Paglia to Material Girl: "Open Your Heart"


Upsetting as Madonna's recent riding mishap was for all of us, Camille Paglia sees more disturbing implications for the fading Queen of Pop:

I was distinctly unsettled when I saw the August cover story of American Vogue, with Madonna ostentatiously posing in riding habit and boots on a horse whose reins she is awkwardly and incorrectly holding. We are told she has been throwing herself into country pursuits to please her macho husband, Guy Ritchie. As a professionally trained dancer, tireless jogger and practitioner of extreme yoga, Madonna is an accomplished athlete. But riding is not just another routine challenge that she can master through sheer willpower. Along with physical skills, riding requires relaxation and self-subordination, an intuitive opening to the horse. Knowledge of horses needs to be accumulated by riders over a lifetime.

A hyperactive planner with a draconian daily schedule, Madonna may not be the ideal rider. Her tension and distraction can easily be picked up by a skittish horse, as evidently happened here.

It might seem that this diagnosis, with its implied argument that Madonna must be a lousy lay, is Paglia's revenge for the pop star's long-ago indifference to her attentions. But the always-agile Paglia manages to give the whole thing the air of a public service message—she's not angry, just concerned for for well-being of the Ritchies:

On this day, she was just back from the US - a point missed in news reports. It was certainly ill-advised for Madonna, a 47-year-old novice rider, to mount a strange new horse the next day in Wiltshire - a thoroughbred that had just been trucked in as a birthday gift from her husband. That misjudgement [sic] - which could have had more severe and even fatal consequences - suggests there are dangerous lacunae in the Ritchies' horse sense.

Reason interviews Paglia here. Paglia rages against the dying of high culture here. Counterpart Camille Froglia gives relationship advice here. Man dies during sex with a horse here. Catherine the Great's royal horse sense here.

And when is Paglia going to do a guest spot on The Sopranos? I know she's railed against the show's stereotypes of Italian Americans, but what better way to keep up that fight than a supporting role as a wacko college professor? Is the daughter still supposed to be going to Columbia?

NEXT: Girls Gone Charity

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  1. I'm trying to figure out who is more boring. Paglia or Madonna?

  2. dangerous lacunae

    Yuck on that. And how sad that Paglia let pass a rare (?) chance to say "frightening gaps" or "scary holes" in a sentence about Madonna.

    She used to be cool.

  3. Man rides horse is not news.

    But horse rides man...

  4. Paglia's argument actually sounds somewhat similar to one line of attack used by the Catholic Church against artificial birth control.

  5. I suspect that Madonna is (like many of her showbiz cohorts) a dilettante, the kind of person who rides horses not because she wants to, but because she thinks that's what she is supposed to be seen doing. If so, the joke is on Paglia - and anyone else who takes all this pop culture crap too seriously.

  6. I know she's railed against the show's stereotypes of Italian Americans...

    Paglia's version of P.C. I guess. 🙂

  7. Isn't it "ColOmbia"? rather than the SC city?

  8. Ayn Randian-No. The University, the District and the Capitol of SC all use the English spelling, not the Spanish.

  9. It always strikes as odd that so many people believe that they have some sort of insight into celebrities--people they have never met. I've been practicing psychology for years, and it takes a very long time to get to know someone well enough to articulate their reasons for engaging in a particular behavior--in this case Madonna and horseback riding. Why waste time speculating about something that we will never know?

  10. VERY interesting.

  11. "I'm trying to figure out who is more boring. Paglia or Madonna? "

    Around the stretch its Paglia by a nose, Madonna, and Pointless Blog coming on strong!

  12. That's great, Tim. Any posts about Judy Garland coming up?


  13. A man was struck (and apparently killed) on my street tonight. Sad and sobering.

  14. Was this poor man trampled by a thoroughbred horse ridden by Madonna against the advice Paglia?

  15. jdog,

    No, he was struck by a car. It was a fairly bloody scene.

  16. At least the young girl in "For Better or For Worse" is a hoss whisperer.
    Madonna can't be all things to all men.

    Can Sylvia Pajoli whisper to hosses? (I'm guessing yes.) I'm thinking she's the Robin Leach of hoss whispering.

  17. Anyway, I knew Paglia was nutty when I discovered she was heavy into astrology.

  18. Her coming out for legalized snuff porn didnt't tip you off?

  19. Hakluyt, wait just a minute. I have some respect for astrology, because it's plausible within the framework of Carl Jung's principle of synchronicity.

  20. joe,
    When did she ever say that?

  21. Late 80s/early 90s, in a scholarly work, as I understand it.

  22. I hope you live in a neighborhood/town where the people there did the best they could in dealing with this tragedy. I hope they gave a shit about this.

  23. joe,
    I doubt that she ever said such a thing, although her left-wing feminist enemies might believe she did. Paglia is very libertarian on porn, but she wouldn't endorse actual murder on a porn set.

  24. The Anti-Puritan,

    How do the various celestial bodies influence our fate, personality, etc. exactly? I've been told that its a function of gravity, but that's ludicrous given the very weak nature of that force at such distances. IMHO, its bullshit along the lines of feng shui, theism, etc.

  25. Hakluyt:

    "Anyway, I knew Paglia was nutty when I discovered she was heavy into astrology."

    Very nutty indeed, she's into astrology (the immaterial world) and Ayn Rand, the real material girl.

  26. Anti-Purian, the very first link on a google search on "paglia snuff" yielded an address she gave at MIT in 1991. From that speech, "I'm someone who is on the record as being pro-pornography--all the way through kiddie porn and snuff films."

    I KNEW I didn't imagine it.

    I don't think she means that she thinks those acts should be legal, but that the distribution of the material after that fact by other parties should be.

  27. The Anti-Puritan,

    Well, first of all, snuff films are largely part of the world of urgan legends (indeed, the paranoia over them resembles that over claims of devil worship in public schools). Second of all, she has made statements about snuff films during interviews that aren't exactly flattering. IMHO, Paglia is the academic version of Howard Stern; she's an academic shock jock and should be treated accordingly.

  28. I'm just astounded that she managed to write several paragraphs without using the word 'chthonian.'

  29. joe,

    I think its her strange way to go after feminists like Catherine McKinnon, who maintains (despite a lack of proof) that a large snuff film industry exists.

  30. Who's Camille Paglia? Having already spent so much time not caring about Madonna, why do I care what this person thinks about the way she mounts strange horses?

    And thanks so much for the fact that I will now spend the evening trying to expunge the disturbing image of Madonna mounting strange horses.

  31. "Chthonian", damnit.

  32. Thanks for the 'link', joe. I think I am 'looking' at it now. It's seems to be some kind of manifesto you need a tin-foil hat to actually read.

  33. Hakluyt, that, combined with the childish and irresponsible desire to be transgressive for its own sake that afflicts certain anti-authoritarian personalities. OOoooooh, look at me! At least McKinnon, she seemed sincere in her insanity.

  34. John DeWitt: Paglia was a phenom for about 10 minutes in the 90s. Her most well known book, Sexual Personae, is one of those that many people buy to place on the bookshelf, but few ever read.

    Her basic point is that sex is disturbing, and also liberating, because it bypasses society's rules (which she calls Appolonian) and connects with nature.

    Or something. She was always entertaining, but only occasionally coherent.

    Also, I added that second post because I thought I had mistyped the C word. I probably should have checked before correcting myself.

  35. I'm telling you, jdog, these internet searching skills, it's like I'm joining the mid-1990s.

  36. "... these internet searching skills..."

    I didn't mean at all to beat on you for not giving us a hyperlink, your suggested Google search was perfectly adequate, AFIK.

  37. The problem of the last twenty years is that people think that "liberal" and "conservative" mean something. The liberal and conservative dichotomy is dead. The last time it was authentic was in the Fifties, when there really was an adversarial voice coming out of people I really respected, the New York Jewish intellectuals like Lionel Trilling and the people of Partisan Review. There was an authentic liberal versus conservative dichotomy at that time. But my generation of the Sixties, with all of our great ideals, destroyed liberalism, because of our excesses. We have to face that. And we have to look for something new right now.

    She doesn't seem all the nutty to me.

  38. Hmm, I should have not spelled "that" t-h-e. I also should have included the paragraph following the one I quoted:

    The situation right now is that we have on one side people who consider themselves leftists but to me, as far as academe is concerned, are phonies, people who have absolutely no credentials for political thinking, have no training in history, whose basic claim to politics is simply that nothing has happened to them in their lives. A lot of these people have money. I'm sick and tired of these New Historicists with trust funds. I'm so sick and tired of it. And because they're pampered, their whole lives have been comfortable, because they've kissed asses all the way to the top, they have to show they're authentic by pretending sympathy for the poor lower classes, the poor victims.

    I like her.

  39. I was a big fan of Paglia back when she was on Salon a few years ago. In fact, I think I have to credit her with first making me wonder what libertarianism might be. She's totally wrong about The Sopranos, though.

  40. Paglia is brilliant, but she is not to be taken seriously.

    But then, maybe no one is to be taken seriously...

  41. Dr. P is clearly going Starchild. So of course her hyperdimensional popsy-pervy perspective appears bizarre and paradoxical to us primitive Flatlanders.

  42. I fully agree with you Tim. Being physicaly fit and being able to ride are two different things. Its no wonder that she was injured......

  43. What's the difference between Mario Puzo's "Godfather" series and "The Soprano's?" Because Paglia praised the former at one time.

  44. Number 6,

    She also ahs this tendency to belive that unless you are suffering you can't make good art.

  45. An unfortunate juxtaposition with the snuff film comments, I must say.

  46. I also enjoyed Paglia's work in Salon, but I always was amused by her tendency to connect every single cultural happening back to her books or lectures--usually in a very awkward and obvious way.

    Definitely some shark-jumping going on here, though. Commenting on Madonna's horsemanship is, well, pathetic.

  47. Hakluyt:
    How do the various celestial bodies influence our fate, personality, etc. exactly? I've been told that its a function of gravity, but that's ludicrous given the very weak nature of that force at such distances.

    I know I'm very late answering this, but here goes: You're right that gravity can't be the mechanism. Indeed, the gravitational pull from the people and objects in the delivery room on a baby being born is greater than that from the planets. You can read about synchronicity here.

  48. Maybe there's some confusion about the definition of a snuff film. Does it involve a simulated murder or a real murder? Perhaps Paglia intended the former meaning and MacKinnon the latter. I think I remember reading in Nadine Strossen's book Defending Pornography that, as a publicity stunt, the makers of an adult film titled Snuff claimed that they had actually killed a woman in its production, and that this very woman turned up alive and well.

  49. Or maybe she was referring to the 12-year ban on public showings of the Zapruder film.

  50. Hold on! The word Zapruder contains the word prude. That has to mean something. Maybe Zapruder is a code name for Catharine MacKinnon. Or Morgan Spurlock. Or Rob Reiner.

  51. Well, not to be a party pooper but -- dusting off my old physics book -- for gravity, F=G*m1*m2/r^2 so a lithe 70 kg obstetrician 1 meter from a fat 6 kg baby would exert (6.67 * 10^-11 N*m^2/kg^2)*(6 kg)*(70 kg)/(1 m)^2, or about 3*10^-8 newtons of force on the little tyke, whereas Jupiter (2*10^27 kg) at its nearest point to earth (6*10^11 m) would exert about 2*10^-6 N, and at its farthest point (9*10^11 m) about 1*10-6 N. So actually the gravitational pull of Jupiter is about 30-70 times greater than that of the doctor. Not that it means anything.

  52. The Sopranos? I know she's railed against the show's stereotypes of Italian Americans,

    You know, I wuzza justa thinking ... Nothinga makes me-yah more madda thanna when they asstereotype-ah the Italianos, eh? It really getssa my goat, you know? Mama mia!

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