Slant Magazine on American Life
In their year end review of this year’s videos, Slant Magazine describes Madonna‘s American Life this way:
The sad sequence of headlines went something like this: February 14, 2003, “Madonna Defends Her Violent ‘American Life’ Video”;
March 28, 2003, “Madonna Edits Controversial ‘American Life’ Video”;
and, just two days later, “Madonna Yanks Controversial ‘American Life’ Video.”
Sure, she’s made better videos, and she’s caused bigger controversies, but to release “American Life” during the lynch-mob mentality of Bush‘s war on Iraq would have required bigger balls than even Madonna has, and she knew it. The video, directed by Jonas Akerlund, juxtaposes images of war with the most capitalistic, materialistic, and seemingly superficial industry in the world: fashion. Models dressed in military garb and gas masks (one male model sports a half-shirt that reads “Fashion Victim”) and three Middle Eastern children strut down a runway while Madonna and her troupe of decidedly unconventional beauties prepare for their fashion terrorism in a backstage restroom.
Madonna carves “Protect Me” on the partition of a stall, giving the otherwise militant proceedings a sense of desperate humanity, before she and her disciples engage in some fiercely aggressive choreography (intercut with images of a detonated atom bomb), and crash the fashion show and pummel the photographers with an industrial-strength water hose.
Madonna may have never actually been on the frontlines of a battlefield, but she’s been spotted in the front row of more than a few fashion shows. It’s this hypocrisy that makes the video so damn intriguing. It’s the same contradiction that runs through the “American Life” song itself: the Material Girl is denouncing material things? You mean she was being ironic back in 1985? Madonna’s made it clear she’s not anti-American, just pro-peace: The new Madonna writes morality tales for infants, not bomb-making manuals for infidels. Disappointing for sure. In a time when most pop singers are too afraid to stand for much of anything at all, seeing the most famous woman in the world pull a grenade pin out with her teeth and toss the bomb into Bush’s lap (the typical, Madonna-style twist is that the grenade is actually a lighter, the moral being, presumably, that something destructive can be turned into something useful) is nothing short of explosive.
Source: Slant Magazine