I gotta admit: I was encouraged by the centurions.
When Madonna made her Super Bowl halftime entrance on a stage being towed by an army of Roman soldiers, I thought perhaps a miracle had happened, and she had developed a sense of humor about herself. It was a witty comment on the field as the arena of gladiatorial battle; of herself, as a man-eater who could only be satisfied by an army of ‘em; of, I dunno, the episode of “Rome” where Cleopatra travels about in a giant house being toted by a few dozen Nubians, while their princess lolls inside, smoking opium.
And then the show started, and oh well.
The sound was bad, but that happens in fast-changing live shows. The dancing was robotic, but that happens when everyone is hired for their robotic nature, so as not to distract from the star. And the music! Madonna’s greatest hits. Sure, of course. Because what she’s really promoting is her new movie, which no one wants to see. Madonna has been looking for her post-pop career for longer than she was fully present as a pop star, but she always ends up having to add the pop-star thing, contribute a song to the soundtrack so at least it’ll be eligible for one little award. And now, to get people to see “W.E.,” she’ll do the Super Bowl halftime show and give some interviews.
I read one the other day. She was asked about Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII’s Nazi sympathies. She denied they had any. Oh? How did she figure that? “Research,” she flatly stated. There’s not one substantive piece of evidence to prove they were Hitler-lovers, so that’s that.
Well, there’s that famous photo, and her friends’ and contemporaries’ accounts of her belief that Herr Hitler would put things right, and make her queen, once he got Europe under his boot. But of course Madge would be a Wallis fan, because they’re both such rebels! They don’t care what society thinks! They’re headstrong, too tempestuous to tame! And so on. Which is why I don’t have much hope for whatever she does next. Because she takes herself so, so seriously, with the Grande Ladye faux-British accent and always referring to herself as an “ah-tist.”
What she needs is a sitdown with Bette Midler. They’ll get along, and Bette will set her straight. Bette puts her background singers in mermaid tails and does a wheelchair dance routine. Bruce Vilanch writes her material. I’ve loved Bette since…well, since I first laid eyes on her, but especially since she came to sing at a Rolling Stone anniversary thing, maybe the 10-year party, and did what she does best: Walk into a place taking itself far too seriously and get them to stop. I remember she sang a song and then looked down at Sonny and Cher, sitting ringside. “What’s the matter, Sonny?” she asked. “Never seen a woman with bazooms before?”
Bette is about 66 now, still killing it (when she wants to), and is perfectly positioned to be Madonna’s life coach, and last best hope to find a career doing anything other than another lip-synched medley of greatest hits. If the first piece of advice she offers is “hire Bruce Vilanch,” we can at least thank her for that.
Other than that, it was a good Super Bowl, I guess. Liked the Chevy Silverado commercial best, but thought the rest were mostly meh. Clint Eastwood did his little Chrysler sermonette; I think that campaign is now officially played. You have the bookends now; let’s let it go. By next year, we’ll either have a new president (who thinks Chrysler would be better off lying dead on the ground, some private-equity vultures picking over its parts) or four more years of Obama. The case for the bailout has been made. Stop making it.
What did you think? Of all of it?