Madonna gets crucified, and you don’t get to see it on TV. NBC, wilting under an eruption of Christian colic, expelled the visual — wherein the Godmother warbles “Live to Tell” on a moderne mirrored cross — from November 22’s taped concert special, The Confessions Tour.
Fans daring to creep past the censors can hit YouTube, which posts about a zillion clips of the footage from all over Madonna’s world excursion. Hear the stately-pretty song. See the pop icon looking sharp in thorns. Puzzle over why the projected images of African kids consumed in flames make the experience kind of moving, some way or another.
The exact source of the emotion is hard to nail, even (especially?) for Madonna. Arms stretched on the geometric tree, is she somehow supposed to represent an afflicted Third World child? Yep: “If Jesus were alive today, he would be doing the same thing.” Right on, Madge, though the lyrics (about a secret you’re hiding) don’t sync.
Does baggage remain from the tune’s original 1986 video, laden with scowling images of former husband/scourge Sean Penn from the film At Close Range? Does the “secret” concern the rumored abortion of S&M’s offspring? (Let’s adopt, Guy.) Is there subtext about a priest’s exorcism/crucifixion/murder of a Romanian nun last year for uppity behavior?
All of the above, maybe. Call it art. And, therefore, get it the hell off our TV screens. Church guys accuse Madonna of exploiting sacred images for her own aggrandizement — duh. “Like a Prayer”? “Like a Virgin”? Lucky for her, Madonna is her real name. And now, like Muslim mobs goaded into outrage over Prophet slurs, we’re told she’s gone too far. But, people: The Great Pop Crucifixion is tradition. Like, for instance . . .
1968: The Vietnam War is boiling; ?The Doors register protest with “The Unknown Soldier” and an accompanying short film they direct themselves. Jim Morrison, as the hippie draftee, is hoisted on a cross and ?shot; blood gushes from his mouth onto white carnations at his feet.
1970: Prior to the staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, the album version arrives. Ian Gillan, who has just landed the shrieker position in Deep Purple, sings the role of the lead crucifixee.
1971: With the Lizard King soon to be dead for real, the Doors release their last studio album as a quartet, L.A. Woman, whose packaging showcases an illustration of a woman crucified on a telephone pole. The message is obscure: Are L.A. Woman’s phone bills killing her?
1989: Black Sabbath (sans Ozzy) unleash The Headless Cross, and tour with a backdrop of a flaming figure crucified.
1990: Enter the King of Rock Crucifixions, Marilyn Manson. Still a local Florida act, the Christian-raised Son of Man climaxes his Easter show by mock-crucifying a woman and projecting an American flag onto her bare breasts.
1992: Los Angeles’ chain-sawing, beast-fucking WASP lash out with The Crimson Idol, a concept album about a rock star who kills himself onstage. An illustration of a crucified shagster resembling WASP singer Blackie Lawless adorns the cover. Lawless, himself crucified by the PMRC’s ’80s anti-obscenity campaign (which was inspired in part by Madonna’s lewdness), says the record’s two-year gestation nearly killed him.
1999: A thorn-crowned Nas shoulders the cross in his video for “Hate Me Now.” “Jealous motherfuckers,” it seems, have criticized the rapper for wearing Gucci — ow! But pound another nail, haters; Nas can take it: “I side with the Lord.”
1999: Creed godbag Scott Stapp flings tatted arms outward Golgotha style (or was that Jim Morrison style?) in the video for “Higher” (as well as “Arms Wide Open”). “Let’s go there!” bellows Scott. Naw — you go on ahead.
1999: Millennium fever peaks during Marilyn Manson’s tour, in the wake of accusations that his violent lyrics helped inspire the Columbine slayings. “I’m tired of dying for your fucking sins,” declaims Manson; he also mounts himself on a neon cross.
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2000: Manson won’t leave it alone; his Holy Wood cover depicts him crucified and jawless (as if anyone could ever shut up the God of Fuck).
2001: On tour again, Manson has toned it down to crucifying a hypercephalic fetus. “Kill your God! Say yeah!!”
2006: Hip-hop phenom Kanye West sports a crown of thorns on the January cover of Rolling Stone, declaring, “My misery is your pleasure.” In his hit “Jesus Walks,” West speculates that witnessing for the Lord will starve his wallet. Yeah, Mel Gibson went broke the same way.
Later in 2006: A woman does it. Cover yer eyes!