madonna twerking with Maluma; Madonna filming her family performing a dance while cooking; Madonna kissing Britney Spears at Spears’s wedding; Madonna flashing a boob; Madonna posing spread-eagle with the caption, “I have something for you.”
The singer has relatively few followers (18.4 million) compared to stars from later generations like Beyoncé (273 million), but she offers better stimuli: the chance to see a pop star who has done everything – going above and beyond both morally and artistically – struggle not to become just another sympathetic character. Madonna has been part of the music world for 40 years and still no other pop star has proven to be more subversive and provocative than she is. Now, she’s releasing a remix album summarizing her career, Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones (on sale August 19), turning 64 (August 16) and moving up the production of a film that tells her life story, the real one.
The singer’s frenzied use of her Instagram perfectly symbolizes her career, which has been scrutinized around the world since she started in the music industry in 1982, at the age of 25. Surely, Madonna has suffered every type of harassment that a pop star can endure: sexual harassment, body criticism, machismo, classism; accusations of cultural appropriation and of being anti-religious, sacrilegious, unpatriotic, youth-obsessed; and claims that she’s a heretic, an imposter for using playback in concerts, the financier of an alleged sect (Kabbalah)… Yes, she’s always gone too far in everything; as a woman from the suburbs of Detroit, that has not been tolerated. In the 1980s, she burned crucifixes in her music video for Like a Prayer; in the 1990s, she published a book, Sex, that had the most explicit images of homosexuality and fetishism that a star had ever shown; in the 2000s, she passionately kissed Britney Spears at an awards gala with millions of people watching on television; and just recently on June 23, at a New York Pride celebration, she made out with her new friend, Tokisha, the 26-year-old Dominican woman we know from the songs she performs with Rosalía like “Linda” and “La Combi de Versace.”
For a person who is so continually obsessed with attention, it must be frustrating for Madonna that she doesn’t resonate with today’s young people. Hence, her display with Tokisha and her desire to work with Kendrick Lamar, hip hop’s biggest talent today, as she confessed a week ago on Jimmy Fallon’s show. Madonna has one consolation: many teenagers today will also ignore the Beatles’ significance entirely, although Paul McCartney probably doesn’t care much about that anymore.
For 40 years, Madonna has been a thoughtful provocateur. Between provocations, she has recorded good albums with a limited voice. She herself has confessed that the biggest challenge of her career was preparing for the musical film Evita (1996); she had to work hard with the best singing coaches to bring her vocal abilities up to snuff. In four decades, she has released 14 albums, and at least five of them are essential listening. The first two (Madonna, 1983, and Like A Virgin, 1984) are full of gems that define 1980s dance pop. Songs like Holiday, Everybody, Lucky Star, Material Girl, Like a Virgin and Dress You Up are still exciting today, and they hold up equally well at the gym and in the club. Of course, Like a Prayer (1989), surely Madonna’s best work, transcends the context of the 1980s to retain its appeal in
subsequent decades. In terms of lyrics, Ray of Light (1998) was one of her career’s best. Her great avant-garde electronica work with producer William Orbit is both relaxed and festive. Finally, her reinvention with Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005) – done in collaboration with Stuart Price – gave 1970s/early 1980s disco music a facelift by updating it and making it more sophisticated. Through the present day, Madonna has been enormously influential; her imprint on Dua Lipa is the clearest example. She always knew that fame comes through a musical pastiche: taking a bit from here and a bit from there without being too obvious and then embellishing it with her own contributions.
Madonna has sold 250 million records and is the best-selling female artist in history, not bad for a girl who was born in a Detroit suburb, and whose world was shattered when she lost her mother at 6 years old. At the age of 20, she left for New York to do the opposite of what her strict father told her: she
became a model and was soon performing nude at punk joints like CBGB’s. When she began to break through in music, she found herself in the spotlight and surrounded by male achievers, including Prince, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, George Michael and U2. Of the 25 best-selling albums in the 1980s, when she began her career, only two women’s work made the cut : Madonna (with Like a Virgin and True Blue) and Whitney Houston.
In this male-dominated context, Madonna used her own sexualization to craft her image and exert control. She was not a sexual amusement for the male audience; she was a powerful and defiant woman. Madonna grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and other Motown artists, learned to play the drums with Elvis Costello’s New Wave records, saw David Bowie as the first concert she attended, and had her first drink at the age of 30, following her divorce from actor Sean Penn. Restless and curious, she always sought the company of daring artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Soon, Madonna realized that she was living in a hostile environment that was not ready to tolerate an emancipated woman’s success. In 1985, Playboy and Penthouse magazines published nude photographs that had been taken of her in 1979, when the singer was not yet famous and made her living posing naked for photographers. The publications took advantage of the singer’s fame in the mid-1980s and sold the old images. Madonna took the incident as a warning. “That was the first time I was aware of saying ‘Fuck you’ with my attitude. You’re trying to put me down because of this? I’m not going to let public opinion dictate my own feelings about myself. I’m not going to apologize for anything I’ve done,” she told Rolling Stone magazine. In 2016, when Billboard magazine named her Woman of the Year, Madonna delivered a legendary speech against sexism, machismo, and misogyny: “If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion that’s out of line with the status quo. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness.” She defiantly added that those who diminished her had made her tougher: “To the doubters
and naysayers and everyone who gave me hell and said I could not, that I would not or I must not — your resistance made me stronger, made me push harder, made me the fighter that I am today. It made me the woman that I am today. So thank you.”
More than a pop star, Madonna is a concept. She stands for rebelliousness, indiscipline and fighting against the odds. That’s why she is an LGTBI muse and a point of reference for those who came after her: Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Pink… and the current pop goddess, Beyoncé, who recently released a version of her single “Break My Soul” fused with Madonna’s 1990 hit “Vogue.” Beyonce thanked Madonna for her example in a note that the latter shared on social media: “I’m so grateful for you. You have opened so many doors for so many women. You are a masterpiece genius.”
Emerging Spanish-language urban musicians also express their appreciation for Madonna. As the Argentine Ms Nina, who lives in Spain, put it: “She’s an inspirational empowered woman. Now, our lyrics scandalize people, but she was much more radical in the 1980s. People criticize her now because she has surgery, because she is old…. Let’s see how her critics are doing when they’re 60 years old. They’re never happy. But they’re not going to intimidate her. I love her.”
Indeed, no matter how many haters visit her Instagram, Madonna is not going to give up. In 2019, she released an album that passed muster with harsh critics. Madame X did not thrill people but she did convince them. “Oh, you’re not allowed to make youthful, fun, sexy music if you’re a certain age? That’s a load of bollocks, to speak your language,” she said in a 2019 interview with The Guardian about her recently released album. True to her commitment to the queer community, a few days ago she released Material Gworrllllllllllllll!, a collaboration with gay rapper Saucy Santana in which they remix her 1980s hit Material Girl.
Three weeks ago, the singer gave an interview to Variety, announcing that she will direct a movie about her life (Julia Garner will play her). She explained it this way: “It was also a preemptive strike because a lot of people were trying to make movies about me. Mostly misogynistic men. So I put my foot in the door and said, ‘No one’s going to tell my story, but me.’” As always, that’s just Madonna being Madonna.
‘Women Dressing Women’: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s tribute to a century of great female designers | Culture
The Costume Institute’s fall exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) pays homage to female creation. Women Dressing Women is a statement of intent that starts with the exhibit’s very first panel. Women designers, artisans and artists have covered the female universe with their designs and different visions of women, always making them protagonists, sometimes turning them into objects but never passive subjects when it comes to clothing. Over 80 outfits from the Institute’s permanent collection are on display, and the exhibit covers the fashion industry chronologically, artistically and commercially. The pieces represent the fashion industry’s two main centers, Paris and New York, including names and labels that connect haute couture and street fashion, and the most refined traditions of the Old Continent, American avant-garde and utilitarianism.
The exhibition, which opens on Thursday and will remain on display through March 3, 2024, starts with a selection of black and white photographs, projected in a loop, showing the work of dressmakers, tailors and seamstresses at anonymous workshops between 1907 and 1962. There are also images of the first timid tests for a client and the first private fashion shows in salons at a time when designers didn’t have name recognition, let alone the planetary fame that they have acquired in recent decades (to say nothing of the attention they’ve received in recent years from celebrations like the great annual fashion exhibit at the Met and the museum’s fashion gala, the event of the spring).
This black and white tribute features the precursors of over 70 women designers, who bring dreams to life with their needles and thimbles. The exhibit traces the lineage of the last century’s most influential women-led fashion houses (although only a couple of them remain today, the House of Dior and the House of Chanel). It features the work of pioneers like Adèle Henriette Nigrin de Fortuny and her Venetian textiles; the exquisite Madeleine Vionnet; Spanish designer Ana de Pombo, one of the last at the French fashion house Paquin (1891-1956); and Elsa Schiaparelli, who led her own brand and was perhaps the first designer with name recognition. Indeed, the latter had an exhibition at the Met dedicated to her in 2012, in which she engaged in an imaginary dialogue with her famous compatriot, Miuccia Prada. Big names (Chanel, the aforementioned Miuccia Prada, Marchesa, Rodarte) do appear in the exhibit, but it highlights unknown women and those time has forgotten, as in the selection of ethereal creations from the first decades of the 20th century.
The figure of the designer known by name was forged in the workshops where seamstresses, milliners, apprentices and tailors toiled for decades. As an introductory panel accompanying a selection of anonymous photographs notes, “in the centers of French and European fashion, women’s right to dress other women was a slowly won privilege,” since men dominated the industry. It took a long time for female professionals to gain a foothold, something that happened with the deregulation of the guilds. In the United States, however, this vocation was seen as a natural, industrious extension of domestic responsibilities: after all, sewing was an inherently female occupation.
At the press preview of the exhibit on Monday, Max Hollein, the director of the Met, explained that fashion created by women has helped empower women, as well as the designers themselves. “This exhibition invites reflection on the vital contribution women have made to fashion from the early 20th century to the present by amplifying historically undervalued voices and celebrating the celebrity they have achieved. The garments on display exemplify the countless women whose contributions were, and continue to be, the lifeblood of the global fashion industry as we know it today.”
Andrew Bolton, the world’s most influential fashion curator, senior curator at the Costume Institute and the righthand man of Anna Wintour (the all-powerful fashion Vogue editor and architect of the Met fashion gala), also spoke at the press preview of the exhibit. He noted that “women have been central to the success of the Costume Institute since its inception. Its founders include several inspiring women; that’s why the Institute remains dedicated to celebrating women’s artistic, technical and social achievements. They are part of fashion history.”
For Mellissa Huber, associate curator at the Costume Institute, the fall exhibition offers an opportunity to “learn the crucial stories of groundbreaking women designers who played a pivotal role in the conception of fashion as we know it. Women’s contributions to fashion cannot be quantified, but our intention with this show is to celebrate the Costume Institute’s permanent collection, which represents the rich history of Western fashion.” As Hollein emphasized, fashion is a symbol of female power and emancipation but also the result of tremendous collective work. Historically, conceptually and commercially, fashion is also the triumph of social progress, a powerful vehicle for women’s social, financial and creative autonomy. As Ted Pick, the co-chairman of Morgan Stanley, a sponsor of the exhibit’s luxurious catalog, points out, “the milestone that three Parisian haute couture fashion houses—Chanel, Dior and Iris van Herpen—are run today by powerful women” cannot be overlooked.
“The common thread that connects different generations of professional women reveals how subsequent generations have built on and expanded the legacy of their predecessors. The exhibit reflects the intergenerational dialogue between these designers in historical perspective and the talented women who worked with them from a contemporary point of view,” explains Karen Van Godtsenhoven, a co-curator of the exhibition. Indeed, to cite just one example of these silent conversations between the pieces on display, there is the direct thread between Fortuny’s characteristic pleating and Comme des Garçons’ textile origami; the austere scenography makes the connection stand out and reveals the continuum mentioned by the experts who organized the show. There’s a similar connection between Vivienne Westwood’s conceptual punk and the groundbreaking dress with pieces of metal inserted in silk with which the house Vionnet reinterpreted the syntax of ancient Greek ceramic painting in 1924: tradition as modernity and vice versa, along with the eternal aspect of fashion and art.
Indeed, to see one example of this legacy, look at the heads of the mannequins wearing the dresses in the pioneers’ room (the first room in the exhibit): they are topped with the enduring forms of classical Greek columns.
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Rich, Influential And Poorly Dressed: Powerful Men Have A New Uniform
One of the best memes of this year is undoubtedly the photo of Justin Bieber turned into a caricature of himself, wearing yellow Crocs and tracksuit bottoms combined with a sweatshirt and a pink Nahmias cap. And next to him is his wife, Hailey Bieber, looking flawless in an impeccable red strapless Ermanno Scervino mini dress.
In the image, Justin Bieber is the personification of the scumbro trend, defined by Vanity Fair columnist Kenzie Bryant, who put together the words “scum” and “bro.” This trend defines the aesthetics of celebrities such as Pete Davidson, Tom Holland and Machine Gun Kelly. What defines this hectic style is an absolute lack of aesthetic coherence; they want us to know that they walked out of their houses wearing the first thing they saw in their closets. What is often striking (and incomprehensible) is that scumbros usually have a partner (like Hailey Bieber) who looks exactly the opposite; their outfits are neat, stylish.
“The strategy, in the end, is that celebrity couples dress alike, something that is accentuated when there are brands involved,” Leticia García, chief fashion editor of the fashion magazine SModa, says. “Everything is marketing, and the construction of the celebrity image is nothing more than advertising. The next step is the construction of the image of the couple, something that seems to me to be a way of stripping people of [their] self-identity.”
Looking disheveled on purpose
Going out looking messy and untidy — compared to one’s partner — is a strategy to attract attention, according to Pedro Mansilla, a sociologist, journalist and fashion critic. This is particularly true when we talk about celebrity couples, Mansilla adds. Famous men tend to do it when they are dating “women who have achieved notoriety on their own merits.”
Mansilla points out that this happens primarily in heterosexual couples and adds that it could be due to the so-called bad boy attraction, with his characteristic sins: carelessness, unpunctuality, laziness, etc. There is nothing more attractive than a guy who — due to his status, and thus, power — can dress whichever way he wants, says Mansilla. In other words, according to this new trend (very ad hoc with the Silicon Valley power players who went from nerds to billionaires at the beginning of this century), for a powerful man, nothing is more exciting and vindicating than to dress as if he were powerless.
This style is, in fact, the result of an aesthetic decision. Actor Adam Sandler considers himself, perhaps, the last great purist of the scumbro style, someone who dresses this way out of sheer carelessness. When asked in an interview how he would define his aesthetic, he replied: “A man who opened a suitcase and threw something on.” The difference between Sandler and others — such as Justin Bieber or Pete Davidson — is that he is probably the only one who dresses this way in the most natural way possible. Nowadays, scumbros wear streetstyle brands such as Palace and Supreme, as well as clothing from big brands l Gucci, Versace, and Prada. Their style is more about being perfectly imperfect.
Proof that whoever dresses like this does not do it out of laziness, but with absolute intention, is that when a user wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that Diplo was starting to “look like a dude that sells you bad weed on the Venice boardwalk,” the musician posted a screenshot of the tweet on his Instagram profile along with the caption “Goals achieved.” Even Esquire magazine published an article in which it pointed out that celebrities dress “like teenage weed dealers.”
Brands like Balenciaga and Acne Studio have seized on this supposedly chaotic aesthetic. And, as Kyle Dinkjian — who runs the Instagram account JonahFits, which analyzes Jonah Hill’s looks — explained to The Wall Street Journal, this style inspires men who “don’t look like movie stars to get into their own fashion and make it their own.”
“People are tired of the ‘everything goes’” mentality, Pedro Mansilla counters. “Uglysm still dominates, but the sartorial order will prevail at some point. The anti-establishment style is showing signs of fatigue. The dandy is starting to come out of the closet,” he adds.
A new type of narcissist
But do these men really not care about their style at all? “When someone claims that fashion is banal and superfluous, it’s a sure sign that they are a person who thinks they are above the rest,” says García. “People dress not only as a way of expressing themselves, but also out of respect for others.” We must differentiate here, however, between two types of scumbros. One of them is Justin Bieber, who knows about fashion, has been nourished by it and has collaborated, in fact, with big brands such as Calvin Klein. His scumbro style is actually worth thousands of dollars. On the opposite side of the spectrum is something like Adam Sandler, who many Internet users defend for being someone who dresses according to his comfort and his own style. He is true to himself. Authentic.
“A trained eye should always distinguish those who don’t care how they are dressed from those who do care, but pretend they don’t,” Mansilla explains. “These are the most interesting because, in principle, they set the upward trend. We have become so bored with seeing the integrated that we wish to see the apocalyptic, to use Umberto Eco’s terminology.”
It seems that stylistic laziness is less and less about laziness and more and more about strategy, especially when a closer look at their closets reveals that every garment and accessory is worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. If silent luxury has taught us that even the most basic white T-shirt can be a sign of social status, styles like scumbro are not precisely symptoms of passivity, but of careful decisions. Today’s narcissist has mutated: he is no longer just Christian Bale in American Psycho, he has also been spotted wearing sweatpants, a Hawaiian shirt and Crocs.
How News Helicopters Ushered A Fresh Television Genre In Los Angeles
By Darren Wilson
Fifteen minutes of fame was not enough for Johnny Anchondo. Local television devoted some 100 minutes of live coverage to this repeat offender, following one of the wildest chases Los Angeles has seen in recent years. In that time, the 33-year-old criminal ran a stop sign and caused an immense mobilization of the police as he stole two pickup trucks, rammed into dozens of vehicles at high speed and escaped from at least 15 patrol cars that were hot on his trail for some 12 miles. All of this was recorded by the all-seeing eye in the sky, news helicopters.
“Chases are the best. They are dynamic, they move fast. Things can change in an instant. Sometimes they seem endless from up there,” says Stu Mundel, one of the journalists who have been following events on the city streets from a helicopter for decades. “And I say this from the bottom of my heart, it’s genuine, but I always wish things would end well,” he adds.
In Los Angeles, chases are now a television genre in their own right. Journalists like Mundel fly for hours over a gigantic urban sprawl of 88 cities with 11 million people. From way up high, they report on traffic, crashes, shootings and fires in the metropolitan area. But few events arouse the audience’s interest as much as the chases through the city’s vast thoroughfares. The police chase starring Anchondo attests to that fact; the video has over 28 million views on YouTube.
The genre was born in this city. The idea came to John Silva, an engineer for a local television station, while he was driving his car on a freeway near Hollywood. “How can we beat the competition?” he wondered. The answer came to him behind the wheel. “If we could build a mobile news unit in a helicopter, we could beat them in arriving to the scene, avoiding traffic and getting all the stories before the competition,” Silva told the Television Academy in a 2002 interview.
In July 1958, a Bell 47G-2 helicopter made the first test trip for the KTLA network, becoming the first of its kind anywhere in the world. By September of that year, Silva’s creation, known as the Telecopter, already had a special segment on the channel’s news program. Before long, every major television network had one. Silva died in 2012, but his invention transformed television forever.
The chase genre’s crowning moment came in June 1994, when the Los Angeles police chase of a white Ford Bronco was broadcast live on television. In the back of the vehicle was O.J. Simpson, the former football star, whom the authorities had named the prime suspect in the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. Bob Tur (now known as Zoey Tur after a sex change operation), the pilot of a CBS helicopter, located the van on the 405 freeway being followed by dozens of patrol cars. Within minutes, there were so many helicopters following the convoy that Tur found the scene worthy of Apocalypse Now. The audience was such that TV stations interrupted the broadcast of Game 5 of the NBA Finals to follow the chase, which lasted two hours.
“It’s a very interesting thing. It may sound morbid, but it’s not. People follow [police chases] because they are like a movie, we want to know how it will end and how the story unfolds: will good triumph over evil? Or will this person manage to escape? We journalists are objective, but the adrenaline and excitement is genuine,” says Mundel. In his years of experience, he has seen how technology has evolved. In the 1990s, people used a paper map as a guide. Today, viewers can see a map superimposed on the images Mundel captures with his camera.
Four out of 10 chases are initiated after a vehicle is stolen. The second most common reason for them are hit-and-runs by drivers who are drunk or under the influence of drugs. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, most fugitives are hiding a more serious crime: homicide, rape or violent robbery. In 1998, only four out of the 350-plus drivers arrested after a chase were let off with only a traffic ticket; five hundred chases were recorded that year.
A growing phenomenon
In 2022, 971 chases were recorded. On average, chases last about 5.34 minutes and cover about five miles, although the vast majority (72%) end within five minutes and do not travel more than two miles. 35% of documented chases ended in crashes with injuries or fatalities in 2022. That figure represents a slight decrease from 990 in 2021. In 2019, there were fewer: 651 chases and 260 crashes.
A few decades ago, authorities tried to reassure Angelenos by claiming that a person had a one in four million chance of accidentally being killed in a police chase of a criminal. “There’s a better chance of being struck by lightning,” the police department estimated. But things have changed. An official report presented in April indicates that, over the past five years, 25% of chases have left people dead or injured. That almost always includes the suspect, but the number of innocent people who have been hurt has also increased.
Although there is plenty of material on the street, uncertain times for local journalism have limited coverage. Univision and Telemundo have dispensed with their helicopters in Los Angeles. Fox and CBS have joined forces and are using one aircraft instead of two. For the time being, KTLA, which invented the genre, remains committed to having a helicopter in the air.
The days may be numbered for these televised events. Some metro police departments have asked their officers to stop chasing criminals at high speed for the safety of the public. Instead, they have employed technology with high-definition cameras and drones to chase criminals, as has happened in cities like Dallas, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
The Los Angeles police have said that they are studying the implementation of the Star Chase system in some of their vehicles. Star Chase features a launcher that triggers a GPS transmitter, tagging a fleeing vehicle and allowing the authorities to track the position of the person who has escaped in real time. Another measure under consideration is the use of an industrial-strength nylon net that traps the rear axle of the fleeing car. All of this could yield dramatic footage for the eye in the sky.
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