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...
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