Message For A Materialistic Person Essay

Society and culture are far from straightforward concepts. They interweave inseparably with how we go about our everyday lives and are influenced by a constantly changing and evolving host of factors. Although we are born with certain social instincts, we look primarily to the world around us to learn what is permissible in the chess game that is social interaction. Additionally, we learn through socialization what is desirable in our culture and what we should pursue in our relationships. Because of this, celebrities are a major influence on this process of socialization. This comes as no surprise, since they are often lauded and highly scrutinized by society. The most influential and popular of celebrities have the power to set societal precedents that last for generations, growing from simple fads to interactive norms. Madonna is one such celebrity. A household name in her own right, Madonna has been known for being a provocative and highly scrutinized musician. Her styles have been copied and built upon since their inception, and she undoubtedly has influenced society through her music and actions. From classics like "Like a Virgin" and "Vogue" to the periodic and sometimes confusing public comeback performance, Madonna is a textbook example of how celebrities can influence culture. Her music video "Material Girl" is both a popular production and, less obviously, a statement on how the influence and precedents set by celebrities can last and evolve through generations. Madonna's video revolves around the concept of materialism and its interplay with society, creating relationships where wealth takes precedence over genuine affection. Madonna makes a powerful statement about the materialistic, money-driven culture that has been influencing American relationships by revealing a persistent and evolving precedent set by the influential and wealthy in her "Material Girl" music video.

"Material Girl" builds a scenario based on Marilyn Monroe's 1954 performance of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" from the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In the scene, Marilyn sings about the merits of possessing diamonds and wealth above all else. She is dressed in all red with swarms of men dancing around her vying for her attention. She pays no interest to them, going so far as to reject their physical advances and moving away from them. The only time she ever truly interacts with them is when they offer her dazzling collections of diamonds arranged in a truly staggering diversity of jewelry. The video itself is a display of materialism, filled with men dressed in fine suits offering the radiant, fur-and-red-dress-clad Marilyn Monroe priceless jewels in an attempt to win her affections. Not only is it a piece of cinematography, it is a statement to those who watch it that, like Marilyn, you too should prize wealth above all else. It is a statement that lights the furnace of society to forge a dangerous new precedent of materialism.

To fully understand the impact and relevancy of Marilyn's statement with "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," it is important to consider the context of the time period. The 1950s were marked by a state of grandeur, optimism, and dominance in America. World War II had just ended, and people were experiencing what seemed to be the beginning of an era of peace and prosperity for all. This nationwide understanding that the time had come to reap the rewards of wars won took hold and personified itself with an era of unprecedented spending and, of course, the Baby Boom. Marilyn Monroe's "blonde bombshell" persona was the manifestation of this unprecedented wealth. She was the symbol of her era and of American society at that time: youthful, vibrant, carefree, and brimming with glamour and wealth. The allure of her image and her power as a rising star in relevant American cinema made this blonde bombshell image salient in the minds of Americans. During the 1950s, it represented a time period of nearly unlimited wealth, power, and potential. As America had its identity challenged by events such as the Cold War, Vietnam War, and Civil Rights movement, it was that image, among others, that people looked back upon to remind themselves of a happier time in the past to hope for happier times to come.

Madonna's version of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" shows how the precedent set by Monroe in 1953 has persisted until 1984. For the vast majority of the music video, the scene that plays is simply Madonna's recreation of that iconic scene. Practically everything is the same, including the choreography and tone of the song. Madonna even mirrors her look after Monroe's, wearing almost the exact same clothes and receiving the same gifts in the same manner. However, the meticulous reconstruction of the original performance is more than an artistic foundation or tribute. It's the most obvious way Madonna shows the persistence of Monroe's precedent. In one scene, Madonna is shown walking through a crowd of boys, accepting their gifts of diamonds gladly but immediately and almost violently rejecting physical contact (Madonna 1:36-1:42). Being a recreation of the original, Madonna is saying that even 31 years later, society has done nothing different. Watched side by side one could hardly tell the difference. There are two blonde, wealthily dressed women being pursued by the wealthy who can only garner a reaction by presenting the women with gifts of material wealth. The actors may be different, but in the end the message is clear: we are all still playing the same exact scene out again and again.

However, Madonna's imagery also demonstrates an evolution of precedent past its origin. In the opening scene of the movie, two men are seen discussing Madonna while watching her video. One man watches the video intently while the other man frantically gestures to and from the screen with his hands, enumerating all the ways why Madonna is, "the biggest star in the universe, right now, as we speak" (0:00-0:14). The two discuss ways for the man intently watching Madonna to meet her in person. We also see throughout the video evidence of men from outside the production attempting to buy her affections with expensive gifts. In Marilyn's scene it was simply a bunch of men vying for her attention and at the mercy of her whims. However, here we see something different. In Madonna's rendition there is the addition of an outside influence. The opening scene portrays her as an object put up for auction; something to be sought after. It establishes a new side of the situation where all the control isn't simply in the woman's hands anymore and she can just pick and choose. This structuring is important. Madonna doesn't make any changes to the Monroe-inspired portion of the music video. Instead, she makes additions that overlay the recreation to keep the concept of the precedent intact while making her own unique statement. Doing so demonstrates that the precedent has been around for so long that it has been perpetuated and evolved. Madonna shows that people aren't just materialistic anymore; they are also being treated as material objects.

Madonna's wording builds upon the idea of materialism, saying that it doesn't just drive relationships, but also encourages the rejection of true, genuine affection. Several times throughout the song, she cites actions usually associated with emotional content and essentially dismisses them in favor for monetary gestures. For example, she says, "They can beg, they can plead, but they can't see the light, that's right. 'Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr. Right" (1:13-1:27). Begging and pleading here refer to emotional appeals for her affection. The words themselves hold a desperate emotional and bare connotation that seems to be the antithesis of the cold hard diamonds her character would prefer. However, her materialistic perspective prevents her from even acknowledging what could be truly heartfelt efforts by other men. Instead, the only thing that can contest for her attention is wealth. Instead of the ideal man being somebody who truly cares about her as a person and expresses that care in a heartfelt way, Madonna instead asserts that the man with the money is the man that is desirable. She rejects something without much thought simply because of the established precedent of her society. Notice how she doesn't offer any substantial explanation for why wealth is so much more important than genuine emotional displays. Here, she is simply part of the system, and if the system says that materialistic wealth is the most desirable trait a man can have, then that is the precedent she uses.

By the end of the music video, events take an interesting turn to demonstrate how the precedent of materialism set by Monroe not only persists through Madonna, but has evolved past its original state. Throughout the video, the man who was initially asking about Madonna is seen attempting to gain her favor. Most importantly, he is shown attempting this in a non-materialistic way during the times when Madonna is being herself and not re-creating the Monroe scene. Their interactions are spread out throughout the video, creating a separation between the glamorous persona Madonna plays for the cameras and the the person she truly is. At first, he attempts to bring her a gift, but throws it away after learning her distaste for such gifts behind the scenes (0:49-0:55). After bumping into her and watching her from afar, he finally wins her affection by giving her a bouquet flowers, essentially the antithesis of the cold, hard diamond gifts Madonna has been showered with throughout the video. Finally, we see the man purchasing a very average looking car from a man on set before picking up Madonna and presumably taking her out on a date which culminates in a kiss between the two (4:24-4:40). These additions add another layer of narrative to the previously one-dimensional bombshell blonde persona. Madonna shows her audience that what an artist performs on camera isn't necessarily how the artist truly feels. She is saying that although materialism is a powerful social force, and perhaps one of the few routes to follow if one is to find success as an entertainer, at its core it may not speak to the true desires of humanity. Here, materialism is portrayed not only as a precedent, but as a societal expectation and norm: something that people accept and expect, but not necessarily something people want. We do it because we think that's how society works after watching the figureheads of society bask in such actions, giving little thought as to what we truly want from relationships. In a way, in this video Madonna is a whistleblower, a cry of defiance against the industry that sells their product of a materialistic lifestyle en masse to the public. However, as a medium for that same industry, whatever message she attempted to get out went both unseen and unheard as her music remained, ultimately, yet another outlet for the message of materialism.

Even in contemporary music, one can very clearly see the effects of the materialistic precedent set by artists like Monroe and perpetuated and evolved by artists like Madonna. The blonde bombshell image remains alive and well even today in the form of modern cultural superstars. The most obvious example of this is Christina Aguilera. A vocally gifted, platinum blonde musical titan, similar to the likes of Monroe and Madonna, she also performed a recreation of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" in her 2010 movie, Burlesque. Like Madonna's recreation, the words are kept virtually the same but with a change in scenery from a stage performance to a provocative burlesque show. Additionally, there is evidence to show that, once again, the concept of materialism has not only persisted but evolved past its origin. In 2007, singer Beyoncé performed her rendition of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" for a Georgio Armani commercial. Where the notion of a blonde bombshell was quite literally personified by a white, blonde, female performer, Creole/African American Beyoncé has helped evolve it to better suit a more contemporary, racially diverse music culture. In this way, the blonde bombshell becomes less of a static physical person and even more of a concept and lifestyle, only adding it to its social power and longevity. Where as in the 1950s it was primarily viewed as that platinum blonde caucasian woman, the boundaries of race no longer hold as much sway over it. Now, the message is that more than ever before, anybody can be that personification of wealth and materialism. Moreover, you should be that.

The "Material Girl" music video continues to have relevance in contemporary society as we still wrestle with the glorification of wealth and materialism in relationships. It is entirely possible that Madonna chose to recreate Monroe's performance as a homage to the late cultural icon. When one looks at the music video at face value that is certainly an easy conclusion to arrive upon. However, upon further inspection, especially taking into account the few extra scenes added in, the wording, and the filmography, it becomes apparent that a deeper message is embedded within the music video. Thirty-one years after "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" was released, Madonna recreated the scene to show how the materialism displayed in that performance has remained and ingrained itself into society. Now, 31 years after Madonna's video, materialism still remains strong in contemporary society. Musicians still sing about how much they want fame and money above all else. Many could argue that we are a consumer-driven society, obsessed with climbing the social ladder and devoting our lives and relationships to the growth of wealth in lieu of other more emotionally substantial things. Especially when artists like Beyoncé and Christina Aguilera keep the tradition of materialism alive and well, its easy to see that the concepts first introduced by Monroe and artists like her aren't going anywhere soon. "Material Girl" is a microscope that probes deep within the human experience and shows the underlying greed of society and the honesty and heart below the surface that is choked out because of it. That greed, persistent, evolving, and socially accepted threatens to choke out the genuine and emotional things we hold dear in our everyday interactions if it is allowed to spread and grow.

Jean Llenos

Jean Llenos hails from the mysterious, seldom acknowledged yet ever-lovely land of Meridian, Idaho. Majoring in Philosophy with a pre-health supplementary major, he hopes to one day become involved with global health as a doctor, particularly in poverty outreach. "Materialism, Madonna, and You" was written as a rhetorical analysis of the music video "Material Girl" by Madonna. Although Jean is admittedly not Madonna's biggest fan, especially after having listened to the same song for hours on end, he hopes that his examination of cultural precedences encourages others to look at the world around them in different ways. He would like to extend his deepest gratitude to his Writing and Rhetoric professor, Caitlin Smith, and his high school english Teacher, Mrs. Symmonds, whose expertise and timeless wisdom have made such writing possible.

Destructive Materialism in The Pearl

  • Length: 404 words (1.2 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - More ↓
In The Pearl, the author, John Steinbeck, uses the pearl to express what human nature is. Kino, a poor pearl fisher, finds the ?pearl of the world? and imagines all the things he will buy after he has sold the pearl. At the beginning of the novel, the pearl that Kino finds is described as being large, incandescent and as "perfect as the moon", by the end of the novel, Kino looks at the pearl and it is "ugly, gray, like a malignant growth." In general, mankinds are greedy, deceptive and evil. In the novel, Steinbeck tries to spread the message that materialism destroys people.

In the novel, The Pearl, John Steinbeck does an excellent job portraying how materialism destroys people. Juana says to Kino ?This pearl is evil. This pearl is like a sin. It will destroy us all!?(38). Even though Juana warns Kino that the pearl will bring misfortunes to the family and advises him to throw the pearl away, Kino neither takes the advice nor listens to what his wife says because Kino's mind is already overtaken by his dreams. Kino puts the pearl before his family and even if his wife takes it, he attacks her to reclaim it. ?He [strikes] her in the face and she [falls] among the boulders, and he [kicks] her in the side...He [hisses] at her like a snake and she [stares] at him with wide unfrightened eyes, like a sheep before a butcher? (59). Kino hits his wife and becomes more evil after he has found the pearl. Also, Kino has lost his humanity and becomes like an animal. He will not consider his family anymore like he used to because he has turned evil and he is overtaken by his dreams. Steinbeck uses the scene where people burn down Kino's house to show humans do evil acts to harm someone. Since the pearl dealers cannot think of a way that can deceive Kino, they burn down his house in revenge, which makes Kino's family become homeless.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Destructive Materialism in The Pearl." 10 Mar 2018

LengthColor Rating 
Essay on Materialism in The Pearl - In the novel The Pearl, Symbolism assists us readers in a way that allows us to be able to perceive things in a more understandable, insightful way. Instead of us only understanding a short story of a young man diving for pearls to earn a living, it helps give more detail on his personal life and surroundings. Symbolism is also another way for the author to further illustrate their ……… It causes us readers to ponder upon our person ideals of ourselves. The main object in the novel The Pearl is the pearl itself....   [tags: symbolism, John Steinbeck, literary analysis]
:: 1 Works Cited
885 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Essay Criticisms of Consumerism and Materialism in Fight Club - “Do you know what a duvet is. It's a blanket. Just a blanket. Is this essential to our survival. No. We're consumers. We're by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty...these things don't concern me. What concerns me is celebrity magazines, television with five hundred channels, some guy's name on my underwear”(29 min.) We are a generation comprised of invidious and conspicuous consumers, desperately trying to meet society’s consumerist criteria; seeking the false promise of the American dream....   [tags: fight club, consumerism, materialism]
:: 9 Works Cited
1120 words
(3.2 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Essay about Materialism in America - My first evening in New York City is one that I shall never forget. It was one of the most thrilling, memorable and horrifying experiences I have ever had. When I arrived in New York I was filled with enthusiasm and ready to explore the city that never sleeps. I conveyed this excitement to my Hotel Concierge, who advised me to visit Times Square. I began to walk from my hotel, which was located near Central Park to Times Square. As I drew closer, the sounds of the horse chariots were replaced with the buzzing sound of over 350,000 people who come to visit Times Square everyday (advertised in Time Square)....   [tags: Theory of Innate Materialism]
:: 26 Works Cited
1085 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Essay about The Bombing of Pearl Harbour and American-Australian Relations - The Bombing of Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941 sparked the involvement of the United States in the Second World War. Up until this point, the Axis powers in both Europe and the Asia-Pacific had the advantage in the war, gaining territory and pushing the Allies back. America had so far claimed formal neutrality from the fighting till she herself was attacked in Hawaii. The Bombing of Pearl Harbour also strengthened America’s ties to Australia as it seen as a friend among a foe riddled Pacific....   [tags: Pearl Harbor]
:: 5 Works Cited
1349 words
(3.9 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Solving the Foreclosure Crisis and Egotistical Materialism Essay - The foreclosure crisis in America is only an effect of a much deeper underlying problem: egotistical materialism. The “American Dream” has unfortunately promoted this problem by affecting Americans everywhere, convincing them that it is possible to get whatever they want, at whatever cost. In itself the dream to succeed is not completely wrong—but the cost it often takes is devastating. Americans are realizing that merely getting what they want is not always enough; there are factors which must be considered beyond the end they strive for....   [tags: Foreclosures, materialism, ]1115 words
(3.2 pages)
Good Essays[preview]
Humanity's Struggle with Greed Depicted in John Steinbeck's The Pearl Essay - The Pearl is a parable, a story that has a moral, written by John Steinbeck. The novel is based on a poor Indian family who live in a small village outside of La Paz, Mexico along the Gulf of Mexico. The family consists of: Kino, a fisherman and pearl diver; Juana and their infant son Coyotito. Kino’s people live a life of poverty so when Kino finds “The Pearl of The World” the villagers and town’s people all want to get their hands on the pearl for themselves; Lap Paz became filled with greed....   [tags: the pearl]887 words
(2.5 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Essay on Humanity's Struggle With Violence Illustrated in Steinbeck's The Pearl - The Pearl written by John Steinbeck is a parable, a story that teaches a moral lesson. This novel is centered on a poor Indian family, who live in a brush hut along the Gulf of Mexico and by the village of La Paz. The family consists of: Kino, a fisherman and pearl diver, his wife Juana, and their infant son Coyotito. One day while diving, Kino discovers a great pearl that he calls, “the pearl of the world” (22). The theme of a literary work is defined as the central idea, concern or purpose about life that a writer wishes to convey....   [tags: The Pearl]691 words
(2 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Essay The Action of The Pearl - The Action of The Pearl The discovery of the "magnificent" pearl changed the lives of Kino and Juana severely because they were not used to this kind of wealth. Before they found the pearl, Kino and Juana lived a happy, humble and quiet life. "Kino heard the little splash of the morning waves on the beach. It was very good - Kino closed his eyes again to listen to his music."(Pg. 1-2) Kino loved the simple life; nevertheless whenever things were beginning to look good and simple something went wrong....   [tags: Pearl]1206 words
(3.4 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
The Pearl Essays - The Pearl Microsoft Encarta defines superstition to be an irrational but usually deep-seated belief in the magical effects of a particular action or ritual, especially in the likelihood that good or bad luck will result from performing it. Religion is defined as people's beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life. In the first chapter, we find out that Juana does not know whether to trust her original polytheistic religion, or the newly introduced monotheistic religion (most likely Catholicism)....   [tags: Pearl]420 words
(1.2 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
The Pearl by John Steinbeck Essay - The Pearl by John Steinbeck      The Pearl by John Steinbeck. This book takes place in Mexico during the nineteen hundreds in the city of La Paz.      The main characters are Kino an Indian pearl diver who finds the magnificent pearl and whose life is partially destroyed by this pearl. Juana is Kino's wife and faithful partner and she is obedient and devoted to her family. Coyotito is Kino and Juana's infant son he is bitten by a scorpion and recovers miraculously only to be later killed by a bullet....   [tags: The Pearl John Steinbeck]418 words
(1.2 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]

Related Searches

Pearl         Materialism         Kino         Juana         Misfortunes         Dealers         Looks         Fisher         Snake         Hits        

It is shown how people are destroyed by materialism very well in The Pearl. There are some people who are very poor and will do will do anything for money, like scamming or even to the extent of killing somebody for their possessions. The amount of people who are destroyed by materialism increases all the time and it is affecting the society we all live in today.

0 Replies to “Message For A Materialistic Person Essay”

Lascia un Commento

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *