Paul Subotic "Madonna´s `Music´"

Introduction

The Video clip for the Madonna song titled “Music” was directed by Jonas Akerlund in 2000. It features the popular English comedian Ali G. It contains many gender related themes as so many of Madonna’s film clips do. This paper will have first a clip description where the Video clip will be described in detail. After that there will be an analysis of the clip and finally a conclusion.

Clip Description

The film clip opens with the title “Westside” emerging from a star outline on the screen. The Westside title seems to be in fact a sign. It is swinging inwards and outwards as if it attached by string. It is gold and shiny and has a silhouette of a city above the word “Westside”. Behind the sign there is a gold seventies style limousine. The limousine is also gold and has a distinct blue light shining from under it. This first sequence with the star and gold limo is very flashy and 70s like and the west side sign has gangster rap connotations. The limousine is stationary and it is night time and seems to be in a lower socio economic neighborhood but this becomes even clearer as later in the video. The clip then centers on Ali G singing “Ride the punani” while repositioning his sun glasses. He is wearing his usual English/Jamaican gangster clothing and has his usual comical attitude. He is suddenly interrupted buy Madonna knocking on the window with the gold ring she is wearing. Madonna is wearing a white fur like coat with a white top under it that exposes her cleavage. She is also wearing two gold necklaces and a silver cowboy hat. Ali G opens the electric window and for a second they look at each other eye to eye. Madonna seems very confident and looks at Ali G square in the eye with no hesitation what so ever. It is also interesting to note that Ali G speaks first after the encounter and Madonna just responds as if she knows she owns him and the limousine. In addition Ali G is somewhat in disbelief that Madonna is in front of him like when a normal person meets a famous star in the street, he makes a common Ali G sexual comment which is dismissed by Madonna with the words “you wish” and when she hands him the CD with some authority Ali G quickly complies with Madonna’s demand to play here gold CD. The Music of the song “Music “begins and we are taken to a new scene where Ali G gets out of the car and it can be seen that on the back of Ali Gs red and gold jacket is written “R.I.P. 2PAC” in reference to the deceased rapper 2Pac. It becomes more apparent that the limousine is in a “rough” neighborhood. There is a faint sound of a police siren in the back ground and two people both dressed in black and wearing chains, symbolizing the fetish/bondage culture. They walk past the limousine as if nothing is out of the ordinary. Also in the second camera angle on the next shot a homeless looking man walks past the limousine. We can see that the limousine is in a neighborhood that looks ‘rough’, a ghetto a downtown crime ridden area of lower socioeconomic status, typical of where one would find pimps and strip clubs bad neighbor hood and that it is not out of place as one would expect. Ali G gets out of the car to open the door for Madonna and her group of people and runs back to the driver’s seat giving an impression that he is doing hi job and trying to provide a good service. At this point is very clear that Ali G is just the driver and Madonna is the star. The screen is now sectioned into 4 parts all of them containing the sequence to events that Ali G takes to get the car running, that is the rear of the car, Ali G going to the drivers door, Ali G getting in the car and Ali G turning on the car. Next the car is displayed driving through the streets and it can be seen in more detail. The limo has an emblem of a silver panther on its bonnet, like a “Rolls-Royce” would have. It also has a Sparkly Gold paint-job, Chrome wheels and Lights on the undercarriage of the limo. The limousine look defiantly like it came out of an “Austin powers” movie. Various Camera angles are taken of the Limo and Ali G driving it. We then see in the cockpit view camera angle look at the street, in front of the limo, the word “music” with two stars on either side comes up with a few letters at a time until the word “music” is full displayed.

The clip turns to Madonna inside the car. In her first pose she has her hands in front of her face. The main focus is on her four big rings, two on each hand. She is accompanied by two other women both dressed in classy black clothing. One of the girls is also wearing a fur coat and the girl is wearing a black hat and very large black earrings. The fact that Madonna is wearing white attire makes her really stand out. She is covered in gold shinny ‘bling bling’ and diamonds a look that makes her seem like the feminine version of a Pimp which further adds to her status. The gold necklace is very masculine – big and loud – several chains around her neck which was typical of pimp outfitting of the 70s but also of today’s rap gangsters (e.g. Puff Daddy, P.I.M.P). Madonna’s white outfit signified her higher status among peers. It’s also very common among gangsters to wear white as a symbol of power and wealth Madonna and “her” girls are drinking Champaign, Champaign being a symbol of wealth and success. Despite her status and pimp like persona she still has very seductive movements and maintains her sex symbol status to the audience. The screen is often divided into several sections with different images in each section and every so often a word appears that highlights what Madonna is singing. An example of this is “dance” and “crazy”. The women next to Madonna are never in the center of the camera and are always seem with Madonna. They also seem quite flirtatious and at one point use their hands to highlight Madonna holding a champagne class. They too are drinking champagne with Madonna. One of the girls pours Madonna some champagne and as Ali G slides the window separating the girls and him he nods at them and the girls hit champagne glasses in a cheers (prost) gesture. The word “together” comes up on the screen and a little television in the car is displayed. Ali G is above the little television driving but instead of looking forward he is nodding his head to Madonna’s music and is looking back at the girls. Next we see the car pull up and Ali G has the door open for Madonna and is helping her and the other girls out of the car, like a true gentleman.

Madonna enters the club that’s seems like a normal dance club except for the fact that it only consists of girls. At the club everyone is dancing/flirting having a good time. Madonna as usual is the center of attention. Her mannerisms make her very important and she is always followed by at least two girls. Ali G is behind the table being a DJ – acting more as a servant for Madonna – entertaining Madonna. After the club they go back into the car to go to another club.

The clip is transformed into a cartoon. In the cartoon Madonna turns into Superhero and flies out of car through the sun roof. In the first scene of the cartoon Madonna flies into the Cartoon Ghetto which is full of buildings which have sexual/suggestive signs on them. Three Karate Thugs jump out and Madonna fights them and wins. She is very aggressive in this scene as she fights these men, this is the first time that she is portrayed as lashing out against man. Her persona of a tough girl is highlighted here with her “don’t get in my way” – “a women is free to express herself” attitude. Next she is a swimming as Mermaid in red water with faces of Ali G on fish, historically mermaids were predators of sea-men. Their beauty was also their danger. She breaks out of the mermaid character and turns into American version of Superman and kicks Ali G out of DJ position and takes over control of the music. Madonna is shown as being a Disc Jokey with 6 hands a symbolism of her having the ability to do anything a man can do and better. Now she turns into wonder woman and falls back into her previous character as PIMP in the back of the Limo. There is now a switch from Cartoon to reality. This change in scenery is helped with the music stopping. Ali G turns the music down and displays his role as a parody of todays hip hop icons: ‘mocking’ Hip Hop stereotype – playing his character but Madonna dismisses him by ordering him to turn ‘My Music’ back on as she puts it. Madonna owns the music, she is in control, the boss, the only one that speaks beside Ali G. Ali G replies with “Respect” and turns the music up again.

The car stops at another club. Red Carpet is laid out for Madonna as she enters the strip club which has the sign “Girls” lighting up. Ali G is not allowed to enter and perhaps because he is male as it seems only women can enter the club as there are no men in the club. There are stripers dancing as would be expected. They have American flags as bikinis. Their movements are very sexual and everyone in particular Madonna is enjoying the lap dancing. She gives money generously.This is very similar as one would expect a male to act in a strip club. Madonna is also very aroused by the dancers she seems comfortable in her role as interacting with the strippers and does not acting out of the ordinary. At one point Madonna gives her female a “high five” in the club, once again this is a very male mannerism. There are dollar sign outlines emerging from the screen while we see Ali G arguing to get in and on the other hand we see Madonna enjoying the strip club and being quite aroused by the strippers who perform many types of sexual dances. The Dancers and posse leave with Madonna. Ali G is outside still arguing with the bouncer and when seen he is in Madonna’s posse you is treated with respect.

The party continues in car with strippers and previous girls their legs are draped over Madonna and Madonna touches legs of the other girls. She is clearly enjoying the attention through her expressions; her licking of her lips expresses her femininity and her sex figure while still maintaining her pimp role. The Stripper girls in the car are very different to Madonna they are the type of females that are poorly there to serve as sex objects and Madonna treats them as such. Two girls are dance outside of the limousine sunroof and we see many images of Madonna enjoying the flirting of the strippers while drinking champagne. It is interesting to note that Madonna’s body along with the stripper’s bodies is used as sex symbols.

Finally MuFF DaDDY license plate is displayed in possible reference to ‘Puff Daddy’ and all the other hip-hop icons that are male dominated in today’s generation. Ali G is with 2 strippers in the front seat of the limo. He makes a sexually explicit joke directed at the strippers with pornographic industry connotations and for the first and this is the only time that a girl/guy talk Ali G got the left over girls from Madonna’s Posse. The Clip ends with BOY TOY, INC. 2000 mockery at the end of the video an attempt to mooch the porn culture.


Clip Analysis

The video “Music” has the feeling of a 70’s Pimp theme with a flavor of pornography which can be seen with various sexual connotations, strip bars and other elements with a 70’s pornography feel. This creates a great social taboo as the person playing the pimp is Madonna, a famous and attractive woman. Likewise the clip mocks on the typical gangster rap persona by using the popular comedian Ali G, who by him self mocks this “gangster rap” stereo type by just being himself.

Through out the video there can be seen flashing images, changing scenes was very 70’s and using techniques such as the star and circles which join the scenes. This makes the viewer have the feeling of being in the 70’s and thus creates a feeling that the video is set in the 70’s. Also it can be seen that names constantly are flashing up (eg Together, Rebel, Boogie Woogie). These are suggestive sayings that relay the messages that Madonna is trying to convey and it occurs through out the film clip.

In particular in the cartoon subliminal messages are constantly being displayed to the viewer. “Girls” is one of the main messages that bombards the viewer and many other outside of Ali G and the bouncers only females appear in the video.

The video is about Madonna winning in the gangster rap/pimp world. She lives in their world where woman are sex objects but she as a women enjoys it and succeeds in it. She is being a woman who is expressing her sexual desire and power but still holds her feminine look and still maintains her sex symbol status to the audience.


Ali G
(picture in clip at 12 seconds)

Ali G represents the mockery of the stereotype of a hip-hop icon. He plays the role of the joke, the ‘class clown’. His presence alone is a mockery of the “gangster rap” world which is obsessed with treating women as sexual objects.
This can be seen in his clothing, mannerisms and how he is treated by others. Yet he is still a likable character because he is in Madonna’s crew and acts as a kind of co star in the film clip.

Ali G’s clothes are very important to establish his persona of a “gangster rap wanna be”. His jacket with R.I.P 2 PAC in reference to the dead rapper 2PAC and his Tommy hat and goggle like sun glasses help create this character. This is further enhanced by his mannerisms. When Madonna first encounters Ali G he makes a comment about her breasts yet by the fact that he is Madonna’s limo driver and that he follows Madonna’s orders he doesn’t necessarily lower his status but boosts Madonna’s. Madonna is even respected by Ali G and hence is the star of the film clip. She is respected by a guy who idolizes 2PAC hence putting Madonna a female on the same level as the male rappers and pimps of the world.

Ali G is one of the few males with any role in the clip, thus his persona represents how men are portrayed in the clip. Men are second class here, a role reversal to what is usually seen in the gangster rap videos. Ali G is a very important character in this film clip. He is the typical male that want to get inside of Madonna’s world but repeatable can’t. It is clear that his role is to serve the women, as women’s roles are to serve men in the rap/pimp videos. However like Madonna he does not change his “maleness” he still remains the same character but in Madonna’s world Ali g, the representation of men, drives her and her counterparts around and entertains them. For most of the clip with an exception at the end Ali G is not able to attract any girls despite her obvious desire to do so, on the other hand Madonna with no effort is able to attract many girls be it in her limousine or at the strip club.


Madonna
(Picture in clip at 1:25 minutes)

Madonna in this film clip represents a pimp, she is braking the taboo of females being pimps by establishing herself in this mans world, by playing a typically male role however she still manages to keep her well known personality and role of a strong and elegant female. An example of this can be seen in the limousine. Madonna parties but in the image not of a permissive flirtatious female but as a confident ‘charismatic’ – female version of a man. Madonna’s role as the protagonist and main character is exemplified by always being in the middle of the car. She is always in white, wearing a lot of gold, a gold cowboy hat and is very confident in a charismatic/leadership role. This is typically a role given to a male in the rap world of film clips. Madonna’s main role is also enhanced by the fact that everyone else in the limousine is wearing black without the gold. At the same time she still maintains her femininity by her choice of clothing (sexual) which maintains her female look (the male pimp would still have the shirt opened with chest showing). This makes Madonna look like she has all the power and yet be able to retain her feminine look. That is to say that power does not require masculinity and a more female character can look both sexy and powerful. This depiction of a female is one that is very uncommon in the gangster rap world of film clips, precisely the group Madonna is rebelling against in this clip.

Madonna dominance can also be seen by her care free attitude yet her ability to not hesitate to assert her dominance when needed. This can be seen in the many occasions Ali G makes a stupid comment or turns down her music. Madonna doesn’t hesitate to answer back and put him back in his place and Ali G always complies with “Respect”. The fact that Madonna has dominance over the main male star in the clip shows her dominance over the male world and her ability not to back down from challenges and is in fact beating them in their world. Only at the end does Ali G get any of Madonna’s girls.

Cartoon

(Picture in clip at 2:58 minutes)

The cartoon section of the video clip presents many interesting observations. We see the direct parallel with wonder women, female winning and breaking new ground in a male dominated world (the clip is based in the 70s about the time when wonder woman was introduced). Wonder Women was the first women super hero , a direct contrast to Barbie. Madonna’s role as the female pimp mimics in a way what Wonder women is, a woman winning in a man’s world. This video is the first time that a woman is allowed to be a pimp and be successful. We see Madonna’s success as a pimp as she is displayed with “Bling Bling”, her fancy ride, white outfit, wealth, freedom, power and influence over other women/people. This is much like what Madonna as her self or wonder woman does in the film clip. She is dominant and “kicks male thugs around”. The cartoon world allows the director to show that Madonna is not only a star and a female pimp but a true super woman.


Strip club

(Picture in clip at 2:58 minutes)

The Strip Club scene is very interesting as it appears to be a women only club. There are no men at all inside the club and furthermore women are allowed to enjoy other women and Madonna can be seeing both being a sexy female and enjoying the other sexy females. It is important to note that she is not switching roles. These are not male strippers, she is at the same kind of club you would find male pimps in and she is happy in her new role as a female pimp where she is allowed to watch and enjoy other women dancing and expressing themselves. This is a big divergence from regular pimp videos. It’s the first time where men are not allowed inside of the strip club and a new world is for females is created where they are allowed to be free amongst themselves, of course represented by Ali G not allowed to enter the club. This is also not very inclusive of men and shows that women don’t need men but men do need women, represented by Ali G’s lustful behavior and constant obsession with sex.
Again in this scene Madonna is playing with social taboos. Firstly she a attractive female is entering a strip club without a male and as a spectator. And further more her company includes other women. This is defiantly not a normal depiction of how mainstream society views strip clubs and Madonna makes it very clear that she can break such a taboo. In addition in the strip club she is enjoying the other female strippers, again another social taboo in mainstream/conservative society. She is not afraid to express her sexual desire in a world without men and shows that femininity can be independent of males, that is she can be sexy and be “turned on” in a world without men.
Gender
This film clip has many interpretations of gender in particular the image of a female. It attempts to establish a female character, Madonna, which is unlike the typical females of the mainstream music world. Typically females are depicted as sexy and powerful because of their attractive nature. Yet these females’ lives revolve around men and their self esteem is heavlily reliant on how men see them. An example of such a female would be the music artist Brandy. However Madonna despite still have sex appeal to the audience, has a character which is independent of men and it dominant and assertive. Furthermore in the “Music” film clip men are practically excluded from sex, e.g. no men in the strip bar and women flirting with women. Where as the typical female would be submissive and need her man, Madonna is generally disinterested in men and is in direct competition with them. This can be seen in the cartoon where Madonna beats up the thugs, kicks Ali G of the turn table and dresses like Super Women. Madonna also shows her assertive self by ordering Ali G around and being the pimp. Madonna retains her sex appeal for her self and her self confidence and not for the entertainment of men, in fact men are merely servants in this film clip as there are no men in the position of power only Ali G who has some star status by being the clown.

On the other hand music doesn’t have much to say about the typical male gender. As no males play any big roles we only have Ali G to look at. Ali G only has the spot light when he is serving Madonna or he is entertaining us through his comedy. Men are given a similar status females might have in rap videos and it can be seen that when the roles are reversed, i.e. men are no longer the stars and dominant, a social taboo is created. However when females are treated as objects in the rap videos it is seen as very normal. Madonna’s film clip exposes this injustice by playing the role of a typically male part and engaging in the same activities they participate in. Madonna as she often has done before has put her self in a male part and tries to create a different image of female gender than what is accepted by the mainstream media.
Conclusion

In the film clip “Music” we see a wide range of themes. Among these are mocking the stereotypical sexist ‘gangster hip hop’ world while participating as a female in their role. It is obvious that Madonna has a negative opinion of the male dominated gangster rap world and she mocks them with the use of Ali G in her film clip and various other slogans like MUFF Daddy etc. Furthermore, the gangster rappers are mocked by the fact that Madonna is able to enter their domain and be good at it. She doesn’t feel one bit intimidated by the fact that she is female and lets the world know that women can be just as good as if not better than the men. The Clip “Music” is a attack on the male dominated hip hop world to this point in time. This video occurs during the breakout of hip-hop in the US (although it is still before big names such as fifty cent, P.I.M.P) however this shows how forward thinking Madonna was as she attacked as well as predicted what is to come.

Madonna is also very provocative in “Music” in the sense that she enjoys other women. She exposes diversity in gender roles and shows that it is exceptable to redefine what it means to be a women. In that sense she is breaking the female stereotype. Madonna is “REBEL” ing the typical female role, as seen in other videos such as the Brandi video where women are only supposed to fulfill tradition roles such as keeping a man and portraying what it means to be a girl. However in doing this Madonna still heaps her attractive appearance and uses it as a weapon, she has something Ali G wants but he will not get it. Madonna is constantly attempting to re-invent her image, images that have not been exposed before and her pimp persona is very original and taboo. Madonna is defining (in her opinion) what a women pimp is and showing that women can compete in a mans world.
Like in many of her other videos Madonna likes to break taboo. She is a trendsetter and likes the attention that the spotlight entails. It is ‘Taboo’ in Western Culture to be ‘PIMP’ like figure as a female and she is attempting to break this Taboo and the taboo that women can enjoy life without men. However despite her masculine role as a pimp she still keeps her female attraction for the viewer and is still the same Madonna, rebellious and sexy.