Recently she has been thinking big, producing murals printed on a kind of contact paper. She got the idea, she said, after seeing how “a number of male artists would get invited to do a show somewhere, and they’d just fill up an entire wall of painting that is just this gigantic thing.”
She added: “I was thinking how pretentious that is. It made me realize not too many women artists think that way.”
Madonna is that forbidden thing, the Nietzschean creative woman.
Her preoccupation with a high level of work doesn’t allow her to follow the usual script that powerful women are expected to follow – “don’t hate me for my success, don’t hate me for my power”. She doesn’t pretend to the press that she thinks she is not talented, or suggest that she happened to make high-level art for decades unconsciously, or by accident, or in her sleep.
She doesn’t parade her vulnerabilities; she does not play the victim. She is not continually letting us in to the details of some battle with bulimia or weight problems or health problems or drug abuse, or the way her heart always seems to get broken (fill in likeable talented/wealthy/successful actress, musician, etc here). Nor does she complain about how hard it is to juggle work and family, or let us into photo shoots where we see the banal and recognizable rituals of grocery shopping or ferrying kids, so that we can know reassuringly that she is JUST LIKE US (fill in likeable female politician/news anchor here).
If she did engage in those ritual forms of self-abnegation that influential women are encouraged to spin to soft pedal their power in our media culture, we would “like her more”. But she would be far less important – both as an artist, and to the collective female psyche.