Short Film Saturday: Cherish

Continuing the Madonna theme this month, which began last week, we come to a video that is not only in black and white but has a bit of a story to it also “Cherish.”

Here’s some interesting info about the video gleaned from Wikipedia. Some of it pertains to the production and release and the last paragraph gets into interpretations of the motifs, which you are always advised to take with a grain of salt. If you want to look into what the sources are, you can visit the original article here.

“Cherish” was accompanied by a black-and-white music video that was directed by Herb Ritts and was filmed on July 22, 1989 at Paradise Cove Beach in Malibu, California. Its world-premiere took place on MTV on August 28, 1989.[47] Ritts was one of Madonna’s preferred photographers at that time and so she asked him to direct the “Cherish” video. Ritts reportedly tried to talk her out of it saying, “But I’m a still photographer. I don’t know anything about film.” Undaunted, Madonna replied simply, “Well you have a few weeks to learn.”[47] The video was conceptualized by Ritts, who wanted to portray Mermen in their natural habitat, but Madonna baulked at the idea since she wanted to be portrayed as herself, but keep the Mermen also.[47] Four male performers were signed for this, one of them being Tony Ward, who would become Madonna’s boyfriend later, with the other three being water polo players from nearby Pepperdine University.[47] There were four Merman tails created by Global Effects in North Hollywood, California, for the video.[47] Three full size tails for the mermen were cast in a solid highly flexible rubber, each weighing around 40 lbs. This was necessary to make them neutrally buoyant in water as lighter tails would have floated, causing the swimmers to be head down in the sea.[47] Once in these tails, the polo players needed to be carried to and from the water and once inside, they had tremendous swimming power and agility. This was partly due to a plastic spring like armature cast into the flipper of each tail.[47] One of the reasons that this video was shot in black and white was because the water was very cold, causing Madonna’s already pale complexion to look even whiter.[48]

Fouz deduced a relationship between the music and the images in the video for “Cherish”, saying that they complement each other; the author felt that this in turn encouraged the viewer to watch the video repeatedly.[49] Fouz talked about the balancing of height and depth occurring in the video. The visual depictions of the Mermen and the lighting used in the video was influenced by Ritts’ still photography known as “The Male Nude Bubble”, which showed nude male models inside a giant water tank, with a white cloth entwined around them. Many of the qualities in the photos, including the floating nature of the models, were used in the swimming and the posing of the Mermen.[49] Carol Vernallis, author of Experiencing Music Video, found homoerotic connotations between Madonna and the Mermen. The Mermen in the video exist in a self-contained world of their own, where they procreate with their own kind, both biologically and socially. The fact that the Mermen did not seem to possess genitalia led Vernallis to believe that it associated them with Ritts’ other works, homoerotic sculptural images without penis.[50] Their tails drew different meanings, including sexual ones and Christian symbolism. Since in contemporary art, the images of Mermen are rare and Mermaids are prominent, they are sometimes called fairies partly because it is not known how they came to be.[50] Vernallis believed that the mysteriousness and the elusiveness of the mermen in the video played a crucial role. They never address the camera directly and are often shown disappearing from view.[50] Vernallis believed that since invisibility is a central theme in the homosexual community, this actually portrayed oppression and also the desire to watch but never be seen.[50]