Madonna - Controversial As Ever This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Madonna, the highest earning female performer of 1990, has recently released her latest song and accompanying video, "Justify My Love." This release has sparked controversy, as have many of her former videos such as "Express Yourself," because of its explicit sexuality. Madonna maintains that American society today does not wish to deal with their sexuality but rather "sweeps it under the carpet." As a result, Madonna feels that it is better for children to see her videos and ask questions than to be ignorant of sexuality. Where is the line to be drawn and who is responsible for drawing it?

Lawmakers are beginning to take on the burden of censorship, but artists resent this because they feel it violates their First Amendment right that states "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech." However, a new precedent was set in Broward County, Florida during this past summer when a federal judge ruled the 2 Live Crew's album "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" obscene. It was the first such legal decision governing a sound recording. Unfortunately, many artists' works seem to be deliberately provocative and tasteless in order to be more profitable, while others are just stretching the limits of artistic expression. Madonna has always sought new boundaries for artistic expression, each time seeming to stretch them a little further.

"Justify My Love" was banned by MTV not because of any specific scene of nudity or sexuality, but rather for its overall tone of sexuality. The video for Madonna's smash hit "Vogue" contains a scene in which she wears a see-through shirt. This scene was supposed to be edited per order of MTV before airing, but it was not, thus setting new boundaries and standards. As a result, Madonna felt that "Justify My Love" would not present any problems to the Standards Board at MTV. How far is society going to allow not only musicians, but artists in general to stretch the boundaries of decency before they place restrictions on certain areas of artistic expression?

It seems almost impossible for society to suppress certain areas of artistic expression without affecting all aspects of artistic expression according to most artists. Madonna believes that labeling products and having specific time slots for "violence, degradation and sexuality" are logical solutions to the controversy over videos such as "Justify My Love." The 2 Live Crew had two versions of its "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" album releases: one clean and one obscene, yet they still faced legal repercussions as well as controversy. The argument "don't listen to it or watch it if you don't like it" is obsolete because no matter what happens, you or one of your family is bound to be exposed to just what you turned off.

Society may be reserved in dealings with sexuality, but perhaps that is for the best and if it is not present to begin with, then people will not have themselves or their children exposed to unnecessary violence, obscenity, or sexuality. Art does not have to be beautiful or kind, but it does have to be decent. American society should decide what it deems decent. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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