Madonna's Sexuality Thesis

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Madonna's Sexuality

(http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/music/Madonnas-Like-a-Virgin.html)

Madonna's sexuality

The subject of Madonna's sexuality is considered in the context and against the background of her development as a musical and video star and modern cultural icon. The paper explores the meaning and the significance of the use of sexuality in her art and focuses on two important and often contradictory issues. The first is that the use of sexuality in her music, videos and book publications as essentially a marketing and strategic device intended primarily to shock and, furthermore, to manipulate the perceptions of the viewer or audience. This view would suggest that Madonna uses sexuality rather callously as a manipulative technique to draw attention to herself and her music.

The other view considered in the paper through the analysis of her music and media work, is that the use of sexually in fact forms an integral and coherent part of her artistic intention and oeuvre. This view would suggest that the use of sexual images and lyrics has positive aspects, in that it is intended to address issues relating to personal freedom, independence, expression and feminism.

This use of sexuality is also considered in terms of its impact on modern culture and the interrogation of moribund and inadequate social and cultural norms that entrap and subjugate both women and men.

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In the final analysis a combination of these two views of Madonna's sexuality is explored with the intention of showing that a comprehensive assessment of sexuality in these works must include elements of both manipulation and artistic and social integrity.

Introduction

Thesis on Madonna's Sexuality Assignment

The development of a pop star or icon is as much to do with image, media hype and public awareness as it has to do with talent. There is little doubt that a musical, video and film celebrity like Madonna has great talent and ability. However, her prominence as an icon of modern culture has also to take into account aspects of advertising, marketing and the projection of a certain image to the public, all of which are created to maintain her celebrity status.

The erotic and sexual imagery, innuendo and blatant suggestion that forms such as integral part of much of Madonna's work is in essence not new. What is new and innovative is the way that this material has been presented and manipulated and the way that aspects of modern culture have been made use of in the development of a unique "brand name' that is recognized as "Madonna" in almost every corner of the world where music and the media are accessible.

On the other hand it would possibly be unfair and even erroneous to suggest that all of Madonna's work is pure manipulation and to reduce all her achievement to an analysis of premeditated views and marketing strategies.

The use of sexual overtones and images in her videos and music also has to be considered in term of their artistic integrity. The social view of the ideal of female sexual innocence is critiqued in Madonna's work and art and this has a social function, as well as being engineered by the process of media hype and marketing.

The following discussion will analyze the issue of sexuality in Madonna's music and imagery and will take both the above views of her work into account. Madonna as a successful musical and media icon can be seen as the result of a successful marketing and media strategy as well as an integrated artistic phenomenon. The underlying question that will inform much of the following discussion revolves around the extent to which we can state that Madonna's success is only a result of clever hype and marketing in relation to the use of sexuality and, on the other hand, to what extent is it the result of a coherent and legitimate artistic achievement.

The manipulation and role of sexuality in modern media culture

It is trite but true that modern media, advertising and entertainment is extremely influential in that way that people perceive themselves, especially in terms of their sexuality. In conventional media representations of sexual identity, "...Males tend to be presented in sports and professional activity contexts, savoring freedom and adventure" while traditionally "... females are portrayed either in relation to males, as spouses and homemakers, or in relation to children, as parents and homemakers. While females might be portrayed as manipulable and submissive, males appear powerful and authoritative, frequently in protagonist roles." (Domenech-Rodriguez)

Popular music since the 1960s has tended to question these traditional sexual roles and norms and has interrogated the dominant sexual norms of the society and culture. Contemporary music and art has made use of sexual imagery and lyrics as a sign of rebellion against older morals and values that were considered to be hidebound and retrogressive rather than progressive. The youth culture and the emergence of modern popular and rock music were generally concerned with a central theme - the liberation of human consciousness and meaning from a world that had become overly materialistic and conservative and which prevented new and important expressions of feelings. Sexual images and lyrics in music were therefore essentially seen as form a rebellion against the status quo. It is within this context that the use of sexuality and sexual images in the works of Madonna should be considered.

Madonna as contemporary cultural icon

2.1. Overview of her rise to fame

Madonna is famous not only as a creative musical performer and artist but also as an innovator on a social as well as cultural level. She is seen by many commentators and critics as being responsible for changing and even initiating many social values and perceptions; especially with regard to the way that contemporary issues and debate about how female sexuality and sexual expression is perceived and experienced in contemporary society. One study summarizes her affect on modern culture as;

..someone who took on the Catholic Church, mainstreamed gay culture, more or less invented the now-common art of voyeuristic celebrity peekaboo with her documentary Truth or Dare, then put out a book of high-end porn and got away with it all

(Hirschorn)

In other words, Madonna is much more than a modem musical success but is rather a cultural icon that, through music and art, has succeeded to a great degree in challenging and possibly changing perceptions about society and modern culture as few other entertainers have done.

A brief and somewhat selective overview of more salient aspects of her background, upbringing and career will serve to highlight the importance of sexuality in her work.

Madonna was born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in 1958. After her mother's death from cancer in 1963, and following periods of uncertainty and family instability, she sought her fortune in New York with very little to support herself. This illustrates a central aspect about Madonna's character which was to be reflected in her music and use of sexuality; namely her strong sense of independence and personal liberty and freedom. In New York she scraped together a living by posing for nude photographs, selling doughnuts, dancing, singing and playing music in smalltime bands before she finally broke out with her first big single Everybody in 1982, followed by more big hits Lucky Star, Borderline, and Holiday.

(Madonna, the master of reinvention)

Her trajectory to fame and fortune was initiated by the 1985 release and success of Like a Virgin, which was an international hit. This was to be followed with another smash hit, Material Girls in 1986.

Madonna understood the value of controversy and shock tactics in the promotion and marketing of her work and she become famous for bringing sexuality 'into the living room' via video and music. This is clearly evident in the 1989 hit song Like a Prayer, which was "... set to a video of Catholic-educated Ciccone prostrating herself in church in a low-cut dress." (Madonna, the master of reinvention) This combination of sensuality and religious symbolism was extremely provocative and caused dismay and criticism from the conservative establishment, while receiving applause from the younger generation.

Madonna also pursued her career on screen and acted in many roles such as Desperately Seeking Susan, although critics have not in general responded favorably to her acting ability. What is significant in terms of the present discussion is that these forays by Madonna into different media have revealed her ability to 'reinvent' herself and her image. In fact, many commentators emphasize this aspect and note her facility to respond to the needs and demands of the time and to the cultural trends in the world. This also applies to her use of sexuality and sensual imagery in her work. This relates to the use of sexuality in film as well as in music; for example, the 1993 erotic thriller Body of Evidence, where "...she burned herself into film goers memories in typically provocative style, dripping hot candle wax onto a naked Willem Dafoe." (Madonna, the master of reinvention)

In 2006 the Guinness Book of Records rated Madonna as the highest-earning female singer of that year.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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