How Rock the Vote Changed the Way Young People Viewed Politics
Saturday, 31 October 2020
"Truth is where you find it. Get up and vote," the artist broke it down "Vogue"-style as two dancers waved flags behind her. "Dr. King, Malcolm X, freedom of speech is as good as sex."
Then, she delivered her final tantalizing line: "And if you don't vote, you're going to get a spanking.''
And with that, Rock the Vote had released its first PSA.
If Madonna was hoping to elicit a reaction from the American people, she got her wish. The pop star set off a flurry of criticism, with the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization accusing her, according to The New York Times, of "desecration of the flag."
But, as the singer's publicist, Liz Rosenberg, said at the time, ''That was certainly not Madonna's intention at all. My sense is that wrapping the American flag around her is not insulting. It is essential that people should vote. She's trying to get that message across in a humorous, dramatic way. But she's very serious about the issue.''
At first glance, it might seem like a bad idea to start a movement on such a sour note, but as they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
But Rock the Vote was started by people who were already known for being controversial. In fact, Virgin Records co-founder Jeff Ayeroff and other music executives were initially responding to the Parent Music Resource Center's goal to have Parental Advisory labels placed on every album on the market that contained so-called explicit content, a desire that a select group of politicians were happy to fulfill.
What the PMRC and its supporters failed to foresee though, was that musicians have thousands of fans, many of voting age - and that those fans would be called upon to vote against the politicians in favor of censoring their music.
That's why Madonna and other artists who were named in the PMRC's "Filthy 15" - a list of songs the group called "objectionable" - were at the forefront of this movement.
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