O’Hagan points out that this resulted in Madonna being paid five million dollars by Pepsi to reproduce her work in advertisement form, which in turn helped in making her single to the Number One spot in the pop charts. In this vein, it could be argued that whilst ‘Like a Prayer’ is promoting and empowering black people in popular culture, it is more the case that Madonna is mixing together race, religion and sexuality in order to achieve her own ends in maintaining her icon status.
Equally, Madonna has been criticised for her ‘Vogue’ video where she appropriates a form of dancing found in gay clubbing scenes. The question is whether Madonna is promoting open acceptance of the gay lifestyle in homophobic America, or using it to sell more of her music? Kellner also looks at the meaning behind the 1989 ‘Express Yourself’ video, writing that Madonna “produces a highly complex modernist text that plays with issues of gender, sexuality, and class”.
Based upon Fritz Lang’s Metropolis this video uses a futuristic setting with a blonde Madonna appears to be observing the world, and contrasts the “differences between capital and labor, and men and women” (Kellner 1995). Kellner notes that this video holds many representations of women from a patriarchal stance producing offensive images, particularly to the feminist quarter, most notable being the scene in which Madonna is in bondage and being observed by a man in power wearing a monocle.
Schwichtenberg (1993) comments that this video “would suggest vulnerability and victimization” yet “she appears to be enjoying herself” on the basis that she looks directly into the camera. Therefore, is can be argued that Madonna, who is depicting a scene in which she is the subject of voyeurism, is in fact showing her enjoyment and pleasure at being looked at and therefore is not a victim but instead is very much in control, suggesting that women are free to enjoy a diverse range of sexual practices.
The problem with this being, from a patriarchal viewpoint, that women are in fact in control of their sexuality and if they are controlling the situation then this is an attack on male dominance. At another stage in the video, Madonna herself dons a male suit, sports a monocle and is seen to be grabbing her crotch (a la Michael Jackson). The interpretation being gender is a social construction, and therefore “puts on display the artificiality of images of gender and that individuals can choose their own images and self-constructions”.
Kellner goes on to say that Madonna undercuts “her own feminism by displaying herself in traditional fetishized images of women… ” However, based upon the alternative reading of ‘Express Yourself’ Kellner maybe missing the point and that in fact Madonna is manipulating sexual fantasy whilst saying that women can be in control and powerful even when appearing to be subordinated. In conclusion, Kellner’s offers article a comprehensive look at the Madonna phenomenon, looking at different interpretations into the meaning of Madonna’s work from alternative angles.
As well as the above, Kellner raises several times this subject of a marketing strategy and whether Madonna is to be seen as a revolutionary icon who drives forward a counter-hegemonic position, or whether she is to be categorised as a clever business woman who draws on subcultures to further her own ambitions. In a comment made by Robert Hughes in 1997 in Time magazine (www. cultsock. ndirect. co. uk) asks whether Madonna “explodes the established order of power, undermines capitalist constructions and rejects core bourgeois epistemes …
would certainly be news to my own employers at Time/Warner who recently paid Madonna $60,000,000 for the rights to her work. Some rejection”. Clearly a very strong statement in regard to whether she is a leader in terms of attacking dominant groups and prejudices, or if she should in fact be seen as a highly successful pop star who cleverly manipulates her own image and sexual appeal in order to maintain her fan base. In line with Kellner’s article, the Madonna phenomenon is clearly a site of great controversy and of many contradictions and one which remains open to much interest and debate.
References: Fiske on Madonna at …www. cultsock. ndirect. co. uk/MUHome/cshtml/media/madonna. html (accessed 17 November 2003) Newitz, A. , Madonna’s Revenge Bad Subjects website at www. eserver. org/bs/09/Newitz. html (accessed 19 November 2003) hooks, b. , Madonna: Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister. Accessed via www. thecriticalvoice. com/hooks_madonna. html on 17 November 2003 Fiske, J. , (1987) “British Cultural Studies”. In Allen, R. , (ed. ), Channels of Discourse. Methuen & Co. Ltd, London. Fiske, J. , (1989) Reading the Popular. Routledge, London/New York. Kellner, D. , (1995) Media Culture Routledge London. Lloyd, F. , (1993) Deconstructing Madonna.
B. T. Batsford Ltd, London. O’Hagan, A. , (1993) “Blonde Ambition and the American Way”. In Lloyd, F. , (ed. ) Deconstructing Madonna. B. T. Batsford Ltd, London. Real, M. , R. (1996) Exploring Media Culture Sage Publications, Inc. California United States of America. Schwichtenberg, C. , (1993) The Madonna Connections. Westview Press, Inc. United States of America. ? Add – is Madonna a revolutionary transgressor of social control or merely a overtly sexual women who cleverly manipulates her audience on the basis of her depicting what can be obtained through hard work and … Move to definition of cultural dopes.