Saturday, August 16, 2008

Half a Century of a True Icon: Madonna

Today is like an auspicious and religious holiday for me. I have been aware that this day has been coming for about a month, and it seems quite surreal. Madonna is a true icon of the 20th century. Whether you hate her or love her, there is no denying that she is there, she remains relevant and more than anything, she can out dazzle any of the new generation of pop stars that are half her age.

There are so many things that I look up to in Madonna. Mainly her ability to command attention on issues that may lay latent of taboo with concepts of Western perception. Arguably you can say that today everyone acts like Madonna on stage. Choreographed routines, sex, costumes, lots of Hard Candy for your eyes. These performances are made by her visions to be the best show around. They are flashy, full of images, videos and with a powerful production team and dancers to maximize the capacity of the overload of senses, live. They also cost an obscene amount of money to go see; but it's worth it. Trust.

Madonna, in her resistance to criticism (though at times it was merited), and her refusal to back down from following her own path, has made herself a continuous work in progress. She is the Mother of Reinvention, and images and ideas are her weapons. It seems both critics and feminists alike have varying opinions on how she has effected popular culture and aggressively take notice of her appropriation of different cultures, religions and traditions. However the mere fact that it is even a cause for discussion, shows just how much she has impacted our culture, fashion, sex, sexuality and boundaries. She was not a suffragist, but she suffered for showing an assertive sexuality and a female power. She was not a Hindu, but she wore the marking of Ganesha and chanted in Sanskrit with respect. She was not....but there are so many things that she is. An envelope pusher, a traveller, a student, a motivator.

Madonna has kept her spotlight for close to 30 years, because of her ability to tap into the human condition. What makes people uncomfortable? What provokes people to think beyond their own experiences and comfort zones? If diversity and acceptance is our goal, "Whys it so hard to love one-another? Whys it so hard to love?"

I admire Madonna, and I am grateful that I was able to discover her as someone I respect for in terms of achieving success through art. Yes she is popular culture, but her work is remembered for her showmanship in the art of performance. There is nothing comparable to the rush of a live, Madonna concert. There is frenzy in the air, drags decked out in their favourite look of hers, and every person possesses a unique memory of remembering when they first saw her rolling around the stage in a wedding dress at the MTV Music Awards in 1984. She is a chameleon of images and the ultimate performer of images, within the intellectual persona of herself.

From molto italiano eye brows in "Papa Don't Preach", to the first appearance of the corset and the brunette hair in "Open Your Heart." To the emblem of Christian ideology becoming a central theme in her performance, starting with "Like a Prayer," to the cinematography that would immortalize her face as an figure of contemporary female strength and power, mixed with classical beauty in "Vogue" and "Bad Girl." To the incarnation of her the Queen of the Dancefloor in "Hung Up," and her pushy, do it attitude in "Give it to Me." The list could just go, "on and on, and on."

When I listen to Madonna I feel empowered as a woman. I feel like I wanna dance. I feel free. I want to sing, because I can. I ponder about my agency and how one can become a piece of art in themselves.

To the lady that inspires me, pushes me and aids me to not be afraid, I say, Happy Madgeical 50th! With much due respect and love.

“I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.”
-Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone
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