Armed with a pixie haircut and American-accented French, Jean Seberg became one of the most unlikely faces of ‘60s new wave cinema. She was an outsider with enough personal strength to hold her own against some of the country’s most formidable leading men and a tragic personal history that included blacklisting, death, divorce, and political scandal. It makes sense that Madonna—herself no stranger to controversy—saw in Seberg a kindred spirit.
“I have a book of pictures of Jean Seberg,” Madonna once said of her fascination with the late actress. “She was the most beautiful woman. Growing up, I was attracted to all those glamorous, beautiful women who don’t seem to be around anymore. Brigitte Bardot was at one end of the spectrum and Grace Kelly at the other. I want to bring back glamour.”
In 1986, Madonna released her third album True Blue, and in the video for its second single “Papa Don’t Preach,” she kept her promise by channeling her hero’s personal brand of glamour with a bleach blond crop haircut and stripped shirt (also a tribute to Coco Chanel, who first pioneered men’s clothing as womenswear.) It was a nod to the actress’ character in the 1960 film Breathless in which Seberg plays a young reporter, pregnant by a swaggering criminal (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo) and unsure of her next step. In the single, Madonna sings from the point of a view of a teenager looking for help with an unplanned pregnancy (lines including “But my friends keep telling me to give it up / Saying I’m too young, I ought to live it up,” offended both pro-life and pro-choice groups.)
Thankfully, Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” story ends on a more positive note than Breathless: her character falling into the arms of her loving father instead of watching the father of her child shot by the police. The singer’s trajectory has likewise been positive, skirting from controversy to controversy (Sex book, anyone?) and staging multiple reinventions that have afforded her decades of relevancy. Seberg wasn’t so lucky, dying by suicide in 1970. However, the actress’ wiliness to think big, take risks, and impeccable style will live on forever.END
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createdAt:Tue, 13 Nov 2018 18:13:05 +0000