Madonna: “An American Witch”

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is

the most despised woman of them all?

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Although I am a Madonna fan, I accept not liking Madonna’s music or voice.  People like music for different reasons, and Madonna is not the most talented musician, vocalist, or lyricist (she’s admitted as much).

Trashing musicians (let alone the most vile of them all “pop stars”) is also not exclusive to Madonna, but there has always been something especially pitchforky in the collective tone when it comes to her. After 30 years, I’ve heard most of the arguments against her, including but not limited to: Madonna is an irrelevant, manipulative, lip synching, untalented, materialistic opportunist who perpetuates the objectification of women and has forever ruined music.

Recently, however, press coverage and public discourse regarding Madonna has also had an undercurrent of “isn’t she gone yet?” with a splash of “pinch me, I think she’s irrelevant, and here’s my hour long dissertation and handout notes explaining why…”

Case in point.  After originally reading the reviews of Madonna’s then forthcoming album, MDNA, I was eager to hear it.  There were the typical pointed, not-so-kind reviews that seemed more personal than objective, but overall feedback was positive or positive-leaning.  Consensus was that Madonna was in her element, creating good dance music again.   Sold.

Naturally, the 20% of the reviews that were bad took up 80% of the coverage and 99% of the conversation.  After news outlets begrudgingly reported that Madonna’s album debuted at number #1 on Billboard, the following week they were in a frenzy, stumbling over themselves to brand her an “epic fail”, because her album fell to #8 on the charts… marking the largest decline in one week sales for a #1 album in Billboard history.

Surely, the end was nigh. The hour was upon us. It was best to lock up the children.

I was struck by the jubilation in the narrative, like a battle against Medusa had just been won.  Add to the media’s coverage the growing chorus of people eager to proclaim her finally a failure, and I likened Madonna to a witch being marched through a mob…

“We demand an end to Madonna’s evil disco tyranny.  We will settle for nothing less than the Queen of Pop’s head on a platter!”

Fine.  Let’s do this.  I’m tired of fighting. But before we proceed, I just have one question for the mob…

What egregious crime has Madonna committed?

  • Is it her lyrics? Because if you actually listen to her music, she’s mostly singing about love and acceptance.  There are worse things to condemn.
  • Is it her ambition? In America we honor hard work, ingenuity, and accomplishments.  If Madonna were an Olympian, and ticket / album sales were a competition, career longevity was the marathon to be won, Madonna would be holding the gold. We’d erect statues in her name.
  • Is it because she’s annoying or offensive?  Really? Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Is my pitchfork and bad breath inviting to others?”
  • Is it her political and religious views?  Hmmm, we may be getting somewhere…
  • Is it because Madonna is a woman?

Madonna hasn’t always been in her 50’s, but she’s pretty much always been written off as a has-been past her prime.  She has always been a woman not to be taken seriously, because Madonna is a woman selling her sex, and by that I mean – womankind.

Whether you think she has helped or hurt the women’s movement, maybe we can agree – Madonna is an extreme, the counter Adam… Eve, the original good girl gone wild.

Madonna personifies what women have historically been told they couldn’t be (and after years of “progress” shouldn’t be): aggressive, independent, strong willed, and proud.

Madonna is living proof that it’s okay to be both powerful and girly.  You can like girly things, sing girly songs, and hang with girly boys.  You can be a girl that kisses girls, because there’s nothing wrong with being and loving a girl.

And in the process of being unabashedly unashamed of being a woman, Madonna committed the egregious act worthy of a mob. She became the undisputed top selling female recording artist in history… emasculating her detractors.

Admittedly, I find it odd that in my 40’s, I’m defending Madonna.  Take comfort, over the years I’ve placed much emphasis on the question, why do I even care?  Clearly, she’s doing just fine without my defense.  But it wasn’t until recently, with ageism now added to the chorus, calls from the mob for Madonna “to start acting her age”, that I began to realize why I care…

Turns out, why I care is the same reason I’m a Madonna fan, why in my 40’s I’m still eagerly buying the optimism she’s selling.  Because I hate bullies.  I hate judgement.  And I hate hate.

Madonna is a lesson to be learned and appreciated.   She is proof that with hard work, creativity, and perseverance, a girl from Detroit can conquer the world, even when faced with a growing mob.  But we don’t celebrate Madonna.  She is an epic fail, a woman to be marched through the mob and spat upon, to be judged and ridiculed for our pleasure.

Ignore and discount Madonna’s accomplishments.  They don’t matter.  Not here.  We damn Madonna for being unconventional.  She is un-American for daring to be free.

Madonna is a witch, and an old one at that.

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I’d like to leave the mob with a cautionary reminder about persecuting witches.  Their trials tend to be less about justice and more about the mob.

Madonna isn’t an evil disco Queen feeding on youth.  She is the mirror on the wall, reflecting how you choose to see her and react.

I won’t begrudge you the music that finds you inspired, the fairy-God diva that helps you envision a better you to a disco beat.  So don’t begrudge me Madonna.

The Lady has earned her spot on this dance floor.

Stop being a bully. Grow up and dance.

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Progressive politics and the politics of Madonna are the subject of “Guy Penn & the Gospel According to Madonna” written by Damon Wallace. 

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