Madonna first arrived in the national popular culture in 1984 with
her song “Borderline”. She moved very quickly in the ensuing years
to make several records and to take several world tours with sold-out concerts, and has caused quite a bit of controversy in what she has done in the public eye. Examples include posing nude for Penthouse magazine,
marrying actor and media-avoider Sean Penn, creating a fashion trend, and making truly atrocious movies which the critics hated and the people refused to see. It seems that Madonna seems to enjoy attention, good or bad, and it seems like she feeds on her own controversy. Her songs, and the
music videos which accompany them, are no exception to this.
However, the things she does and the images she projects requests
contemporary society to reflect on itself, and to possibly re-create itself in innovative and inventive styles. Perhaps she always breaks with convention because she sees things in a different light than the rest of society. This essay shall focus on the video which accompanies the title track from her 1989 album, “Like A Prayer,” which certainly had its share of controversy.
Probably the most startling image in the music video was that of several burning crosses on a lawn or a hill. These crosses were in the background, while Madonna was facing the camera and singing.
When I saw the music video for the first time, this particular section of the video made me sit up and intently watch my television screen. The first things I thought about were, “She’s a very outspoken woman for doing this! Boy, she’s got a lot of nerve! I believe she was raised Catholic, and she’s making a mockery of the Catholic Church by doing so! The Pope would be
offended, to say the least!” The radical approach to dispose of any religion is at least shocking. The cross is the symbol of Christianity and all it stands for. Seeing the cross engulfed in fire – which symbolizes a destructive force – would be very disturbing for anyone to see, Christian or not. I sat up and took notice, and I’m not even Christian – I am Jewish. Furthermore, the fact that Madonna is singing in front of the crosses implies that she condones cross-burning. This thought asks three questions. Does she also condone the Ku Klux Klan, which also burns crosses? Does she like the idea of religion and/or atheism in any way at all? Does Madonna believe in God? These are all very deep and probing questions, which can only be answered truthfully by Madonna herself.
Another small piece of the music video showed Madonna kissing a black man. While I personally feel that love is blind and has no boundaries, a vast majority of America cocked an eyebrow to this scene. In recent years, a television situation comedy and a major motion picture have both built on interracial relationships as the core of the storyline. “True Colors” was on the Fox Network, built around a black man married to a white woman. Spike Lee’s movie “Jungle Fever” also had a black man and a white woman. Lee’s reason why he did a story of a black man and a white woman (and not a white man and a black woman) was that the white woman has been stereotyped to be the essence of all beauty, and that the black man has been stereotyped to be a stud. Does Madonna have any feelings for men of other
races? Should America care? Knowing Madonna’s sexual liberalism, has she and/or will she seek out alternative methods to satisfy her sexuality and her sexual curiosity? Both Madonna and the controversy she causes are interesting to watch. The public keeps a sharp eye on what she does because she is an outspoken individual.