Sorry, but Madonna has earned the right to do whatever she wants to her face
Madonna’s brief appearance at the Grammys 2023 seems to have antagonised trolls, critics and mainstream media commentators.
“Here’s what I’ve learned after four decades in music,” she said, as she introduced a performance by Sam Smith and Kim Petras. “If they call you shocking, scandalous, troublesome, problematic, provocative or dangerous, you’re definitely on to something.” Just as well, then, because the comments about her face on social media were savage.
“Madonna looks good for her age … if her age is a 2,700-year-old vampire who eats babies and small animals alive,” ranted one user. A “64-year-old in denial,” wrote a famous newspaper columnist. Piers Morgan waded in. “I thought Halloween was in October?” he tweeted unoriginally.
We might expect it from the likes of Morgan. But many women — and those in the public eye — have taken it upon themselves to cruelly critique not just how she looks, but to dictate how she should look and behave for a woman “of her age”.
It’s inappropriate to tell any woman to “act her age”, but especially Madonna. This is a woman who has built her career on being provocative and liberating women’s sexuality. She did it when she was young — her 1992 book Sex featured a series of provocative photographs of herself alongside models and artists — is now considered a post-feminist masterpiece. And she’s been doing it as an “older” woman long before 2023.
Recall her 2005 video for Hung Up, where the then-47-year-old Madge pranced about in a butt-baring pink leotard (still recovering from breaking her ribs after falling off a horse, may I add), dancing like her life depended on it. More recently, she’s been going great guns on Instagram with naked photoshoots. She is in the business of doing what others think she shouldn’t.
In time BM (Before Madonna), women were expected to simply disappear as they aged. Over 50? Time to invest in a blue rinse and an M&S cardi.
Now, times are different. We’ve seen Emma Thompson, 63, embrace her sexuality and bare all in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. We’ve had a 50-year-old Bond girl in Monica Belucci and Jennifer Lopez has redefined what a 53-year-old can look like (caveat: if they have access to all the best resources in the world). Women above 50 are no longer silenced and shamed for daring to admit they enjoy sex or for being sexy past middle age — and it’s all thanks to Madonna.
Frankly, Madonna has done more for women’s confidence, sexuality and liberation than any of her naysayers, so I don’t see why they’re getting a say on how she should look or behave as she gets older. As she herself said responding to the sneering commentary: “Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny that permeates the world we live in. A world that refuses to celebrate women past the age of 45 and feels the need to punish her if she continues to be strong willed, hard-working and adventurous. I have never apologized for any of the creative choices I have made nor the way that I look or dress and I’m not going to start. I have been degraded by the media since the beginning of my career but I understand that this is all a test and I am happy to do the trailblazing so that all the women behind me can have an easier time in the years to come.”
Material Girl: Madonna - In pictures
Madge is a sex icon — and will be until she decides otherwise.