Madonna: An American Icon Essay

2589 words - 10 pages

The stage is dark. Thousands of screaming fans wait in agonizing anticipation. Smoke crawls out from the stage, and out struts a confident blonde woman. With the spotlight focused entirely on her, the crowd erupts into deafening applause as she begins her incomparable dance routines. She is an icon. She is Madonna. History has never seen a cultural figure with as much controversy or flair for the dramatic as Madonna, nor will history ever see such a figure. Madonna’s name is recognized by everyone, as is evidenced in a survey taken of fifty people of varying ages (shown below). These facts alone are enough to engrave her name in pop culture history, but the making of an icon does not stop there. Madonna is the quintessential example of an American icon because of her revolutionary changes to both the worlds of music and fashion; her entire life, from her early childhood to her 50th birthday and beyond, has challenged the conventions of society and changed the face of the music industry forever.
On August 16, 1958, Madonna “Madge” Louise Veronica Ciccone was born the daughter of Silvio Ciccone and Madonna Fortin in Bay City, Michigan. As the third of six children, Madonna faced an uphill battle from birth for the attention of her engineer father and former dancer mother. She realized that in order to gain the attention of both her parents and those around her, she would have to exert her femininity to gain recognition. This realization went directly against her devout Catholic upbringing in which her parents reared her. Forced to attend Catholic masses and elementary schools, a huge portion of Madonna’s childhood revolved around Catholic values. Imagery from Catholicism would later become huge inspirations for some of Madonna’s works (“Madonna Biography” 1).
However, all was not well in Madonna’s home. Unfortunately for Madonna and her family, tragedy struck before she had even begun schooling. After a fight with breast cancer, Madonna’s mother passed away on December 1, 1963; Madonna was only five years old. With no maternal guidance to help her through adolescence, Madonna became a free spirit and began to rebel against the conventions of everyday society. One of her chief oppressors (in her eyes) was her father’s new wife, Joan Gustafson. Madonna contested her stepmother’s authority at every level and did everything in her power to avoid becoming a slave to chores and housework; Madonna even went so far as to call herself “the quintessential Cinderella.” She felt that in order to distinguish herself from the ordinary world around her, she needed to transcend tradition. Madonna took this time in her childhood to begin wearing scandalous clothing, regularly attending urban nightclubs, and rejecting her conservative upbringing. However, Madonna’s drive for perfection kept her from becoming a degenerate; she remained a straight-A student, cheerleader, and talented dancer. She excelled so greatly in her studies that she...

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