I don’t usually blog about Madonna, certainly not twice in one week, but I thought this was rather insightful on a larger scale:
Condescending? Yes. Unknowing? Oh, you’d best believe it. Naïve? Eminently.
The pièce de résistance came after the screening, when one audience member asked what our government can do or is doing about Malawi?
Madonna’s informed reply: “I don’t know what our government does,” she said, eliciting laughter, “except put us into debt and blow up other countries.”
Maybe she should look this up: According to USAID Malawi, the United States gives $35 million annually to the tiny country. And that’s just a small example of aid that’s been given and still is to Malawi not just from the U.S., but from Britain and other countries. Simply Google “Malawi” and “U.S. aid” to find many dozens of instances of help that seem to have escaped Madonna’s purview. …
The pictures in “I Am Because We Are” are graphic; the stories are hair-raising and tragic. But the overall effect is like watching a late-night infomercial from the Christian Children’s Fund.
Better than “I Am Because We Are,” the film could have been called, “Rich Rock Star Discovers Disease and Poverty in Africa.” This part of the film reminded me of a story about a newly hired British editor at a New York magazine who returned from lunch one December and exclaimed: “Did you know there was a big Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center?”
And you know she is well-meaning. Despite the Kabbalah babble and Madonna’s underlying persistence in explaining how she adopted a child in violation of Malawi law, her narration suggests that she was truly overwhelmed when she first set foot in that country. But this happens to anyone who goes to Africa for the first time. I get it. I felt the same way the first time I saw conditions in neighboring countries like Zambia and Botswana.
The problem with “I Am” is that neither Madonna nor Rissman really has any concept of anything other than her interests. Now that she has discovered Malawi, it doesn’t occur to Madonna that other agencies are working there, that anyone else has ever noticed or done anything to help their people or that the government — theirs, ours — cares one bit. She’s Madonna, she’s arrived and the problem will be solved.
Worse still is that, via her narration, we’re not sure if Madonna thinks the people of the country are smart or stupid, motivated or lazy. She declares the Malawians have a wonderful spirit, then declares that no such feeling could ever be found on Central Park West, Rodeo Drive or London’s Park Lane. (These apparently are the only other world references in her life.) It’s quite appalling.
I’m paraphrasing here, but there’s actually a moment in the narration where she declares: “Can you imagine another place where people are good to each other, care about each other or care about each other?” The actual quote is better than that, but it’s maybe the most ridiculous thing ever uttered on film.