"You've pushed my love over the borderline": Readers respond to Heather Havrilesky's essay about Madonna's new antiwar video.

Published April 9, 2003 1:00AM (EDT)

Read "The Madonna Video You Can't See."

Am I the only one who sees Madonna's shelving of her "American Life" video as just another shrewd publicity maneuver in a history of shrewd publicity maneuvers? Remember "Justify My Love"? When the shit came down on that one, Madonna cleverly pulled it, packaged it, and sold it for millions. "Like a Prayer," the "Sex" book, and that clip of her smashing up cars (I forget the name) were also less about artistic expression and more along the lines of "cultural kindling." Madonna knew full well that these were nothing more than powder kegs that would spark just the right amount of collectivized, self-righteous indignation that would keep the spotlight solely on her as a provocateur and away from the fact that she is untalented and devoid of imagination or eloquence. (These were always punctuated by "Earth mother/Moon goddess" personae wrapped in moody ballads, which made her seem chameleon-like, adaptable, and grounded -- and therefore important.)

So with bombs falling and her career failing, she offers up yet another timely bone for the dupes and Drudges of the world to chew on and then, like the old pro she is, pulls it so we can all argue and speculate and offer opinions on how she capitulated to the warmongers, or how she was genuine in her support of the troops, or how such a move impacts American culture as a whole, blah blah blah -- thereby extending her legacy and refocusing the fleeting limelight. Bravo, Madonna. You may be predictable, annoying, and tired, but your intelligence and endurance can never be questioned.

-- Matt Hutchinson

I like Madonna's new electro styling -- for the first time she (or her producer) is making songs as good as those in the trend she's belatedly ripping off. But I'm offended at the hubris of the "American Life" video.

While I'm sitting in my studio apartment scraping by as a teacher, do I really need to be chastised for my decadent lifestyle by someone who rented a fucking castle for her wedding?

If Madonna's lame latte rap about having 19 nannies was introspective and heartfelt, I'd be impressed as hell. But it isn't. Doesn't she realize this invective applies more accurately to her than to the people she's preaching?

Oh, and am I mistaken or is one of the disturbing pictures of American brutality in her video a Russian bomber?

-- Mike Baugh

No, no, no, no, no. You all have it wrong. Madonna did not "ban" her video from U.S. airplay due to fears of misinterpretation at all. I think, perhaps, she awoke to the realization that the video just plain stinks. The minimal techno track lacks the depth of past efforts while the lyrics are louder and weaker than ever before. And then the visuals ... I'm not even going to go there. Bloody Britney Spears meets Tankgirl and her BMW Mini Cooper. This is not America.

-- Will Wertheim

It is bad when the government censors artists, authors and the media. It is absolutely frightening when the artists, authors and the media censor themselves. This is what is happening in the United States. It is not McCarthyism, it is more insidious than that. It is a new form of political correctness. The type of political correctness that one finds in countries that have lived under political dictatorships for a very long time. I wonder what has happened to us? How are we allowing a small group of loud conservatives to change the basic nature of America? Madonna censors herself, the Dixie Chicks cower and swallow their words and their beliefs, embedded reporters behave like young children who get to go with their parents to work for a day, Dan Rather is a spokesman for the U.S. government. Did Sept. 11 do all of this? Is our democracy, our Constitution, our way of life, our national character so weak that 19 terrorists can fundamentally change it in one day? This is a bad dream.

-- Ahmad Keshk

I guess the withdrawal of Madonna's video goes to show that these superstars, divas and media moguls don't really have that much effect on the world. Gee, did she really think she'd change opinion?

And, if she supports our soldiers who volunteer to go to war, then what do we make of that? We love you, but we hate what you do? Can anyone spell hypocrisy? Why don't these fence sitters have the "ballistics" enough to say we don't support the troops and the war they are fighting.

Why can't we all say, we don't like war, but sometimes good people have to do bad things. I think that's called tough love. The most difficult nurturing thing to do. Now if the draft becomes reinstated, that's a whole "different" ball of wax.

-- Diana Dugina

Wow, what a difference a decade makes! Around the time of the first Gulf War, Ms. Ciccone was all too eager to defend her video for "Justify My Love" -- she's an artist, you know. Flash forward and now Ms. Ciccone decides to bow to political pressure when now, of all times, an antiwar message is badly needed. Afraid to be labeled a "Dixie-Chickanista," Mrs. Ritchie? Once again, the lure of the dollar dictates pop culture (hasn't it always?) and methinks a fear of lagging CD sales and bad press was the real reason we won't see Madonna's latest. (Is that John Ashcroft in a Mini Cooper?) I'm sure she looks fabulous -- although I have to agree with the South Park guy -- she's overstayed her welcome as pop-tart avatar. Too bad.

-- Toni Loftin

You drank the Kool-Aid. Do you really imagine that this exercise in "self-censorship" is anything but a publicity ploy?

Self-promotion was always her forte, do you think she's forgotten how? This latest media manipulation allows her to have it both ways, do something "shocking" to appeal to the antiwar crowd and do something "principled" to appeal to the opposite side.

I can't believe you're wasting bandwidth to give the easily titillated a peak.

-- R. Nelson

As a lifelong Madonna fan, I too felt immensely let down by her decision to pull her new video from American TV. While my disappointment in not being able to see the video was lifted by your copy, after seeing it, my disappointment blossomed.

What has happened to the "Express Yourself" role model I grew up with? The woman who wouldn't "tone down" the part of her Blonde Ambition tour where she simulates masturbating on the night her father attended the show because it was part of her Art? The new video, even if it isn't considered "Art" or "controversial" at least makes clear her antiwar sentiment, with its content as much as its blazing peace symbol in the corner, and hits on the problematic idea that the American Dream has come to mean the right to pursue money and capitalistic success more than any of our other freedoms, such as free speech.

Yet still she pulls a video that in this time of Dixie Chick-album burning would have at least given the antiwar movement a very famous face, and shown others that it is important to express your opinions about the current state of politics in this country, even in the face of demonization and (perhaps) lower sales. Madonna has always been about image, but there has always been substance behind the many facades. Until now. Oh Madonna, you've pushed my love over the borderline.

-- Toby Bochan

By Salon Staff

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