June 11, 2012
I received a comment recently, which spoke of a person I’ve been wanting to write about for a while:
I was a MASSIVE Madonna fan growing up. I remember being in Year 10 in 1985 (15 Years old) and I was walking to school with my bestie, Katy. We were in deep and serious discussion about the rumours we had heard that Madonna was going to tour Australia. Wooooo Hooooo! We were planning how we were going to obtain the funds to be able to get good tickets, how we were going to sleep overnight at the ticket outlet (yes, no Internet) etc. etc.
Well, she certainly kept us hanging because she didn’t come until 1993 – but Katy and I still went together AND we got really good seats. It was simply awesome.
I’m deviating – back to the point.
When I was 14, Madonna released her song, Like a Virgin. I remember the ‘oohs & aahs’ over the word ‘virgin’ being in the title, but that was about it. The video is basically her strutting around Venice, dancing on a gondola in the Venetian waterways, being stalked by a lion and ending up with a guy with a lion’s head/mask. All very symbolic – haha!
It has ‘touches’ of raunchiness – but, please, it’s pretty tame.
Let’s jump ahead to, what I see as, one of her most empowering songs – Express Yourself. It’s now 1989 and I’m 19. On viewing this video, one can see that Madonna has gone an extra level in demonstrating her sexuality…BUT the thing that I think makes it different to what’s going on today, is her message. I (still) see her as a formidable woman saying,
“Don’t go for second best, baby; Put your love to the test; You know, you know, you’ve got to; make him express how he feels; and maybe then you’ll know your love is real.”
She basically sings that HE has to prove himself to get a girl’s heart and that girls are better off on their own than settling for second best. She sings the chorus in a suit and she raised many an eyebrow because she ‘flashes’ her bra underneath her blazer and grabs at her crotch – Michael Jackson style. Her dancing is one of strength, not one from a strip club.
Then there’s the book – Sex.
I own a copy. I was 22 and it took A LOT to part with the $70 that it cost…that was 20 years ago and a tonne of money (for me anyway). She broke all the rules with this one and in a way it was a “F#ck You” to Warner Bros. who were placing restrictions on her artistic expression. It coincided with the release of her new album, Erotica.
Difference with today? Well, it was certainly NOT advertised on TV – it was something that was more of a ‘word-of-mouth’ thing – and it was sealed in a metallic bag with Madonna’s image on it (as you can see in the picture above). To see it, you had to buy it – so there was no exposure to the wrong set of eyes. Today we are wallpapered with hyper-sexuality.
In a way, my teen years and early 20s had Madonna in my life and I think I did actually learn from her. I saw someone who confidently pushed aside the ‘weaker sex’ image and made us see that we women are sexual beings with sexual desires, but that guys had to (for want of a better word) earn their way to it.
So, the question is:
Question #55: Is Madonna the same or different to today’s female artists?
I say, DIFFERENT!
1. I absolutely don’t see the message in current female pop artists’ videos, that men have to share a woman’s sexuality. Women, in these clips, are hyper-sexualised in their actions, while men are generally just sitting there, fully clothed, observing the female artist doing everything short of sexual acts themselves (Jennifer Lopez’s latest clip pops into mind). And that’s on Music Video shows – for anyone to see – sometimes in your local KFC restaurant; as I once observed.
Madonna even had the video, Justify My Love, banned by MTV in 1990. Yes, banned! (It had a quick shot of girl kissing girl/looking like a boy and some raunch). We’ve passed the point where a video’s banned in this day and age because our moral compass is off kilter.
2. I think many female artists have tried to copy Madonna and think what they’re doing in their videos (to simply pleasure ‘the man’) is empowering. It’s not. Why? Because nothing is empowering when one objectifies themselves with no equal reciprocal action.
What – exactly – is gained?
3. She was the only one of her time – unique – and she was sending her (I think) empowering message from the start. She may have gone a bit far at times, but on the whole she encapsulated strength and exuded power. Nowadays, it seems that female pop artists have the same type of video. Whatever makes money, right? No sense of being unique in this culture.
So, what do I think of Madonna now?
I’m saddened that she’s started to deform her face with surgery and is not ageing gracefully. She could have been, again, such a front-runner for women and show how beauty, strength and power can come from within – but alas, it was not meant to be.