Madonna as Margo Channing, Norma Desmond Even - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Madonna as Margo Channing, Norma Desmond Even
Madonna appears at the 2023 Grammy Awards (Nicki Swift/YouTube)

Madonna, such an ageist that she bought a younger woman’s face, richly complains about ageism in people dumbstruck that she bought a younger woman’s face.

She also bought a younger women’s breasts and buttocks. But must one list her surgeries, augmentations, and injections seriatim to convey her hatred of old age?

Humans wear makeup to look old — in some cases 200 years old or more — on Halloween. On the other 364 days of the year, people spend billions of dollars to appear younger and not a dime to look older. Cosmetic medical procedures run much the same way. Nobody petitions the plastic surgeon for deepened marionette lines, varicose veins enhancement, and breasts resembling two Slinkys dropping from a ledge moments apart. They all pay, like Madonna, for the picture of youth.

She knows she looks not quite like herself. She appeared in a so strange that one assumes deliberate long shot (even Norma Desmond called for a close-up) at the Grammys presumably for this reason. If her ’80s peers Prince, Michael Jackson, George Michael, and Whitney Houston could advise her, they would all tell Madonna that she overreacts in judging growing old as a fate worse than death.

Ageism strikes as an offense noticed by few old people save for those struggling mightily with growing old.

Madonna certainly never noticed this social sin when she cast dancers for “Vogue.” Did she lose Rita Moreno’s phone number? Her Sex book, too, excluded old people from its pages even as it highlighted every form of coital interaction then known to humanity (and revealed a few unknown ones). At the MTV Music Awards 20 years ago, she chose to kiss not Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin but two women barely over the legal drinking age, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. She turns 65 this year. Last year, after she broke up with her 27-year-old boyfriend, she began dating a 23-year-old.

Who, really, is the ageist?

Her efforts to cozy up to twentysomethings so that their youth might rub off on her resembles the ageless character played brilliantly by Ann Blyth in The Twilight Zone episode “Queen of the Nile.” Madonna last charted in 2012 (again, to belabor the point, not with the help of Vera Lynn and Dolly Parton but Nikki Minaj and M.I.A.) after first entering the top 40 in 1983. Thirty years of chart success strikes as an incredibly long stretch in the spotlight. Whereas her more talented contemporary Cyndi Lauper saw her time in the top 40 end when the 1980s did, Madonna charted in four decades. Gratitude? No, like Andrea True, she wants more, more, more.

Rather than continually reaching for an audience continually moving further away, Madonna might wish to consider the less pathetic visual of tapping into an increasingly lucrative market. The Administration on Aging reported in November that whereas those 65 and older represented 4 percent of the population in 1900, they constitute 17 percent now. Maine, Florida, West Virginia, and Vermont, where senior citizens make up more than a fifth of the population, might make for ideal touring spots.

Or they might not.

Last year, Elton John, 75, grossed more than any touring act. In 2021, the Rolling Stones, whose 80-year-old drummer’s sickness and death interrupted the tour, grossed the most in concert revenue. In a rapidly changing world, people buy tickets to nostalgia (a malady in its own right in the extreme). They feel comfortable singing and dancing and drinking to songs sung by someone from their own generation. Madonna, America’s ultimate offending ageist, clearly does not.

One could see Taylor Swift chugging along in such fashion four decades from now because her songs rather than her sex attract fans. Before receiving the surgeon’s cut, Madonna inflicted the wound from which she now suffers. More than any other performer in history, she made music a visual art. Her limited vocal talent dictated this. But her coming of age in the age of MTV and her amoral savviness regarding what drives marketing did, too.

Madonna, a media co-creation, responded to the rejection of her new look by calling herself “degraded by the media since the beginning of my career” in a rant channeling Margo Channing railing about Eve Harrington. She blamed public curiosity on “close-up photos of me taken with a long lens camera by a press photographer that would distort anyone’s face.” She played a victim “caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny.” The media that degrades her proceeded to promote her take.

While the rest of the media pondered Madonna as a victim of “ageism” this past week, the New York Times shined a spotlight on Yusuke Narita, a Yale professor of economics, winning a following among young people in Japan, where senior citizens account for 30 percent of the population. “I feel like the only solution is pretty clear,” Narita said on one Japanese internet program. “In the end, isn’t it mass suicide and mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?” In one interview, he talked about the “possibility of making [euthanasia] mandatory in the future” becoming a topic for discussion. He says he no longer uses such harsh terms — seppuku is a self-disemboweling favored by disgraced Samurai swordsmen and chubby guys imitating them on Saturday Night Live — but he still pushes the idea.

Narita in the spotlight means that Madonna no longer stands in the spotlight as America’s foremost ageist. The 12-time Billboard Hot 100 chart topper sits at No. 2 on this ignominious list.

As Madonna’s appearance at the Grammys proves, one thing remains constant in the changing pop landscape. People still ask, “Who’s that girl?”

Daniel J. Flynn
Follow Their Stories:
View More
Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, is the author of Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books, 2018), The War on Football (Regnery, 2013), Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI Books, 2011), A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and his own website,   
Sign up to receive our latest updates! Register

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: The American Spectator, 122 S Royal Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314, You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Be a Free Market Loving Patriot. Subscribe Today!