Madonna’s fashion and style, especially in her earlier flash trash period reinforced a wave of youth rebellion against conservative social norms.
[ In other words, Madonna added her voice to the social protest of the hippies and punks etc. who were genuinely fighting the system on a number of fronts.
Kellner is assuming here that there is something genuinely anti-capitalist about this youth rebellion and the fashions that went with it.
For example, the perspective of these movements was against regimented and boring work, they were anti-war and rejected the puritan codes of sexuality that according to Kellner et al are part of a package of puritanism and the work ethic.
In fashion, the ragged, messy and cheap look of these groups (and Madonna) represented a challenge to respectable dress as represented by quiet colours, clean and tidy clothing, sensible styles, expensive outfits. These respectable clothes are a fashion style that signifies adherence to the norms of obedience, hard work and political conservatism.]
Madonna’s dramatic shifts in style suggested that identity is a social construct and can be modified at will.
[Kellner sees this as anti-capitalist because, firstly, it encourages people to realise that they do not have to construct their identity in relation to norms dictated by authorities and capitalist companies such as the fashion industry.
Secondly, it encourages people to develop their creativity and this may lead on to a critique of alienated labour.]
Reinforces consumerism and helps the capitalist market to sell products.
Suggests to people that they can express themselves and create their identity by consuming particular fashion products or by creating their own individual look.
[Kellner is assuming here that the reader knows that marxists believe that the capitalist system alienates people from their productive and creative capacities in the sphere of work and production - i.e. you have to get a job and when you’re at work you have to do what your boss decides so that he can make a profit, not whatever you yourself think might be interesting or worthwhile.
i.e. from the marxist point of view no amount of creative consumer identity construction can make up for the fact that you are alienated at work. The only real solution is for workers to take over and control the means of production - e.g. in the utopia of a gift economy.
So from this perspective, artists like Madonna sell people a false alternative to the alienation of capitalist society.]
She presents herself as a dominating boss over her dancers and as in control sexually in s/m scenes. This reinforces the widespresad pro-capitalist view that domination and submission are inevitable aspects of human nature and that equality between people is not possible.