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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Papa Don't Preach

Is it just me, or is the subject of teenage pregnancy a hotter issue than ever before?

Just think about it for a second. There are thousands of girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen who are getting pregnant each day of the week, and I think that almost everyone in the world probably knows someone who became a teen mom at some point in their lives. Maybe even some of you reading this blog entry right now had a child in your teen years. Believe me, I am not judging you on this at all. Just making a little observation.

To be honest with you, I have to give a lot of teen moms tremendous credit. Raising a child is hard enough when you're in your twenties or thirties...I couldn't even imagine someone trying to take care of a child at fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen. So, for those of you who have managed to do so, I salute you.

In some cases, some teen pregnancies are carried to term, and the child given up for adoption, as the mother may not have the resources to properly take care of her child. And, the always controversial option of abortion is also a possibility as well.

But, which decision is the right one for an expectant teen mother? Well, it's not really up for me to say, as I am not a teenager, nor do I have the biological parts to even give birth. The decision can only be made by the person who is carrying the child. And, that decision can be compounded by so many factors.

I would imagine that seeing television programs like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” can be a bit of a double-edged sword, so to speak. On one hand, some may argue that these shows are absolutely disgusting, and that they actually promote and exploit teenage pregnancy. But on the other, some may say that the show perfectly demonstrates how hard raising a child as a teen mom really is.

I can also only imagine how hard it must be to maintain a social life when taking care of a child. I may be childless myself, but seeing how hard my mother and both of my sisters have had to work in order to raise their children, I really do believe people when they say that having a child changes everything. And, all the female members of my family were at least in their twenties when they started having children. Can you imagine putting your child first at the age of fourteen when you're still a child yourself? That would be a tricky, almost impossible situation for some unless you happen to have a very good support system at home.

But, what if you happen to be sixteen and pregnant, and you are so afraid to talk to your family and friends about it? You worry that they might not like the news. You worry that they won't accept the baby. You worry that your father will grab a Louisville Slugger and go after the hoodlum that got you into the situation in the first place. And, then once all that has passed, you're left with a decision. Do you keep the baby, or don't you...keeping in mind that you're likely going to be bombarded by your loved ones by opinions on what THEY would do if they were in your shoes, knowing full well that they have possibly no idea what you really are going through.

That's the scenario that is painted vividly in one particular song that was a big hit in the mid-1980s.

I know I've done at least a couple of blog entries on this female singer before, but this song has such a poignant message and a fantastic music video that I decided that I would make it the spotlight for today's Sunday Jukebox. It's a song that was written by a man named Brian Elliot, who came up for the inspiration for the song after overhearing some teenage girls gossiping about a teenage pregnancy outside of his music studio. The song was then handed over to a rising star, and it became the second single to be released from her “True Blue” album.

ARTIST: Madonna
SONG: Papa Don't Preach
ALBUM: True Blue
DATE RELEASED: June 11, 1986

NOTE: The song was also covered by Kelly Osbourne in 2002.

Now, as you all well know by now, Madonna is absolutely no stranger to controversy. She lost an endorsement deal with Pepsi after her “Like a Prayer” video ruffled a few too many feathers. Her videos for “Justify My Love” and “Erotica” were more or less banned from regular airplay on MTV. And, of course, there was that coffee table book with the provocative name “Sex”.

And, certainly when “Papa Don't Preach” was released in 1986, there was plenty of controversy to go around.

Some women's organizations, for example, were criticizing Madonna for seemingly encouraging teenage pregnancy...a claim that Madonna laughed off as being completely untrue. The song also caused Madonna to get into conflict with The Vatican, as she actually dedicated the song to Pope John Paul II. And, his reaction to the dedication was a public outcry, urging all Italian Madonna fans to boycott any and all tour dates in Italy during her 1987 “Who's That Girl” tour!

But, nearly 55 years of age, Madonna has been surrounded by controversy, so this song was hardly going to make her hang up her microphone for good. In fact, Madonna's reaction to the controversy surrounding “Papa Don't Preach” can be summarized in an interview she gave to “The New York Times” shortly after the single was released,

Papa Don't Preach” is a message song that everyone is going to take the wrong way. Immediately they're going to say that I am advising every young girl to go out and get pregnant. When I first heard the song, I thought it was silly. But, then I thought, wait a minute, this song is really about a girl who is making a decision in her life. She has a very close relationship with her father and wants to maintain that closeness. To me, it's a celebration of life. It says 'I love you, father, and I love this man and this child that is growing inside of me.' Of course, who knows how it will end? But, at least it starts off positive.

That statement is essentially what the music video is all about.

So, we see Madonna as a teenage girl (which is a stretch, given that Madonna was actually twenty-seven when this video was filmed, but just go with it for now) wandering through the streets of New York City with something that is troubling her...and we don't exactly know what that it until a little later in the video.

Apparently, according to Madonna's T-shirt that she wears in the video, “Italians Do It Better”. And, well, in this case, the one time that Madonna did it with her boyfriend, she ended up getting pregnant. So, I guess the T-shirt didn't lie!

The problem is she going to tell her father the news?

We see old home movies of a little girl playing with a stuffed Pink Panther toy dancing and cuddling with her father (portrayed by veteran actor Danny Aiello), and we quickly learn that the little girl grew up to be the young woman wandering the streets of New York with a lot on her mind...trying to inform her father that he's about to become a grandfather way before he was expecting to be one.

Now, you have to probably understand the situation that the father went through. You'll notice that Madonna had no siblings, and that there wasn't a mother in the picture at all. I can only speculate that the mother passed away shortly after giving birth to her one and only daughter, and that the reason why the father was so overprotective of his child is because she's all that he has left. So, looking at it from that perspective, it makes sense as to why Madonna would feel a little apprehensive over sharing her news.

But here's the thing. Not a whole lot of teenage girls who end up getting pregnant have the support of the boyfriend who assisted in getting them into the situation in the first place.

Yet in the video, Madonna has the support of her boyfriend.  After all, if you listen closely to the lyrics of the song, Madonna sings "he says that he's going to marry me, we can raise a little family, maybe we'll be all right, it's a sacrifice."

And, clearly the two are a very happy, loving couple.  We see that very clear in the scene where they're dancing on a boat as the band plays on.  And, while of course we don't quite see what happens to the couple once they have the baby, I think I'd like to believe that they stuck it out and raised their child together.

SCARY THOUGHT:  That baby that they would have had together would be 26 years old now!  I know...I made you feel very old, didn't I?  I know I certainly made MYSELF feel that way!

And, it's not as though Madonna in her real life ever catered to peer pressure or listened to anyone else who tried to tell her differently.  Fictional "teenage" Madonna refused to listen to her friends who told her to "give the baby up", and "live it up".  She just wanted some good advice...advice that she was not going to get from her peers.

Still though...telling her father is the one thing that she was not looking forward to doing, as she knew that the news would break her father's heart...especially since he worked incredibly hard to make sure that his little girl had the best life possible.  And, certainly when the news is revealed, he does not take it very well.  However, an ending is worth a thousand words, and as you see, things don't stay frosty for too long.

"Papa Don't Preach" easily became one of Madonna's most well-known singles, and was one of three #1 hits from the "True Blue" album.  The video for the single won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video in 1987, and the video actually marked a change of image for Madonna, who trimmed her long dark hair into almost a pixie cut, dyed platinum blonde - a definite contrast from her "Like a Virgin", "Material Girl", "Crazy for You" days.

The song also hit #1 in several countries besides the United States and Canada.  The song also topped the charts in Great Britain, Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Italy and Norway, and was at the very least a Top 5 single in several other countries.  And, it was performed live in concert on several of Madonna's tours - most recently at Madonna's 2012 MDNA tour.

And, controversy aside, you have to admit that the song "Papa Don't Preach" was one fantastic song.  And, contrary to what other people have said, I really don't believe the song promotes teenage pregnancy at all.  If anything, it's a perfect song that depicts the feelings of anxiety that someone in that situation would naturally be facing.  

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