9 times Madonna’s music videos told the haters: ‘You’re the one with the problem’

Madonna Erotica

Over the course of her groundbreaking career, Madonna has always faced a barrage of ageist and misogynistic criticism – and it was no different at last week’s Grammy awards.

But as she has done for the past four decades, she elegantly silenced the hateful trolls who continually put a target on her back.

“I have never apologised for any of the creative choices I have made nor the way that I look or dress and I’m not going to start,” she wrote in an Instagram post earlier this week.

A refusal to apologise has been the foundation for Madonna’s career since day one — it’s what built her artistic legacy, helped her to change pop culture forever, and why the gays will always have her back

As her fans continue to celebrate the icon’s career and creativity ahead of her Celebration Tour, and in spite of the tired criticism, here’s a look back at the Madonna music videos that made her the Greatest of All Time.

Like A Prayer, 1989

Other than her fans, there were very few groups who weren’t upset by the “Like A Prayer” video. Christian fundamentalists were left the most red-faced, considering the video depicted Madonna dancing in front of several burning crosses, showing stigmata on her hands, and kissing a Black saint.

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The Vatican was so mortified that it banned the video, while Roman Catholic historian Roberto de Mattei called it “a blasphemy and an insult”.

Religious zealots like the hateful, anti-LGBTQ+ American Family Association protested against the video, forcing Pepsi, who had used the song in an advert, to pull out of their sponsorship deal with the star.

Always with her tongue placed firmly in her cheek, Madonna later thanked Pepsi for “causing so much controversy” while collecting her Viewer’s Choice award for the video at the 1989 VMAs.

As with all of Madonna’s ‘controversial’ art, “Like A Prayer” was actually trying to make a point, by putting a spotlight on racial injustice and pushing racial equality. 

Justify My Love, 1990

So good that it was banned by MTV, “Justify My Love” was, for many LGBTQ+ people in the ’90s, the first time they saw such explicit depictions of queer sexuality in the mainstream media.

The black and white video shows Madonna taking part in a sultry bisexual threesome in a proud, defiant showcase of sexuality, while also celebrating drag queens, androgyny, and gender nonconformity. For its time, it was nothing but revolutionary.

Addressing the controversy around the video while appearing on ABC’s Nightline in 1990, Madonna said: “I think that sexuality is something that Americans would really rather just sweep up under the rug.

“Why are we willing to deal with the realities of violence and sexism and why aren’t we willing to deal with sexuality? Why?”

Vogue, 1990

Back in the days where MTV was one of the only ways to get your music videos out to a wide audience, most artists would’ve asked “high how?” when the network asked them to jump. Not Madonna, though.

When the video was sent to MTV, they complained about one shot in particular, where Madge is wearing a lacy, black top and one of her nipples is — barely — noticeable. The network told Madonna that they were going to cut the scene, and she said, simply, no you’re not.

The video did end up airing on MTV as Madge intended, and was later nominated for nine MTV video awards — the most one of her videos has ever received. Icon.

Aside from putting the MTV board in their place, “Vogue” also gets major props for providing a platform for queer male-bodied performers to express themselves.

Erotica, 1992

The “Erotica” music video is practically a behind the scenes snapshot of her risqué photography book Sex, which landed on the same day as her Erotica album. That alone was enough to set the purists into a spin, with religious groups once again up in arms and demanding it be banned.

The sensual, five-minute exploration of sexuality, fetish and masochism, which also features Madonna kissing Naomi Campbell, was initially only allowed to be screened on TV after 10pm, before being banned completely.

As Madonna herself once said: “I think art should be controversial. I think it should make people think.”

Human Nature, 1994 

How did Madonna respond to the uproar over her bold and beautiful 1992 photography book, Sex? By coming back into the limelight two years later to tell the haters: “You’re the one with the problem.”

While the prudes and misogynists were still reeling over Madonna owning her sexuality in the book and in her Erotica visuals, Madonna committed to twisting the knife with the “Human Nature” video. Dressed in a vinyl black catsuit, Madonna evokes a BDSM fantasy by gagging and whipping her dancers and getting tied to a chair. It may seem a little par for the course of pop stardom now, but at the time, it was another refusal to apologise for society’s narrow minded attitude to sex.

She told you then, and she’ll tell you now: she’s not sorry.

Hung Up, 2005 

By the time Madonna came to release “Hung Up” in 2005, she had already spent the best part of 15 years being told she was too old to show skin, too old to perform, too old to dance.

Her response, naturally, was to don a magenta leotard, head to London’s Pineapple Dance Studios, and put the haters to shame — all while recovering from a horse riding accident that left her with eight broken bones.

Bitch I’m Madonna, 2015

How do you prove you’re still the best and baddest in the game, nearly 35 years into your career? Round up the rest of the world’s biggest stars, put them in your music video, and make them all say your name.

“Bitch I’m Madonna” might be a controversial choice for this list, considering the song itself was met with a lukewarm reception at best, but it’s a baller move getting Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Rita Ora, Chris Rock and Alexandra Wang to all cameo within four minutes. It’s a solid signifier to the world that she is and always will be the ultimate queen of the industry.

Beside the guest stars, “Bitch I’m Madonna” is also a reminder that Madonna can, and will, kiss models, wear grills, and simulate sex whenever and whenever she likes — whether you like it or not.

God Control, 2019

“This is your wake up call,” Madonna wrote as she released the eight-minute-long “God Control” video back in 2019. “The story you are about to see shows graphic scenes of gun violence. But it’s happening every day, and it has to stop.”

While it drew intense criticism for its disturbing scenes of gun violence, particularly for seemingly attempting to re-enact the tragic 2016 massacre at Orlando’s gay nightclub Pulse, the controversy was not without purpose. In coaxing people into watching the video, the star wanted to cut through the noise with a crucial point about America’s gun violence epidemic.

“Every year, over 36,000 Americans are killed in acts of gun violence,” the video ends. “No one is safe.”

Whatever Madonna posts on social media, however old she gets, whatever she decides to wear or do to her body — she will never, ever apologise. That is why there will never be anyone like her.