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

By Mathew Rodriguez

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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