MTV and The Madonna Phenomenon


"Madonna\'s intuitive grasp on the televisual world in which we live- of
the medium\'s possibilities for engaging spectators in diverse ways- that in part
accounts for her success. She is the supreme television heroine." (E. Ann Kaplan
271)

"What are the main theories which we have studied so far and how have
they affected how you view television?"-This is the question which this paper
is supposed to answer. Obviously there is not enough time or space in which to
discuss every theory which we have touched on. As a compromise I decided to
write about a topic to which almost every theory that we have discussed can be
applied: MTV and the “Madonna Phenomenon”.

As E. Ann Kaplan stated in her article on feminist criticism, Madonna is
truly the ultimate television heroine. A discussion on contemporary popular
culture and especially on media culture could never be complete without bringing
up Madonna. She can be discussed in terms of feminism, ideology, hegemony and
commercialism as seen in both Kaplan\'s as well as in John Fiske\'s article on
British Cultural Studies.

In order to properly explain how the “Madonna Phenomenon” has become
such an important concept in media studies, one must look first at how
influential MTV (music television) has become in the last decade. MTV addresses
the “desires, fantasies, and anxieties” of young people(Kaplan 270) who have,
like myself, grown up in a decade when all the traditional institutions and
theories that were always respected, are being questioned. It has become the
center of discussions of many young people who have grown up idolizing the
figures shown on the network. MTV is a culture in itself. With it\'s own news,
fashion and music programs it can easily be the considered the basis for the
formation of thought of an entire generation.

The images depicted in music videos, of androgynous stars and situations
have aided in rendering the clear line between the genders rather blurry. This
makes MTV an important aspect in the study of post-modern theories. Videos are
often quite abstract and it is hard to figure out their true meanings. Unlike
other television programming, videos are usually not made up of clear parts or
scenes which produce an easily identifiable and readable image. It is often hard
to tell, for example whether a music video is sexist or whether it is simply
making a parody of earlier, sexist, Hollywood productions. Looking at videos of
fully clothed men , singing about love while bleach-blond girls in bikinis dance
around them can be quite confusing at times. Is it possible that these videos
are actually daring to be so blatantly sexist? It is highly doubtful.

The people behind the Music Video industry have quite brilliantly built
up an entirely new television and music empire, complete with it\'s own stars.
They have managed to use a form much like that of television commercials to
glorify their products which are in this case the singers. There are those stars
who are now known more for their videos than for their music. At times these
video stars are not even close to being good singers but have such strong
innovative videos that they manage to become successful without the possession
of talent. These stars must be analyzed not only as people but also as
industries. Their personas have been meticulously constructed and they have been
promoted as well as a can of “Coca-Cola Classic”.

This brings us to the world of Madonna Veronica Louisa Ciconne Penn, or
rather Madonna- the most powerful woman in the Music Video world. Madonna is the
perfect object of analysis, if one wishes to look inside the MTV world. She is
the subject of numerous discourses. There are both differing feminist
constructions of Madonna as well as Madonna\'s constructions of herself.

The main topic which will be dealt with in this essay is Madonna\'s place
in the world of feminism. There are four categories of feminism which are
usually considered: Liberal feminism, Radical feminism, Marxist feminism and
Post-Modern Feminism. The “Madonna Phenomenon” can be looked at in terms of both
the third and fourth categories, and is often criticized by those who follow the
radical feminist theory. Madonna herself said, in bashing her radical feminist
critics: “Tell Gloria Steinem and the gang...to lighten up, get a sense of humor.
And look at my video that goes with Material Girl. The guy who gets me in the
end is the sensitive one with no money.”

The first theory which I am going to discuss in relation to Madonna is
Marxist Feminism. Marxist feminism is based on