When details of Madonna’s graphic anti-war video for “American Life” were revealed last week, some people accused the pop queen of being downright un-American.
That’s not how she sees it. For Madonna, issuing a video depicting her throwing a hand grenade during a fashion show, cavorting with a brigade of female soldiers and displaying the atrocities of war is as American as the First Amendment.
“I feel lucky to be an American citizen for many reasons — one of which is the right to express myself freely, especially in my work,” she said in a statement. (Catch an exclusive sneak peek at Madonna’s new video on Sunday during MTV News’ Grammy pre-show, “Backstage at the Grammys,” at 7 p.m.)
In addition to supporting her right to create controversial art, in her statement Madonna insisted that she’s not “anti-Bush” or “pro-Iraq. She’s “pro-peace,” and just critical of the perception many people have of what it means to be an American. This sentiment is echoed throughout the song, which isn’t about war, but rather addresses materialism.
“I have written a song and created a video which expresses my feelings about our culture and values and the illusions of what many people believe is the American dream — the perfect life,” she said.
She added that she concocted the imagery of “American Life” not to offend or incite, but to inspire.
“As an artist, I hope this provokes thought and dialogue,” she said. “I don’t expect everyone to agree with my point of view. I am grateful to have the freedom to express these feelings, and that’s how I honor my country.”
The “American Life” video was directed by Jonas Akerlund, who also helmed Madonna’s “Ray of Light” and “Music” videos, and was shot in Los Angeles the first week of February. Shortly after it was filmed, Madonna’s label issued a statement. “[The video] expresses a panoramic view of our culture and looming war through the view of a female superhero portrayed by Madonna. Starting as a runway show of couture army fatigues, the fashion show escalates into a mad frenzy depicting the catastrophic repercussions and horrors of war” (see “Madonna Box Set Will Mark 20th Anniversary Of Her First LP” ).
Of course, Madonna is no stranger to controversy. In 1989 Pepsi dropped her as a spokesperson because of the religious and sexual imagery in her “Like a Prayer” video. Her sexually suggestive 1990 video for “Justify My Love” was considered too graphic for MTV, and her 1991 book “Sex” was filled with nude photos of herself and others. And in 2001 her video for “What It Feels Like for a Girl,” depicting Madonna behind the wheel of a car, running down street hockey players, blowing up a gas station and driving an elderly woman into a metal pole, was banned because of its violent content (see “Madonna’s New Video: Too Hot For TV” ).
American Life is due April 22.