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FiskeMadonna

FiskeMadonna

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Published by Sara Hidalgo
John Fiske, Reading the Popular
John Fiske, Reading the Popular

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categoriesTypes, Research
Published by: Sara Hidalgo on Feb 06, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/18/2013

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It
CHAPTER5a
Madonna
whohasbeenamajorphenomenonofpopularthroughoutthelate1980s,isarichterraintoexplore.successhasbeendueatleastasmuchtohervideosandherastohermusic-aboutwhichmostcriticsare
.It
isalsosignificantthatherfansandherpublicity
l1"lLt:JllCU",
alongwithjournalisticreportsandcritiques,payfarattentiontowhatshelookslike,whosheis,andwhatsheforthantowhatshesoundslike.Inthischapter,then,IconcentrateonMadonna'sappear-herpersonality,andthewordsandimagesofhersongs,arethemaincarriersofhermostaccessiblemeanings.isnottosaythathermusicisunimportant,foritisthemusicunderpinseverythingelseandthatprovidestheemotional
1nn>T1C1MT
oraffectwithoutwhichnoneoftherestwould
matter
fans.Butitdoespointtothefactthatthepleasuresof
·.UI'''''''.LL
areremarkablyresistanttoanalysis,andareequallytoexpressinthewordsandimagesthataresointhecirculationofculture.Beforeherimagebecameknown,Madonnawasnota.success:atthestart,atleast,hermusicwasnotenoughonitstoturnherintoamajorresourceofpopularculture.Intheof1984shewassignedtoSireRecords,whichis"where-,vvanler·Brothersputpeopletheydon'tthinkwillsell"
(UJUIltaOI1'Il
MagazineSpecialAnnual
1985:2).Shegotsomeclubplayfor"Borderline"and"Holiday,"butthe
1V/::I,(UT1n::l
LPwassellingonlyslowly.
LikeaVirgin,
hersecondLP,hadbeenmadebutnotreleased.WarnerBrothersthengaveArthurPiersonatinybudgettomakearockvideoof"LuckyStar."Heshot
it
inanafternoonagainstawhitestudio
 
96
ReadingthePopularMadonna
97
backdrop,andtheresultingvideopushedthesongintotheten.The
Madonna
album'ssalesfollowedsuit,and
Virgin
wasreleasedfortheChristmasmarket.BothLPsthenumberonepositionforanumberofweeks.The
DesperatelySeekingSusan
wasreleasedinMarch1985,addedanadultaudiencetotheteenage(largelyfemale)onethesongsandvideos.Thefilmworkedtosupportthevideosestablishingthe"Madonnalook,"aphrasethattherepeatedendlesslyin1985andonethatMadonna..apitalize....onbyestablishingherBoyToylabeltosellcrucifix
p",rriT10"!'l,>
fingerlesslacegloves,short,navel-exposingblouses,--_._-'-..:laceygarments,andallthevisualsymbolsshehadown.AconcerttourstartedinApril(inthefoyers,ofcourse,it
O:Ul".,\
oftheMadonnalookwereforsale)andanoldfilm,
A....".,
eU,
Sacrifice,
thatnevermadecinemareleasewasdugupforhomevideomarket.Alsodugupandpublished
Penthouse
wereoldartschoolnudephotos,andattheend1985,herweddingtoSeanPennbecameaworldmultimediaevent,despiteits"secret"location.Inothershewasafineexampleofthecapitalistpopindustrycreatinga(possiblyshort-lived)fashion,exploitingitto
LlO:
unl
andmakingalotofmoneyfromoneofthemostpowerlessexploitablesectionsofthecommunity,younggirls.Butsuchanaccountisinadequate(thoughnotnecessaruvinaccurateasfarasitgoes)becauseitassumesthattheM,ldcmrlafansaremerely"culturaldopes,"abletobemanipulatedandagainsttheirowninterestsbythemogulsoftheindustry.Suchamanipulationwouldbenotonly
p(',-.n,-.n-.1('
alsoideological,becausetheeconomicsystemrequiresideologyofpatriarchalcapitalismtounderpinandEconomicsandideologycanneverbeseparated.AndthereisnoshortageofevidencetosupportthisMadonna'svideosexploitthesexualityofherfaceandfrequentlyshowherinposturesofsubmission(e.g.,Up")orsubordinationtomen.Herphysicalsimilarityto..~.
n~y~
Monroeisstressed(particularlyinthevideoof"Materialanintertextualreferencetoanotherstarcommonlyowehersuccesstoherabilitytoembodythe
Countdown
1985.pollofthetop20"Sex/LustlVlad()nrlatookthirdplaceandwastheonlyfemaleamong19
(Countdown,
December1985:35).Allthiswouldsuggestsheisteachingheryoungfemalefanstoseethemselvesaswouldseethem;thatis,sheishailingthemasfeminineectswithinpatriarchy,andassuchisanagentofpatriarchal
if
herfansarenot"culturaldopes,"butactivelychooselistento,andimitateherratherthananyoneelse,mustbesomegapsorspacesinherimagethatescape
,U""UU~L-''
controlandallowheraudiencestomakemeaningsconnectwith
their
socialexperience.Formanyofherthissocialexperienceisoneofpowerlessnessandand
if
Madonnaasasiteofmeaningisnottonaturalizethis,shemustofferopportunitiesforresistingit.Herbecomes,then,notamodelmeaningforyounggirlsinpatnarcnvbutasiteofsemioticstrugglebetweentheforcesofcontrolandfeminineresistance,ofcapitalismandsubordinate,oftheadultandtheyoung.Thefieldofculturalstudies,initscurrentstateofdevelop-offerstwooverlappingmethodologicalstrategiesthattobecombinedandthedifferencesbetweenthemi,i:>ulbltlerli?;ed
f
wearetounderstandthisculturalstruggle.Onefromethnography,andrequiresustostudythethatthefansofMadonnaactuallydo(orappearto)her.Thisinvolveslisteningtothem,readingtheletterswritetofanzines,orobservingtheirbehaviorathomeorpublic.Thefans'wordsorbehaviorarenot,ofcourse,empiricalfactsthatspeakforthemselves;rather,theyaretextsneed"reading"theoreticallyinjustthesamewayastheofMadonna"do.Thisbrings-ustotheotherstrategy,whichderivesfromandstructuralisttextualanalysis.Thisinvolvesaclose.reacnngofthesignifiersofthetext-thatis,itsphysical,pr'esEmc:e--btltrecognizesthatthesignifiedsexistnotinthetextbutextratextually,inthemyths,countermyths,and
......~;UUI~y
oftheirculture.
It
recognizesthatthedistributionofinsocietyisparalleledbythedistributionofmeaningstexts,andthatstrugglesforsocialpowerareparalleledby
"PTnrlnr
strugglesformeanings.Everytextandeveryreadingasocialandthereforepoliticaldimension,whichistobe
 
98
ReadingthePopularMadonna
99
foundpartlyinthestructureofthetext.itselfandpartlysocialrelationsofthereaderandthewaytheyare
LJL\JU}:'f~"~,
bearuponthetext.Itfollowsthatthetheorythatinformsanyanalysis
aLi:lU,LI,Q
socialdimensionthatisanecessarypartoftheanalysisreveals.Meanings,therefore,arerelative..."...'....
',.,_'
whatisconstantisthe
ways
inwhichtextsrelatetosystem.Aculturalanalysis,then,will.revealboththedominantideologyisstructuredintothetextandreadingsubject,andthosetextualfeaturesthatenable
"",cr"t,,,
resisting,oroppositionalreadingstobemade.analysisreachesasatisfactoryconclusionwhenthegraphicstudiesofthehistoricallyandsociallylocatedthat
are
madearerelatedtothesemioticanalysisofSemioticsrelatesthestructureofthetexttothesocial,,,,,,,,..n,,explore
how
suchmeaningsaremadeandthepartwithintheculturalprocessthatrelatesmeaningsbothtoexperienceandtothesociaisystemingeneral.SoLucy,a14-year-oldfan,saysofaMadonnaposter:She'startyandseductive...butitlooksalrightwhensheyouknow,what
I
mean,
if
anyoneelsedidititwould
,uur.
UFo'
tarty,arighttartyouknow,butwithheritsOK,it's
",rr'pnlr",hi
withanyoneelseitwouldbeabsolutelyoutrageous,itsoundsbutit'sOKwithher,youknowwhat
I
mean.(Novemberidentitywithinanoppressingideology,butweneedtosupportthistentativeconclusion.Matthew,notaparticularfanofMadonna,commentedonherinthesamediscussion.Hethoughtitwouldlastonlyyears,andhewouldn'tliketobemarriedtohershe'dgiveanyguyahardtime."Lucyagreedthatmarriagewouldnotlastlong,butfounditdifficult,exceptthat"marriagedidn'tseemtosuither,"evenapprovinglyMadonna'sdesiretomakeitmarriage."Lucy'sproblemsprobablystemfromherthatmarriageisapatriarchialinstitutionandasthreatenedbyMadonna'ssexuality;thethreatofcoursetraditionalandeasilycontainedoneofwomanasthemoreradicaloneofwomanasindependentofAsweshallseelater,Madonnadeniesormocksaofpatriarchy'sconventionsforrepresentingThismaywellbewhy,accordingto
Time
(May
27,
manyboysfindhersexinessdifficulttohandleandthattheyarebeingkidded"(p..47).LucyandMatthewreI2o~mi'ze,'indifferentwaysandfromdifferentsocialthatMadonna'ssexuality
can
offerachallengeoradominantdefinitionsoffemininityandmasculinity.BestFriend,"writingto
CountdownMagazine,
lso
reccenizesMadonna'sresistancetopatrfarchy:'Wecannoteanumberofpointshere.LucycanonlypatriarchalwordstodescribeMadonna'ssexuautv=-erarwsand"seductive"-butshestrugglesagainsttheinscribedinthem.Atthesametime,shestruggles
~h~"'~
patriarchyinscribedinherownsubjectivity.Theopposmorrbetween"acceptable"and"absolutelyoutrageous"referstorepresentationsoffemalesexuality,butisan
extemans
zationofthetensionfeltbyadolescentgirlswhentotermswiththecontradictionsbetween,apositivefenrlinirlviewoftheirsexualityandthealienpatriarchalonetobetheonlyoneofferedbythe.available
LUO...
L.,.".,.
.'L'~,
symbolicsystems.Madonna'
s"tarty"
sexualityis
I.
,,,,r,,,,t,,,hl,·',f'
-butto,whom?CertainlytoLucy,andtogirlslikeareexperiencingtheproblemsofestablishinga"writingtocomplainaboutallthepeoplewhowrite
in
andsayatartandaslutMadonnaisbecauseshetalksopenlyaboutandsheshowsherbellybuttonandshe'snotashamedtosaythinksshe'spretty.Well
I
admireherand
I
hinkshehasalot~~.•._"~justtobeherself.Allyougirlsoutthere!Doyouthinkhavenice€7yesorprettyhairoranicefigure?Doyoueveraboutboysorsexwithfriends?Doyouwearabikini?Welltoyou,you'reaslutandatart!!Sohaveyoujudgedfairly?",Madonna's"couragejusttobeherself"isfurtherofthefeltdifficultyofgirlsinfindingasexualidentityappearstobeformedintheirinterestsratherthaninthe

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