Madonna -or- My God, I've Killed my Baby
Madonna's Sexual Personae -or- Papa Don't Preach
Back in the late 90's, I remember having a philosophical discussion with a friend about Madonna and her turn towards "spirituality". I was quite skeptical and cynical about her ambitions, he argued that Madonna's knowledge about the pleasures of the flesh, allowed her to freely explore other aspects of her personality and existence. I had to agree with this rational argument, at least "in theory". As in turns out, we probably were both right, in that Madonna's turn to spirituality was most likely not an easy one. Below is a dream that Madonna reported to "Vogue" (1) magazine in the November 1996 edition that may shed some insight.
"I go to the doctor and she says, ‘Oh, the fetal heartbeat is really weak. I want to do an ultrasound,' and when she did she said, ‘the baby's dead. You have pushed yourself too hard, and the baby's dead.' And I watch the baby detach itself from the placenta and sort of float around in my stomach, and I am sobbing hysterically, thinking ‘I've killed my baby, My God, I've killed my baby."
The Archetype of the Inner Child -or- My God, I've Killed My Baby
From a Jungian perspective, we can view this dream from both the "object" level and the "subject level". Said another way, the dream may be speaking about having a baby (outer world/object level) and becoming a mother, or the dream may be talking about Madonna's own archetypal "inner child" (inner world/subject level). A combination of both of these readings, subject + object is possible.
Madonna on October 14, 1996 gave birth to a baby girl. Reportedly soon after her child was born, she became interested in Jewish kabbalistic mysticism. The lyrics of Madonna's album "Ray of Light" (released 1998) discuss her fame, motherhood, love and spirituality. Madonna's work up until this point in time, was for many controversial, if not sexually explicit. Her "Immaculate Conception" album (released November 1990) caused an uproar, and the "Justify my Love" music video was banned from MTV.
Camille Paglia in her book "Sex, Art and American Culture", weighed in on Madonna, her music, and the music video "Justify My Love". Paglia's view of the video; "It's hypnotic images are drawn from the sadomasochistic films as Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter and Luchino Visconti's The Damned. It's the perverse and knowing world of the photographers Helmut Newton and Robert Mappelthorpe." Paglia discusses Madonna's interview on Nightline after the music video was banned from MTV. Madonna reportedly defended the video, by saying that it was a "celebration of sex". Paglia tells "Madonna, ‘fess up. The video is pornographic." Paglia also believes that by always changing her costume, hair style and hair color, that Madonna is saying that people are nothing but masks, and sexual personae.
Madonna's dream can be read in light of this archetypal background. Jung had identified the archetype of the "persona" as the social face and mask, which we learn to project towards others. In this sense, Paglia is correct to identify Madonna's ability and talent to change her sexual personae projections. Jung might see the "divine child" archetype in Madonna's dream. I like to call this child, the inner child and the "true" or authentic self. In having killed her own inner child, all she may have felt that all that was left were her masks and her false self.
Perhaps, this dream as well as others, helped Madonna to re-orient and re-structure her thoughts and feelings about herself, motherhood, her child, her past. Madonna provides a clue by telling us; "I am sobbing hysterically, thinking I've killed my baby, My God, I've killed my baby." What she shows us, is that she appears to have melodramatic and hysterionic personality traits. Perhaps this is also the secret of her allure? Becoming a mother, Madonna would have to give up being the centre of attention, now the child would take on the spot light. After this dream, Madonna likely could not seriously sing the controversial tune; "Papa Don't Preach" again. Madonna found a new spiritual direction and perhaps, her dreams gave her a "Ray of Light".
1. The dream can be found in, Lauren Lawrence "Private Dreams of Public People".