Last week Madonna sparked a minor scandal when YouTube slapped an age restriction on her new video “Girl Gone Wild.” Apparently someone thinks seeing a 53-year-old pop star writhing next to some shirtless dudes will warp kids’ minds, though Madonna admitted in a live Facebook chat with Jimmy Fallon that she doesn’t understand what the issue is. “They don’t want the grinding and the groins,” said Fallon. That’s what I look forward to when I see these videos, I want to see the groins and the grinding.” “What’s wrong with…what grinding?” Madonna asked, adding, “I’m supposed to be a “Girl Gone Wild” in the video—how can I go wild and not grind?”
Frankly, we don’t get it either. Controversy has always been an integral part of Madonna’s career, and the sight of two scantily-clad dudes sharing an apple is really nothing. In fact, the Material Girl has been remarkably tame lately, especially when you consider some of her previous antics.
Though today few people would go diving for the radio dial if “Like A Virgin” came on during a family gathering, in 1984 the song was considered incredibly risqué (Madonna humping the stage in a wedding gown at the VMAs didn’t help matters much). Little did we know that she was just getting started. In the ensuing decades, Madonna would go on to popularize the underwear as outerwear trend, seduce a black Jesus figure and dance in front of burning crosses in the “Like a Prayer” video (earning her a public condemnation from the Pope), and star in her own pornographic coffee table book.
Stylistically, “Girl Gone Wild” resembles Madonna’s “Justify My Love,” though the 1990 video was banned outright by MTV, not just hidden from minors by a login screen. Today’s Madonna isn’t casually dropping full-frontal female nudity and orgy scenes into her videos. Her most scandalous incidents of the past decade don’t hold a candle to her cone-bra-clad days. In 2002, she was called anti-American for releasing the politically-charged “American Life” video, but she insisted it was “pro-peace,” not “anti-Bush.” Her 2003 lip lock with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera caused a frenzy, but that was clearly a media stunt, not a subversive statement on sexuality. As Madonna told her daughter Lourdes, it didn’t mean she was a lesbian, “It just means I kissed Britney Spears. I am the mommy pop star and she is the baby pop star. And I am kissing her to pass my energy on to her.”
The most remarkable thing about Madonna’s Super Bowl performance this year is that the ensuing scandal had nothing to do with Madonna. If M.I.A. hadn’t inexplicably flipped the bird at the football fans at home, it would have gone down as one the most PG halftime show’s ever. (After all, Prince set the bar for controversy high with his guitar handle-turned-male genitalia shadow play).
So, does this mean Madonna has lost her ability to shock us? Recent evidence says yes, though maybe that just proves how much she’s influenced pop music. Semi-nude dancers grinding to the beat of songs that play on sexual or religious imagery don’t scandalize the nation like they did 25 years ago, since today that describes every other video from artists like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Britney Spears. Madonna does seem much tamer today, but only because she’s already broken essentially every taboo there is — and made us accept it. [E!]