Like a Virginor not
Madonna had always been a holy icon until the early 1980s when the name Madonna developed a dual connotation. The introduction of Americas top female sex symbol Madonna created an image far opposite of the previously known hallowed one.In John Fiskes essay Madonna, he depicts the singers character, portraying her as socially and semiotically powerful. Although his essay is currently outdated, Fiske illustrates an illusion of Madonna that Generation Xers eventually accepted and will probably never forget.
Sex has always been a controversial matter in American society. Before the 1980s, those that openly articulated their views about sex were thought of as promiscuous and perverse, unless they were male. Perhaps, that is why the aura of Madonna stirred raving controversy across America. Fiske notes that her image was not a model meaning for young girls in patriarchy, but a site of semiotic struggle between the forces of patriarchal control and feminine resistance, of capitalism and the subordinate, of the adult and the young (Fiske 282). Never before had a woman presented herself so provocatively yet so comfortably.
In the beginning, Madonna ultimately sacrificed sexual purity. Her daring exploitation of sex from a feminine point of view was definitely a breakthrough in 1980s American society. Often, she dressed like a man and grabbed herself in sacred and unseen places. Actions like these, as Fiske points out, presented a threat but not the traditional and easily contained one of woman as a whore but the more radical one of woman as independent of masculinity (Fiske 284). Young girls regarded her actions not as tarty or seductive but as completely acceptable. Eventually, they embraced her image and strived to follow her example of the independent and sexually licentious woman (Fiske 283).
Society has finally accepted feminine independence and accredited Madonna as the pioneer for introducing that autonomy. In many ways, she now represents the womans metamorphosis. As Fiske noted she began by showing both her pleasure in her own physicality and the fun she finds (found) in admitting and expressing pleasure: it is (was) a sexual-physical pleasure that has (had) nothing to do with men(Fiske 285). While this may have been an impression of Madonna in the 1980s, she has evolved into what society deems as the epitome of badass woman: utterly independent.
Fiskes essay does not really have much application to the perception of Madonna in todays society. Fiske presents Madonna as an illusive character, one who frequently shows herself in postures of submission (Fiske 282). Indeed, Madonna will always remain a sexual symbol; however, her current lifestyle does not involve illicit attitudes or perverse actions.
At age 41, Madonna has revamped her solitary image but with much more reverence. Her latest experience with single parenthood has enabled her to complete her transformation. One author in the May 1998 issue of Spin magazine reports that through her latest experiences, Madonna has become a culmination of sexuality and spiritualitya combination that has made her ripen (76). This statement can be confirmed by evaluating her newest album, which implies more spirituality and mysticism, integral elements that have progressed into her persona. In reality, Madonna no longer represents the supreme sexual being; she has developed into a much more humble and spiritual individual, one much like her name originally implied.
John Fiskes intuition was correct when he first evaluated the controversy surrounding young Madonna. Indeed, Madonna was an upset to parochial American society. However, fifteen years later she no longer upholds her nasty-girl image. Her metamorphosis from young and crude to old and wise has given her a superlative identification that will linger with our generation forever and remind us all that she was the first woman to daringly express herself.
Fiske, John. Madonna. Media Journal: Reading and Writing about Popular
Culture. Eds. Joseph Harris and Jay Rosen. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995. 281-295.
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