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Monday, September 26, 2011
RAW and Madonna
I've been re-reading Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger 3: My Life After Death and I just finished the chapter on Orson Welles F Is for Fake and Madonna's movie, Truth or Dare. The Welles part is not a surprise, as RAW's interest in Welles is well known, but the Madonna part surprised me a bit. It's clear from the essay that RAW made an effort to find as many reviews of Truth or Dare as possible and that he made a point of watching her music videos (it's interesting to picture RAW, normally not known for his interest in pop music, earnestly squinting at MTV to spot moments of postmodern ambiguity in "Like a Virgin." Does anyone know how RAW got interested in Madonna?
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Bob also writes about his interest in Madonna in _Chaos and Beyond_. I think anyone paying attention to the media 23 years ago would have had an awareness of Madonna. I think Bob praised Madonna because he liked her and also to tweak the noses of people who put her down.
He quotes from Truth or Dare in his Intro to Scarfalotto's book. Same with Dark Destiny. In Trajectories #14, 1995 Madonna is one among the "codologists." She's mentioned by RAW in The Realist piece about the "First International Orgasm Conference" w/re/to RAW's understanding of deconstruction. RAW mentions Madonna in Everything Is Under Control, under the entry on The Antichrist.
I think RAW liked her because she played the mass pop media at least as much as they played her; in this way she seemed sorta Orson Wellesian. He also liked that Truth or Dare was a "fake" documentary, akin to F For Fake. The riffs on "codology" seemed very much like the definitions of guerrilla ontology, and RAW saw French deconstruction as a variant of both of those.
Another reason I think he liked her echoes what Eric says: she was in-your-face sexuality; a constant theme in RAW's work was our culture's prurient/puritan-based take on sex. We are too Apollonian, which leads to giggles over naughty stuff; we ought to be more frank and boldly Dionysian...the Ruling Class is probably afraid of sexual freedom for the proles, and the media reflects their wishes: fear and shame and blazing hypocrisy.
Madonna, in her prime, was more in control of her signals and messages, and the pop media had to cover her. I think RAW liked that.
I don't know why RAW liked Madonna. When I saw the first issue of Spin Magazine there was a section of photos of her that seemed designed to identify her with an obvious archetype. Even though I didn't like her music, I thought this an incredibly brilliant PR move. It was the first time I'd seen anyone so overtly use this kind of symbolism for marketing purposes. This was at the same time "Madonna" puts out "Like A Virgin" and does a video oozing sexuality in a white wedding dress. I don't think you can get much more obvious. The way I saw it, she hitched herself to an archetype and became a star.
She didn't become popular overnight. Her first album, without that kind of marketing, didn't do anything for her career. In New York circles she had the rep of someone who would do anything, within reason, to make it. For instance, her music first created a buzz in New York dance clubs at the same time she happened to be dating Jellybean Benitez, the most popular club DJ. She had a strong Will to make it and she did. Perhaps RAW respected her Magick, her Intelligence, and her ability to use the media to create and recreate her various images.
As always, Oz Fritz chimes in with his acute sensibilities. Yep: the love goddess archetype and the subtle subversive swipes at Catholic iconography probably also influenced RAW to pay attn to her.
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