Today in Madonna History: December 7, 1990

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On December 7 1990, Madonna’s Justify My Love was released as the first-ever video single, priced at $9.98.

The music video was considered too sexually explicit for MTV and was banned from the network. Madonna responded to the banning: “Why is it that people are willing to go and watch a movie about someone getting blown to bits for no reason at all, and nobody wants to see two girls kissing and two men snuggling?”

On December 3, 1990, ABC’s Nightline played the video in its entirety, then interviewed Madonna live about the video’s sexual content and censorship. When asked whether she stood to make more money selling the video than airing it on MTV, she appeared impatient and answered, “Yeah, so? Lucky me.” She also expressed during the interview that she did not understand why the video was banned, while videos containing violence and degradation to women continued to receive regular airplay. The video was then released on VHS, and became a bestselling “video single” of all time.

The Justify My Love maxi-single was an especially memorable one, featuring remixes by future songwriting collaborators William Orbit and Andre Betts, a Q-Sound mix, a remix by Madonna & Lenny Kravitz titled The Beast Within which featured Madonna reciting passages from the Book of Revelations, and a new Shep Pettibone remix of Express Yourself.

A second Justify My Love remix by Andre Betts, titled The English Mix, was sadly shelved but eventually surfaced on bootlegs and the internet, in varying degrees of quality.

Today in Madonna History: November 27, 1990

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On November 27 1990, the MTV network announced it had banned Madonna’s Justify My Love video due to extremely strong displays of sexuality.

“We respect her work as an artist and think she makes great videos,” said MTV executives in a statement about the clip. “This one is not for us.”

“When I did my Vogue video…I’m wearing a see-through dress and you can clearly see my breasts,” Madonna told ABC’s Nightline in 1990. “MTV told me that they wanted me to take that out, but I said I wouldn’t and they played it anyways. So I thought that once again I was going to be able to bend the rules a little bit.”

Today in Madonna History: October 30, 1992

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On October 30 1992, the public libraries in Mesa, Arizona, cancelled their orders for Madonna’s Sex book after local residents protested its purchase.

Here’s a snippet from Vicki Goldberg’s New York Times article on the book:

Madonna’s new book, as even your butcher knows by now, is simply, classically titled Sex. It comes sealed in a Mylar bag (much as condoms do) with a label reading “Warning! Adults Only!” and a price tag of $49.95. Reportedly she does not want it open in bookstores, but HMV Records at Lexington and 86th Street will let anyone who gives a donation to Lifebeat AIDS see one page, for one minute, in a mock confession booth.

Warner Books, a Time Warner company, is the publisher (Ice-T must not have been enough trouble for one year). A million copies went on sale in five countries and five languages on Wednesday, attended by a good deal of deliberately decadent hoopla. The profit on the first printing could reach $26 million. Any questions?

Today in Madonna History: October 26, 1993

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On October 26 1993, Madonna performed at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and caused a stir when she wiped a Puerto Rican flag on her crotch in front of 26,000 fans.  The Puerto Rican House of Representatives charged Madonna with desecration of the flag and passed a resolution to condemn her.

The following (poor quality) video shows Madonna wiping her crotch with the flag:

There are no good photos of the event, so we decided to celebrate with some awesome photos of Deeper and Deeper from The Girlie Show.

Today in Madonna History: October 4, 1993

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On October 4 1993, Madonna performed The Girlie Show in Israel, despite protests by Jewish groups to cancel her show.  The sold-out concert was performed at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, in front of 80,000 adoring fans.

Today in Madonna History: July 20, 1990

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On July 20 1990, Madonna performed the first of three Blond Ambition Tour concerts at Wembley Stadium in London. She also performed on July 21 and 22.

BBC Radio 1 broadcast the full July 21 show, live from Wembley Stadium with no time delay, which led to controversy over the amount of swear words Madonna uttered live on air and the BBC had to issue an apology. Madonna said the F-word 24 times.

Highlights of the show were later aired after the 1992 interview with Madonna and Simon Bates.

Today in Madonna History: May 19, 2019

On May 19 2019, Madonna was scolded in the international press for “making a political statement” during her performance at the Eurovision Song Contest held the previous day, which ended with performers wearing Israeli and Palestinean flags on their backs with arms interlocked in embrace and the words “wake up” appearing on a stage screens.

Madonna’s camp responded with what should be (but is apparently not) obvious: “A message of peace is not a political statement.”

Here is the common definition of the term political statement:

The term political statement is used to refer to any act or non-verbal form of communication that is intended to influence a decision to be made for or by a political party. A political statement can vary from a mass demonstration to the wearing of a badge with a political slogan.

How exactly Madonna’s performance constitutes a political statement in the eyes of the media is puzzling. She did not endorse the political advancement or agenda of either side; she simply reiterated her longstanding and widely expressed wish for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

A more reasonable argument would be that had she not included this symbolic gesture in her performance, it may have been construed as muted political support for Israel’s position. By making the gesture she did, she instead reiterated her political neutrality and her wish for peace.

Equally telling was the network’s response that its desire was to broadcast an entertainment special that essentially whitewashed the realities of the conflict. Clearly, they would have us believe that ignoring the conflict is the acceptable, non-partisan stance, while acknowledging the conflict and expressing one’s hope for its peaceful resolution should be viewed as provocational or controversial.

The irony is that it is only those who are trying to frame Madonna’s actions as a political statement that are, in fact, making one.

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