“Papa Don’t Preach” Madonna’s Teenage Pregnancy Controversy Term Paper

Papa Don’t Preach is one of Madonna’s most memorable pop singles the lyrics of which were written by Brian Elliot for the singer’s third studio album True Blue released in 1986. Madonna decided to dedicate this song to Pope John Paul II, but he urged Italian fans to boycott her concerts in response (Farber).

The song under consideration is chosen deliberately as it deals with a serious dual social issue of pregnancy and abortion. Madonna takes the voice of a confused teenager who asks her father for advice as she is in deep trouble. The singer numerously repeats the chorus words: Papa don’t preach, I’m in trouble deep, Papa don’t preach, I’ve been losing sleep (Madonna). The main character of the song is not named but each person can imagine herself in teenager’s shoes, we witness her telling father that she is no longer a child. The girl asks her parent for help and mature advice and thanks father for what he has given her and for his warning not to see the guy. Moreover, the teenager talks about her future and her boyfriend, and expresses her indignation towards friends’ advice not to keep her baby as it is a sacrifice which will never allow her to enjoy the life to the full. The song comes to an end with the teenager’s idea of strong determination to become a mother in spite of probable difficulties.

After the song’s release it immediately caused debates on its lyrical content and came to be considered one of Madonna’s most controversial pop songs. As the song’s popularity grew considerably in the US as well as in Europe, and not only among those concerned with pregnancy and abortion, it provoked heated discussions.

On the one hand it received support and on the other hand, its message was severely criticized. The single peaked at the first position for two weeks, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America and was placed in the list of The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born in 2005. It also topped the Eurochart Hot 100 for eleven weeks and reached top positions in Belgium, Italy, Norway, Austria, Germany, etc.

Pro-abortionists and different abortion-rights groups of the world judged Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach lyrics as inappropriate and regarded the song as propaganda for pregnant teenagers to have children. They claimed that she provoked youth to act independently regardless of deplorable consequences. Activists of the family planning field upbraided Madonna for encouraging teenage pregnancy and irresponsibility in rushing for feelings. Among the song’s message critics were Ellen Goodman, who called it a commercial for teenage pregnancy and Gloria Allred who called Madonna for publishing a disclaimer. Planned Parenthood of New York City representatives also worried that Madonna’s indisputable authority may undermine attempts to encourage birth control among adolescents and lead to teenage pregnancy rate growth. It was considered that Madonna made her fans step on a path leading to permanent poverty for the lack of financial stability in the early age.

While anti-abortionists believed that the song was of great importance as it contained the message telling listeners Madonna was against abortion. She tried to dissuade girls from making an irremediable mistake of youth, instead they could act as responsible individuals. Hence, Madonna sings: I’ve made up my mind, I’m keeping my baby. This way abortion was opposed and a positive pro-life idea supported. It seems the song tells listeners that there is always a way and depriving an innocent child of life is not the worthiest one. Though the generalized character of the song knows that she has to sacrifice her youth for the benefit of the child, she makes up her mind to keep the baby, using such words as may be we’ll be all right and you’d give us your blessing right now, underlining that in an evil hour she strongly needs her father’s support.

Due to this song Madonna is said to have made a transition from pop to consummate singer, she commented on the controversy the following way: Papa Don’t Preach is a message song that everyone is going to take the wrong way. Immediately they’re going to say I am advising every girl to go out and get pregnantThis song is really about a girl who is making a decision in her life (Madonna). Ad interim, Elliot described the song merely as love story rendering which was based on teen gossip outside the recording studio (Elliot).

Lastly, after examining the materials offered by the sides of the debate, one may reach a conclusion that the song’s message is much deeper than it may seem, as it touches upon a personality’s development and decision making, one may only guess whether the character searches for her father’s protection as she feels she is mistaken or she is not strong and determined enough to bear the full blunt of what has fallen upon her. The teenager has her heart tearing into pieces for she loves both her boyfriend and father, let alone her child who has not been born yet. Obviously, Madonna emphasized that any young girl could easily identify herself with the character of the song, what the singer tried to do is to draw attention to the issue and to warn girls about the difficulties this situation usually brings out. The issue being tangled requires further research of the character’s contemplation and psychological state.

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