In 1990, an ad went out for FIERCE male dancers; 7 men were picked from obscurity and within months were surfing the zenith of fame alongside Madonna in her Blonde Ambition tour and Truth or Dare documentary.
All but one were gay, and Madonna, having recently lost friends to AIDS, was outspoken about gay rights and safer sex. Madonna’s timing was excellent – she pushed buttons while at the same time humanizing homosexuality. In the days before Internet, this was a shot in the arm for the gay community. The kiss depicted in Truth or Dare was for some the first gay kiss they’d seen. It was the first real uncensored gay conversation for many.
But tours end. Fame is fleeting. These 7 men went their separate ways. 25 years later, filmmakers Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaa seek to reunite them, or at least the surviving 6. What has happened in the past quarter century? Drugs, alcohol, HIV, depression, homelessness, and lawsuits. Life outside the spotlight is cold.
There’s a nostalgia factor at play here, and the first third of the film is peppered with archival footage that will please even passing Madonna fans. Beyond that, the film only superficially delves into the successes and\or failures of these dancers. Despite the prominence of Express Yourself as a theme and an anthem, much is left unsaid. What of these lawsuits? Fully three of the group sued Madonna after the tour ended, despite having been “a family” and having nothing but love for her, and owing her a debt of gratitude. In fact, the only reason offered for the lawsuits is being “caught off guard.” Not a single bad word is spoken against her, but her absence (other than in clips and videos) is distinct.
Is there life after Madonna? Yes. And it might even be interesting, but you’d never know it from this documentary. It’s content with skimming the surface and cashing in on the men’s iconic status. Their 15 minutes evaporated pretty quickly, but this documentary’s impact will fade even quicker.
This post first appeared on Cinema Axis as part of the coverage for the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival.