Video Kills the Video Star
Hyping its broadcast for days is an odd way to ban an objectionable video. For those who didnt see MTVs much ballyhooed recent onetime airing of What It Feels Like for a Girl, Madonnathe easily offended should stop heredrives aggressively in muscle cars. She purposefully smashes into a carload of leering men. She ridicules male authority figures, shooting two police officers with acover your eyeswater pistol. She steals from the rich (a man) and gives to the poor (a female waitress). And finally, she crashes her Camaro into a telephone pole, as if to say shes had enough of the patriarchal bullshit. Hubby and director of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch Guy Ritchie shoots an attractive short film, riddled with tension and clever angles.
If you listen to What It Feels Like for a Girl on Music, the song opens with an excerpt of actress Charlotte Gainsbourg from the film The Cement Garden: Its OK for a girl to look like a boy, but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading. Because you think being a girl is degrading. Its hard not to be impressed by Madonnas lyrics or the plaintive emotions she sustains in delivering them over delicate synth swells. Strong inside but you dont know it/Good little girls, they never show it/When youre trying hard to be your best/Could you be a little less? Its a song she wrote for daughter Lourdes, whose big brown eyes will sadly one day be opened to the fact that strong women risk intimidating an awful lot of men (and perhaps a few gun-shy Viacom executives). By the time the third chorus rolls aroundDo you know/what it feels like/for a girl/in this world?what once sounded sweet now breaks skin, even without changing pitch.
Unfortunately, Madonna proffers her visual wares to a fluffed-up trance mix, leaving the Gainsbourg sample and the chorusnow somewhat ambiguous without lyrical contextto stand alone. Its as if Madonna fulfilled her own prophecy: Not too smart, honey, or youll disturb the big, happy party.
Still, its hard to believe MTV would single out this video as too disturbing to air. Madonna cant suggest shes killing herself in a car, but we can see Eminemoops, I mean Standrive off a bridge with his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk, every day after school on TRL? Perhaps if Mrs. Ciccone-Ritchie wants to make a provocative feminist statement in the future, she should wear a thong and have Jay-Z pour beer on her. Doubtless, that would make the censors cut.
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