Twenty-five years ago, Madonna released what is widely considered the most groundbreaking film for gay rights since the early 1990s. Truth or Dare, a film that Madonna told Entertainment Weekly makes her gag (for reasons that are separate from the gay rights the film inspired) was marketed as documentary about her groundbreaking Blond Ambition Tour.
The film today is mostly known for inspiring a generation of gay men to “express themselves” during an age of extreme conservatism, when George H. Bush and the religious right ruled America. Queerty recently talked about the importance of Madonna’s Truth or Dare, noting that the 1991 film, among Paris is Burning(1990) and Brokeback Mountain(2005), caused viewers to reflect and change their lives.
The popular gay blog Boy Culture says it’s a film that shouldn’t be missed.
“The film—funny, moody, melodramatic, revealing—nimbly piggy-backs on the notoriety of Madonna and Truth or Dare while establishing its own identity. Madonna is the sun, but the dancers are the planets explored in what becomes a universal commentary on the folly of youth, the power of dance and the fact that sometimes, when people disagree, nobody is 100% right.”
The review adds that some of Madonna’s dancers sued the singer because they didn’t realize the documentary would become a feature film. However, the dancers certainly don’t hold a grudge over Madonna anymore and still cite her as a major inspiration for their lives.
The Hollywood Reporter says that the film certainly isn’t about Madonna’s dancers trying to milk past fame.
“While the documentary might risk being interpreted as a sad bid to milk a little more attention from a long-ago five minutes of fame, the dancers’ openness about their sinking experiences and hardships after the tour ended quashes any such charge.”
Despite a recent hit piece in the New York Post that made Madonna look selfish for abandoning her dancers after they were “all used up,” THR‘s review adds that some of the dancers reveal that heroin addiction was the main reason Madonna backed away.
The New York Times recently interviewed Madonna’s ex-dancers. One of the most compelling stories came from dancer Salim Gauwloos, known as “Slam.”
“I look petrified. I can’t wait to get offstage,” Slam tells veteran music journalist Jim Farber.
He was likely referring to a part of the film that shows all the dancers at one of Madonna’s 1990 New York shows, which was an AIDS benefit. Slam had recently discovered he was HIV positive before the tour had started, and was worried about anybody finding out.
As the article mentions, the film was directed by Reijer Zwaan, who — as a young 11-year-old discovering his sexuality — was inspired by the film, as well. He explained how he eventually set out to make Strike a Pose.
“Years after Mr. Zwaan himself came out and became a journalist for Dutch television, he started to wonder what had happened to these early role models of fearless self-hood. Teaming with the filmmaker Ester Gould, he set out to persuade the original dancers to participate in a film that would go behind the scenes of a movie that was itself about going behind the scenes.”
Though Madonna herself hasn’t participated in the film, she did agree to let them use footage from Truth or Dare. However, one has to realize that this isn’t so much a film about Madonna as it is about several dancers who opened the closet doors for so many frustrated and repressed young gay men at a time when a high percentage of people wanted the LGBT community wiped off the face of Earth.
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