I’ve never given the subject of Madonna’s legacy much thought. Generally, I think of her influence going only as far as the fingerless gloves I donned for an after-prom outfit my sophomore year in high school. But while cruising around the web the other day, I came upon this article from Salon posing one person’s point-of-view on the impact Madonna has had on American culture. And she brings up some interesting points.
Read the article — it’s good. But to summarize here, the author says that Madonna is responsible for our society’s change in perspective toward sexuality. Certainly, she took a lot of risks in terms of what she said (“Like A Virgin” and “Papa Don’t Preach”) and what she did (“Like A Prayer” and her best-selling coffee table book “Sex”). And she definitely got away with a lot more than anyone would expect of a pop artist. I wish I was a sociologist, because I could have a lot more to say to support or counter this point, but I think it’s worth pondering if you’re into pop culture.
But as a grown woman who adored Madonna for a short while as a teenager, I can vouch for the innocence of this pursuit. While she sexualized almost everything, she also sent a message that told us, “You can do it.” Madonna was from the Midwest, not one of the coasts, but she was cool enough to fit in in New York City. She launched her career with a marginally decent voice and relatively simple songs. She was all the rage because she wore quirky fashions and looked like a teenager in the body of a twenty-something. Her look was attainable, regardless of how pretty, tall or thin you were. She was a model for the any-girl in an era when super models were on the rise.
Just because we liked Madonna didn’t mean that we were going emulate her sexual behavior. And we felt that if we ever met Madonna, she’d be totally ok with that. After all, she did tell us “don’t go for second best” and that we “deserve the best in life.” What an incredible message for a young lady to hear.