Madonna is arguably the most famous woman in the world. She has legions of fans, hordes of people who despise her, endless piles of money, and a knack for trendsetting, self-promotion, and dare I say it, catchy music. I have been a HUGE Madonna fan for as long as I can remember and when Like a Prayer came out, that was the end of it. I was in love. My loyalty to the first person I ever heard say being who I am is okay has not dwindled. It was so much more than just that though. She was rebelling against everything I wanted to rebel against; she ruffled the feathers of people whose feathers I wanted to ruffle. In my adult life I can keep a less unhealthily obsessed eye on her – “Kabala” is a crock being my main eye-roll for her – but I still love the woman and everything she has come to stand for in the popular culture.
Enter Christopher Ciccone, her brother, and up until recent years the person closest to her in her life. Perhaps you’ve heard of his book, Life With My Sister Madonna, in which he supposedly gives a “scathing” expose of her life. I have read a number of excerpts and reviews, and my sense is that this memoir is, in the end, the sad story of a mean older sibling losing contact with the one person who truly loved her like blood. I imagine writing the book was his form of therapy in dealing with being the proverbial wind beneath her wings, with no acknowledgement of such. It may be pretty shitty of a brother to rat his famous sister out like this, even if she did treat him like crap and take him for granted most of the time, but if his side of the story has any truth to it, then I can’t really blame him. And I do tend to believe every word.
From what I can tell though, it's not really that scathing. She can be bitchy. She's self absorbed. She helped create the mythology around her rise to superstardom. She’s calculating. She's lonely and hungry for attention. She's cheap. WHAT ELSE IS NEW? Some of the moments are even tender from Christopher’s perspective, and I don’t doubt that even to this day he loves her deeply.
I think my sympathy for him may stem from the fact that in my own life, I usually have to be the Christopher to someone else’s Madonna.