Monday, February 14, 2011

Madame Butterfly

So all these years later I'm watching the video for Malcolm McLaren's 'Madame Butterfly' and realising I still don't understand it. The glacially slow video, where women straight out of a Helmut Newton cover shoot for Vogue magazine look sadly sexy while lounging around in what might be a spa but what might also be an Ottoman harem, amkes next to no sense at all. It's clearly got nothing to do with McLaren's rather amazing take on the Japanese-set opera, but it certainly had everything to do with me loving this song when I was a akid. It probably has a lot to do with how I see beauty and how I see sensuality, actually - which is, to say, tangible and visceral but ultimately confusing and unknowable.

I would stare at this video over and over again when I was a kid, not just because the women are gorgeous and are wearing clothing that is all but completely transparent (additionally, I still can't be sure whether or not some of the women are just completely naked, flouting all Canadian broadcasting standards of the 1980s). It seemed to evoke something that was alien but attractive to me: a world of femininity, where women did very little except sought comfort in each other's presence and walk around expressionlessly. Or cover a very obviously naked but not very attractive woman with oil and then with what might be whipped cream.

This all seemed like some code, that I presumed would make more sense upon reaching adulthood. Well, I've been an adult for years now, Malcolm McLaren is dead, every one of those models is in her fifties, and it still doesn't make any sense to me.

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