MADONNA’S NOT BREAKING DOWN – SHE’S FACING PREDICTABLE SEXISM AND AGEISM
Last week, when 17-year-old model Josephine Georgiou joined Madonna on stage in Brisbane, the pop star pulled down the girl’s top, apparently not realising she was bra-less beneath – and immediately apologised. Despite Georgiou later describing this as the best moment of her life (and Madonna flying the girl and her mother back, as VIPs, to her Sydney show), showbiz reporters and columnists leapt on it, speculating that the 57-year-old star is in the throes of some humiliating emotional breakdown and should probably step down and take stock.
Further evidence of Madonna’s fragile mental state is as follows: in Melbourne, she kept fans waiting for hours before performing an entirely free secret gig. On the same night, she sipped a cosmopolitan – her first alcoholic drink in six months – in front of a delighted audience (I’m not speculating – my close friend was there and described a wonderful atmosphere throughout). This is truly the stuff of Bedlam and a suitable case for lobotomy.
The trigger for this madness, they say, is a custody battle with ex-husband Guy Ritchie, over where their 15-year-old son Rocco should live. There are no accusations that Madonna is a bad parent, only a stricter one, but the ongoing family woes have clearly hit her hard. She’s spoken of her pain at some of the concerts, posted emotional tributes on Instagram, even dedicated songs to Rocco in his absence.
It would be easier to swallow the relentless criticism of Madonna if it weren’t so shamelessly drenched in sexism, ageism and the barely-veiled belief that a 57 year-old woman has no business performing at all. Question Madonna’s artistic choices, performances and music all you want (this tour has been hailed by fans and reviewers as a major return to form), but if your criticism comes sandwiched between phrases like “withered old hag”, “act your age” and “time to give up” – as they typically did – then they are rendered null and void by any right-thinking person. She’s seen to be inflicting her big mouth and aged body on millions of people when she should be content to settle into a backward-looking retirement of polonecks and comfy shoes.
As with almost everything Madonna does, the press and public reaction is as culturally insightful as the art itself. Double standards are rife. When Kanye tweets millions about his back passage and porn stash, he’s having “a moment”. When Madonna talks about her family onstage, she’s mid breakdown and should be sent to pasture.
There’s also a rather grotesque glee seeping through the pursed lips of cultural commentators. We love to see prominent women in strife.
When a female star is beset by ill-health, bereavement, addiction or family trauma, then all is right with the world. If home life is suffering seemingly as a consequence of a woman’s career focus, then all the better. But a mother pushing 60, selling out arenas and clearly getting laid, who seems broadly happy with her life? Inconvenient. Critics would like a humbler and weaker Madonna, one with less energy and more decorum. They’re more comfortable with a tragic heroine in the grips of a media-manufactured nervous breakdown than with a near-pensioner striving ahead with zero fucks given for a bigoted, misogynistic view of appropriateness.
Critics are more comfortable with a tragic heroine in the grips of a media-manufactured nervous breakdown than with a near-pensioner striving ahead with zero fucks given for a misogynistic view of appropriateness
The media’s problem with Madonna, though, is that she’s not tragic and never has been. And she’s intentionally polarising, never a people-pleaser. Madonna isn’t meant to impress the likes of Piers Morgan (who called Madonna a dirty old woman, just a week after he told Kim Kardashian to put some clothes on – while simultaneously approving her “great body”, of course). Truly, there is no popstar in history so demonstrably uninterested in the approbation of straight white men who despite their inherent privilege, manage to command less power and cultural significance than she. “Madonna’s irrelevant in 2016,” said one commenter last week, which is, of course, why she’s dominated celebrity news pages for months, her every action forensically picked over with sharpened tweezers. Whatever she contributes through music and performance, Madonna will always be relevant in a world so frequently aghast merely at her continued existence.
I can barely remember a time in my life when people haven’t wanted Madonna to shut up and behave. And during almost four decades in the business, she’s never looked even close to obeying orders.
We were overdue a moment of patriarchal mouth-frothing over Madonna, and here she is, back in “Sex book mode”, as skittish as when she snogged an African-American Jesus and enraged Pepsi, as unshakeable as when she shed that sabotaging cape and climbed back onstage to nail the rest of her BRITs routine in significant pain. She is as defiant as when, a fortnight after the terrorist attacks on The Bataclan, when other major artists like U2 and Foo Fighters had understandably cancelled their French concerts in fear, she stood before a screaming audience in Paris, dressed as a Harlem flappergirl, strumming “La Marseillaise” on her crotch.
Then, as now, she is powering through, poking fun at the haters, joyfully pushing buttons with a jackhammer.
Do Madonna fans think she needs to be less tardy about show start times? This one does. A seasoned pro should know better. Do we universally agree that it’s a good idea to project images of Rocco on stage, while his mother tearfully sings torch songs? I wish she hadn’t done it, not least because it fuelled irresponsible headlines that may jeopardise her case in court. But I accept that her sometimes questionable decisions are just what happens when someone is so steeped in the principle of “the show must go on”, even during the hardest of times globally and personally. It’s what defines Madonna as a person, and what still, for me, makes her an artist without peer.
Source : ThePool