Funny in a Dated Sort of Way
In my review for [i]Earth Girls Are Easy[/i], I already detailed the only story about Julie Brown the person that I know. In short, her current husband had never heard of her when he met her. Thinking about that now makes me wonder, though. Is there such a thing as cult famous? Or is it selectively famous? I have known, and more frequently known of, people who were very famous . . . to a certain group of people. I can quote "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" in far more exhaustive detail than anyone wants me to. Ditto "I'm a Blonde." I can tell you obscure bits and pieces of [i]Just Say Julie[/i], and I can rant at length about the evil that was Downtown Julie Brown. When first I heard Minerva Mink on [i]Animaniacs[/i], I thought, "It's Julie!" I also know it's not just me. However, you have to be a certain age and, I think, of a certain personality to be a Julie Brown fan. Cult famous.
Here, she is Medusa, a parody of the far-from-cult famous Madonna. The movie is a play on Madonna's famous/infamous [i]Truth or Dare[/i], and similarly, this follows Medusa as she goes on her own world tour. Or, you know, a couple of gigs in the "Puh-hilippines," a brief stop in Japan, and back to the United States. Medusa is vain and vacuous. She is a slut, and she's actually stupid. She fires people for minor offenses or things which in one way or another aren't their fault. Often, they are hers. Mostly, she is surrounded by sycophants, or anyway people who suck up to her because they know who's signing the checks. However, her therapist, citing the existence of other patients, won't go on tour with her. She also has her pretentious actor ex-husband, Shane Pencil (Donal Logue), who belittles her at every turn. Or tries to; there are some people insults just don't touch. She is a spoiled child, though there is a distinct impression, upon meeting her family, that she spoils herself to get back at the world.
The thing is, Madonna's pretentious actor ex-husband has now won himself a pair of Oscars, and I don't think most people remember their four-year marriage, given his subsequent and much longer-lasting marriage, not to mention the fact that he's scarcely a blip on the radar of her sexual exploits. She's off trying to adopt half the Third World and studying Kabbalah. Probably people my age or older still remember the cone bra, but how much of the rest of this still makes any sense to anyone without searching their memories? Or, in the case of a lot of my friends, having it explained to them. It's probably funnier if you've seen [i]Truth or Dare[/i] (I have not), which is itself as much a forgotten curiosity as [i]Rattle and Hum[/i]. Without a certain image of Madonna, the film cannot stand. Its humour is entirely based on us having a unified cultural image of a woman whose entire career has been a chameleon.
It may be why Madonna and, to take a different angle on things, Weird Al have lasted and Julie Brown has kind of faded away. (Though, of course, she's still out and doing things, and as long as she's happy, that's what matters.) Madonna is a chameleon, and Weird Al floats in the pop culture currents. Julie plays one character. She plays her well, but she basically plays a kittenish, self-centered child. She's able to shift whether you should like her or not, whether you should be laughing with or at her, but it's still really variations on a theme. It also seems to me that she picks easy targets. It is easy to make fun of early-'90s Madonna, because that was in her self-parody phase. (I hope that's what that was.) Later, it was easy for Julie to make fun of Tonya Harding and Lorena Bobbitt, because they're basically made for that. Indeed, Weird Al took his shot as well. It's easy to make fun of Valley Girls; I do that myself.
And I think that's the other difference, not to mention the failing of this movie aside from its frozen nature. It's just mean. When Weird Al makes fun of people, he is letting us realize that it's at least as much our fault for the fact that we know who they are. He is kind. From what I understand, Julie actually seems to have a serious dislike of Madonna, and it shows. Chuck Jones once said that you must love what you parody, and it is patently obvious that Julie does not. As I said, I haven't seen [i]Truth or Dare[/i], quite; I saw bits of it when it was relatively new. (Including, yes, the bottle scene.) However, Madonna has always struck me as a very savvy woman. Certainly she picked her medium and did it well; no one has ever understood the art of the music video in the same way. She may seem stupider in [i]Truth or Dare[/i], and I've never doubted that she was kind of crazy and very self-centered, but I'm not sure she deserves the level of viciousness that Miss Julie Brown inflicts on her here.