This paper explores ambiguities of political resistance and anti-war protest in Madonna's music video, 'American Life'. We begin by tracing the history of the making, promotion and eventual withdrawal of the video in the context of the military build-up and media campaign that preceded the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. In these opening sections, we focus in particular on the (perhaps deliberately generated) controversy surrounding the work, and its problematic relationship with contemporary corporate mass media. We then proceed to describe the visual contents of the video, and present three distinct readings of it: first, as a gesture of overt protest against the war; second, as a work that is unaware of the manner in which its signifying textures unwittingly and covertly celebrate the culture it would critique, thus nullifying its overt subversive gesture; and third, as a work that is in fact far more politically resistant than it knows, through an uncanny form of protest that is dependent upon this very complicity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies