The Virgin Mary as a trope in the media.

For my trope I decided to choose the Virgin Mary. While Catholicism may be what the Virgin Mary is associated the most with, throughout all denominations of Christianity, Judaism, and she is a well known figure in popular culture as well. Her representation throughout art and religious images is referred to as the Madonna which in Italian stands for “My lady.” Several famous painters including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael depicted her throughout their careers as artists. Throughout popular culture the Virgin Mary symbolizes life and the colors and styles of her depictions often address the concepts of purity, virginity, love, innocence, and youth.

trope 1 example (above): 2011 deptiction of the Virgin Mary looking shocked at a pregnancy test. This image was but on a billboard in Australia by Matthews Church. Source

The first example I decided to pick was this parody of Mary finding out she was pregnant with Jesus. This version of the trope represents her youth and innocence  when she finds out she is pregnant even though she is still very much a virgin. Its origin is a billboard advertising for a church in New Zealand. The pastor of this church said that they were trying to remind people that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. While it definitely grabs the passersby attention, it can definitely be questioned whether it is respectful or tasteful depiction of such a sacred and respected figure. I think it is an interesting contrast of a modernly relevant pregnancy stick and her clothing as it is depicted in biblical times. In a way I can find the humor in it because it is trying to portray what a modern Mary would be like but it also disregards the story of her immaculate conception. Here Mary is depicted as a shocked young woman who for those without context could see as a girl who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock or had no idea what or how they were going to deal with this pregnancy. I half expected this to be an ad for teen pregnancy and warn me about its risks and effects when I first found the image. While Mary was surprised to find out that she was pregnant, in the bible an angel appeared to her and it wasn’t an embarrassment as it could be interpreted as here but it was an honor that God had bestowed on her to carry Jesus. This image while created as a reminder of the importance of Jesus’ birthday could mislead people who do not know Mary’s story of her immaculate conception.

trope 2 example (above): I was unable to find the date or artist but \ is where you can buy it. source

For my second example I chose this ironic image of the Virgin Mary wearing a shirt with Madonna lyrics on it. This version of the Virgin Mary trope mainly refers to the concept of virginity but could also relate to love and youth. Madonna is known as the, “best-selling female recording artist of all time,” by Guinness World Records. One of her most famous songs is called Like a Virgin, where she describes how the right person can make you feel, “Like a virgin, Touched for the very first time.” Here Mary is comedically displayed wearing a shirt that ironically says like a virgin, in reference to the fact that she was a virgin but conceived Jesus immaculately. The whole significance of Mary being a virgin but still getting pregnant is that God chose her to carry his son, which was an honor. In Madonna’s song virginity is not an object of purity but of sexual significance, that a new lover, if they are good enough can make everything feel new. While I can easily see the humor in it, others would argue that it is disrespectful to associate the Madonna with Madonna. The Madonna is a well respected religious figure, and as said before represents youth, love, innocence, virginity, and purity. On the other side of the spectrum, Madonna, especially when she first launched her music career was thought to be scandalous, provocative, and disrespectful by the older generations. So in this photo it is a combination of polar opposites and creates and ironic and either funny or disrespectful depending on your beliefs or point of view.

trope 3 example (above): 2007, 2009, and 2010 sculptures by Soasig Chamaillard. Source

For my last example I chose to focus on the work of the French artist Soasig Chamaillard. This version of the Virgin Mary trope really just addresses the versatility and easily recognition of her iconic figure. Artists have always been fond of and obsessed with the virgin Mary, and whether it’s because she’s so relevant throughout societies, or that everyone recognises her, but whatever the case she’s found through art history and Soasig Chamaillard’s take on her is no exception. Here I see the Chamaillard took advantage of the Virgin Mary’s popularity and decided to combine it with pop culture to emphasis that even when disguised, most people can still recognize the original figure.  When asked why Mary? Chamaillard recalled that it all began with trying to fix a broken figure of her and then she had the idea to create a more modern Madonna. Chamaillard found herself questioning what was women’s role in society and this led her to make a series focusing on the Virgin Mary. What I appreciate the most about her is that she addressed how many people found her artwork disrespectful. She said, “Faith should be strong enough to remain unshaken by simple objects. I think they need to step back from the object and not forget that it’s an artistic work.” I think she makes a good point that while some people’s beliefs will hinder them from appreciating this artwork, it is something they can agree to disagree on.



Art: Soasig Chamaillard – Apparitions

Soasig Chamaillard – Apparitions