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Madonna's Poignant "AIDS Hysteria" Saturday Night Live Sketch Illuminates '80s-Era Stigma

February 27, 2014

Madonna spoke about AIDS at the beginning of the epidemic, long before many artists and others were willing to discuss what was considered a "taboo" topic. Recently, a video from Madonna's hosting gig on Saturday Night Live back in 1985 made its rounds on the Internet, and it definitely needs to be seen to be believed.

(Note: The video may have trouble showing in some browsers. If you cannot see it in your browser, click the link to the video below "Madonna - Pinklisting (SNL 1985)".)

The sketch, called "Pinklisting," features Madonna as a soap opera actress who refuses to do scenes with actors "she doesn't know" out of fear and ignorance of HIV/AIDS. The sketch aired the fall after Rock Hudson died, after the tabloids ran several stories claiming his "Dynasty" co-star Linda Evans got AIDS from kissing the star. The person "she doesn't know" in question is played by Terry Sweeney, the only openly gay male SNL cast member in SNL history. He plays a stereotypically flamboyant gay man who tries to act as masculine as possible to make Madonna's character think he's straight.

Though the sketch is short on outright laughs, and comes across as offensive (by today's standards) in its depictions of gay men, in its final moments it evolves into a disarmingly edgy and progressive idea. It's also a great critique of AIDS hysteria, and shows how painfully not-very-far we've come in battling HIV stigma, especially among certain communities. What do you think of the sketch? Does it make you love Madonna even more? Can you believe there was a sketch about AIDS hysteria on Saturday Night Live in 1985? Did you notice Joan Cusack and Robert Downey Jr. in small cameos? Share your thoughts below!

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This article was provided by TheBody.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: JP (San Diego) Mon., Mar. 24, 2014 at 3:49 pm UTC
Sounds like Sen. Al Franken doing the intro. voice over.
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Comment by: RLJ (Lima Peru) Tue., Mar. 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm UTC
Madonna has always been at the forefront of everything, and this is no exception. She was among the first celebrities to lend her voice to the fight against AIDS and homophobia. A trailblazer!
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Comment by: amber (Tampa,fl) Thu., Mar. 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm UTC
It's sad that today we still have people who are ignorant about this disease and choose to live in ignorance instead of educating themselves.
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Comment by: Ben at the Body (Chicago) Thu., Mar. 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm UTC
fun fact: 1985 is supposedly when SNL was at its worst. Madonna appeared again in the premiere of the FOLLOWING season to apologize for the mediocrity of the entire 1985 season.
She called it a "dream sequence"-- a shout-out to the chagrin "Dallas" fans had upon finding out Season 9 of that series had all been "fictional."
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