Like A Prayer

Madonna’s 1989 music video, Like A Prayer, contains numerous concepts and symbols affiliated with the religion of Christianity.

Through the use of many religious symbols, themes and ideas, this music video essentially tells a story. This story is presented through the use of a play-like setting. Within this post, I will mention the story that the video tells by briefly discussing the sacred meaning behind these scenes.

The music video begins with a scene of burning crosses, an image that is revealed throughout the video repeatedly. Madonna enters a small church where a black male, who seems almost figure-like, is present. This statue-looking male resembles Jesus Christ incredibly.

The scene then shows Madonna laying down on her back in front of the figure-like male.

Personally, the first idea that I thought of at this point in the video was that Madonna and this particular black male were in love. The lyrics “I hear you call my name and it feels like home” made this observation clear because they represent how strong her love is. When Madonna hears the name of this sacred individual, she feels safe and secure. This is evident as she lays down so comfortably in front of him, almost as if his presence provides her with a sense of protection and security.

The next scene shows Madonna falling through the sky. At this point, the lyrics sing…

“I hear your voice,
Its like an angel sighing
I have no choice, I hear your voice,
Feels like flying I close my eyes
Oh God, I think I’m falling
Out of the sky, I close my eyes
Heaven, Help me”

This particular scene as well as these lyrics cause me to believe that when she hears the voice of her love, it is equivalent to something religious. This form of sacredness can be represented by a melody being sung by an angel, which is soothing to her. This is all clear as she is falling from the sky, which refers to how intensely she is falling in love, which is why she looks to Heaven for help. Madonna is then suddenly caught by a priest and pushed back up into the sky.

Next, Madonna is seen kissing the feet of the black male who resembles Jesus. She touches his face and suddenly he begins to move, transforming from a figure-like object of Jesus to a real man. He kisses her on her forehead and walks out of the church.

A further scene portrays Madonna witnessing a group of white men abusing a woman. Suddenly, the sacred black male, who Madonna encountered in Church, enters the scene. However, he no longer resembles Jesus since he is now wearing normal clothes and looks like an ordinary human being. As he runs to save the woman from getting assaulted, the group of men flee the scene.

Suddenly, the police arrive as the abused woman lays in the arms of the black man, causing the police to believe that he was the reason behind why she was injured. The officers arrest the man, as Madonna witnesses everything from afar.

The few scenes that follow this consist of Madonna dancing with a Church choir, laying on her back in the same area that the figure-like man once stood and reminiscing scenes of him getting framed and arrested.

As Madonna comes into contact with the figure-like male again, who is now not moving at all, it seems as if she is conflicted as to whether or not she should reveal his innocence since she witnessed the entire situation.

The final scene of this music video shows the man, dressed in normal clothes again, locked up in jail holding Madonna’s hands through the cell bars. A police officer is now present and it seems as if Madonna has finally revealed the truth in order to prove the man’s innocence.

Suddenly, the church choir is present again and many priests are bowing on a stage. Madonna and the man, holding hands, then step in front of the church choir who is dancing on the stage. Everyone bows down and the curtains close. This final scene made me believe that the entire story was a performance and the show has finally come to a delighted end as they all happily bow down in front of the audience. The video finally ends as the words “The End” appear on the scene, therefore proving that the video was meant to present a meaningful, religious show.

This video acts as an ideal example of “Religion in Popular Culture” which is described within the article Finding Religion in Unexpected Places, by Bruce David Forbes. Forbes states that the media often uses explicit representations of religion and religious figures. This is done in an attempt to discern patterns in the religious depictions thus allowing the audience to think about the connection between the symbols and the overall meaning of the film, song, etc. (Forbes, 10). This is clearly evident within this powerful music video.

Sources:

Forbes, Bruce David. “Introduction: Finding Religion in Unexpected Places.” In Religion and Popular Culture in America. Ed. B. D. Forbes and Jeffrey H. Mahan, 1–20. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

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