Ask almost anyone you know what they think about the world's most famous pop star, and you're likely to get a response that will fall into one of two categories: filth, or wisdom.
For those of us who worship at the church of Madonna, there is a vivid wisdom in her words, actions and, yes, provocations. She of the perpetual Versace spreads has challenged us to be ourselves, empowered us to embrace our sexuality and shown us the light with a series of children's books on spirituality, charity work in Malawi and giving a home - and, one imagines, a much better life - to orphans she brought into her own family and raised as her own.
On the flip side of the coin, though, are those who see only filth: on-stage crucifixions they believe are immoral, coffee table books that leave nothing to the imagination and a documentary film that pushed the edges of anything we ever thought we'd see on the big screen.
So it's no surprise that the Material One's new film (which she directed, but does not star in) is aptly titled Filth & Wisdom. Once again, Madonna is sure to spark a public debate about her career, her talent and just what, exactly, she is trying to say. (The predictions, in fact, are already pouring in over at gay.com.)
So will Madonna's latest screen venture make believers of her critics? Or will audiences be left feeling "true blue" with her foray behind the camera? For those of us who believe in the wisdom of the virgin, whatever the end result is, there will be something new to add to the Madonna lexicon.
Madonna's film career, truth be told, hasn't been nearly as disastrous as the nay-sayers would lead us to believe. Granted, Swept Away wasn't her masterpiece, but even that box office bomb gave us some Madonna kitsch to enjoy - like many other guilty pleasures - in the dark of our own living rooms. (Her tour-de-force performance of Come on a My House is still one of my favorite giggles.) Desperately Seeking Susan, too, featured an admirable acting job by her Madge-sty, and Truth or Dare was a breakthrough documentary (back when no one watched documentaries), unflinching in its portrayl of sex, music and divadom. Even her appearance in Dick Tracy, as a breathless bombshell working for Dick, was a fine enough screen performance that never gets the kudos it really deserves.
Then, of course, there was Evita, a role Mrs. Ritchie was surely born to play. Flawlessly maneuvering through the roles of a poor Argentinian girl, an aspiring actress and a revolutionary politico, Madonna was at her best. The film won her a Golden Globe (and she was robbed of an Oscar), and those who wanted, so badly, to see her fall flat in Broadway style musical numbers were sorely disappointed. She held her own, hit the high notes and belted out the show's signature song - Don't Cry for Me Argentina - so powerfully that Mrs. Peron herself must have been smiling from above.
No, the truth is that Madge hasn't been nearly as bad on screen as some would say, but her persona and public image, especially for those who chant filth, filth, filth, prevented her from ever getting a fair shake in the first place. They are blinded to the sublime wisdom of her works and the empowered spirit of her soul.
And while we don't yet know what Filth & Wisdom is about, exactly, it seems like a good bet to say it will raise the roof again and ignite another Madonnathon of critiques and commentaries. Whatever comes up when the theatre goes dark, there's no doubt that Madonna will have us all talking about her - one of our favorite, guilty subjects - yet again.