Wednesday, June 13, 2012
It isn't the nipples.
It's the context.
NSFW? Nah. Except for you people who've never seen a woman's nipple.
NOT A MADONNA FAN. My wife and I don't always agree. As it should be. Sometimes she's wrong. Sometimes I'm wrong. Sometimes we're both right but approaching things differently. I think this is one of those occasions. I told her I was tempted to come to Madonna's defense for the first time in my life because of the abuse she's taken for showing a nipple in Istanbul. She told me I shouldn't do it, that Madonna deserves what she gets, having earned it over a lifetime. I thought I saw some mitigating factors, especially given that she was in Istanbul, where muslim culture represses, distorts, and often criminalizes female sexuality. I thought I could see a certain bravery in Madonna being Madonna, particularly in a hostile environment. She wasn't impressed. I subsided.
Yet there's always a submerged part of any destructive media iceberg. Here's an ice knife I found this morning:
Madonna is at it again. The woman with the insatiable appetite for attention – any attention – is making news on her worldwide MDNA tour.
With the way this over-the-hill exhibitionist is behaving, instead of the title of her album and tour being a play on club-drug MDMA (Ecstasy), “MDNA” should stand for “Menopausal Diva Needs Attention.”
Over the last 30 years the entire world has been intermittently subjected to the Material Girl in various stages of undress. Before her previous Latina/Evita phase and more recent faux-British phase, a coffee-table edition of her exhibitionist book entitled “Sex” even treated the public to a totally nude Madonna hitchhiking.
Since then, Madonna’s estrogen levels have greatly diminished, but not her desire to shock. So that’s probably why Madame Ciccone felt it was her civic duty, as if anybody cares, to update the public as to the changes middle age inflicts on a woman’s body.
While in Turkey on tour, a woman too deluded to accept the fact that nobody cares what her nipples look like anymore, injected a huge dose of Granny disgust into the Istanbul show when she whipped out one boob while singing "Human Nature."
Early-onset senile dementia must be kicking in because Madonna criticized Janet Jackson for a similar wardrobe malfunction in 2004, when she called showing your nipples “cheap attention grabs.”
So, according to Madonna, the intent of her “cheap attention grab” was to garner more press, up the shock ante, offend any traditionally Islamic members of her audience, and while she was at it, send a strong message to the male-dominated Muslim culture.
The 53-year-old must want Middle Eastern fans to know that if she gets the urge to act like a trollop, cultural mores will never prevent her from doing so. To drive home that point, Madonna scribbled “No Fear” on her back. By tattooing “No Fear” on her body, Madonna unintentionally conveyed to her audience another, more important message, which is that age does not prevent a grandstanding narcissist from embarrassing herself on stage when she should be home tucking in her children and sipping a cup of chamomile tea.
Besides, Madonna’s “No Fear” pretense is a boldfaced lie. “Little Nonni” merely feigns fearlessness when she’s flouting religious sensibilities, especially in a country where female modesty is mandated by law. She’s also Ms. ‘No Shame’ when it comes to defiling a generation of other people’s children with her lewd promiscuity, Godless message and self-masturbatory conceit.
But when it comes to accepting the reality of aging, Madonna is obviously riddled with fear. Moreover, up until now, a fearful Madonna tried desperately to preserve the purity and innocence of her daughters Lourdes (Lola) Leon and Mercy James and sons Rocco Ritchie and David Banda Mwale by shielding them from exposure to what she has purposely inflicted on other people’s children for the past 30 years.
Madonna has apparently decided it’s about time to expose her offspring to their mother’s unique brand of perverted antics, so she took Lourdes and Rocco on tour with her. From a mother’s perspective, it really doesn’t matter who Madonna thinks she is; subjecting her own children to watching her writhe around on stage depicting violent, sadomasochistic pleasure borders on child abuse.
It calls to mind Cher singing “If I Could Turn Back Time” on the deck of the USS Missouri in front of a group of sailors, skipping around in a fishnet body stocking while her 12-year-old son Elijah Blue Allman played backup on the guitar with the band.
Nevertheless, apparently Madonna has decided to follow Cher’s lead because Lourdes and Rocco are both fully involved in the production of the MDNA tour. Pre-teen son Rocco sings with the gospel choir in “Like a Prayer,” break dances and gets to see Mom up-close and personal “stripped nearly naked and tied up in a corset by a dancer, then dragged around the floor.”
And as if that weren’t bad enough, while Madonna exhorts the crowd to world peace young Rocco witnesses gun violence complete with images of “shattered skulls, brains, and blood splashing” across Jumbotron screens.
The real kicker occurs when this impressionable child gets to observe his mother cavort on the stage with a 24-year-old Kabbalah devotee/lead dancer with an apparent Oedipus complex named Brahim Zaibat.
Daughter Lola, whom self-described “disciplinarian” Madge used to prohibit from watching television, eating ice cream, and reading magazines, now serves as a backup dancer but mostly works backstage in wardrobe helping Mama slip her bony body in and out of bondage outfits, chains, and lingerie.
By inviting her children to participate in the tour, the ravenous-for-attention Madonna clearly disregarded the effect that a deliberate wardrobe malfunction would have on her own children, let alone anyone else’s.
Perched center stage, unable to control the impulse to shock her audience, Madonna lowered one side of her brassiere like a mother preparing to nurse a baby before she remembered her nursing days are long gone and covered her teat.
Word to former children’s book author Madonna from one 50-something to another: rather than look for new ways to make the world cringe with your perverse exhibitionism, maybe you should gather up your two kids and head home to whatever corner of the world you presently identify with.
And while you’re there picking up a new fake accent, for the love of God, please start acting your age.
Okay. Why my wife was right. There is something perverse about having her 12-year old son on stage while she flashes her boob at 50,000 people. But there's still something troubling about the language of this and other attacks on Madonna. I didn't realize what it was until I happened (yeah, I always happen on things, don't I?) on a BBC America bit of fluff called "The U.K.'s 20 Sexiest." I was multi-tasking: listening to Laura Ingraham on the iPhone, tracking news and blog sites on the iPad, and watching a TV show with the sound down and the captions turned on. The show was a better version of the kind of thing the E! Channel does. Cleverer. And the captions were all spelled correctly. Clever? In the top five was "Aston Martin." The on-screen wits all agreed you'd have to go to bed with Aston Martin on a first date but that you couldn't count on a long-term relationship. Irresistibly sexy, though, because he's been to all the right schools, lived in all the right places, and would be a stupendous if selfish lover. I think Aston Martin was Number Three on the list. But it was Number Four that snapped my eyes open: Helen Mirren.
The wits were all obeisant. She's in her sixties and still getting sexier, as if she hasn't even peaked yet. One agonized over the fact that her seventies might be even hotter but confessed he'd never felt desire for a woman in her eighties. Maybe Helen would change that. I remembered that Dame Helen had shown her own nipples on screen at the age of 58, in a comedy-drama called Calendar Girls:
This clip is edited. I've seen the movie. Trust me. Nipples.
See, the problem I was having with the attacks on Madonna had to do with the fact that condemnation of her and her lifestyle had been conveniently conflated with an attack on her age. The references to breasts that no longer produce milk, to menopause, to an unstated assumption that female sexuality is actually offensive, even disgusting, when it outlasts some sort of young-woman-mandated "sell by" date. That's what I take issue with. Benjamin Franklin famously made the case for older women as lovers. They know more and they smell better, he said, or words to that effect. I'm certain there are a lot of young men out there who would still think they'd died and gone to heaven if they got to see (and, uh, experience) the nipples and other parts of Sophia Loren and Raquel Welch. And Helen Mirren is a special case of her own. This is a woman who has been throwing off her clothes on-screen for 40 years, including multiple full frontal nudity and simulated sex scenes well into her forties. Why is she not a slut? Simply because sex is not all she is. Her acting is equally good clothed or naked. She doesn't need to exhibit her body. But she's utterly uninhibited about doing so. Which is its own nth degree of erotic appeal.
I've called this Old Folks Day. I'm an old folk. Or Old Fogie if you want to be less polite. I wasn't offended by the Janet Jackson scandal at the Super Bowl. I don't think nipples are the finger-wagging of the beast. Most young boys have seen their mother naked. Hell, most mothers have a hard time keeping the kids out of the bathroom when they're trying to have a quiet pee. What long-term damage does that do? John Ruskin, the great Brit painter, nearly divorced his young wife when he discovered on their honeymoon that she had pubic hair. He was so disgusted he painted nothing but the destruction of the world by fire for the rest of his life. If only he had known... Well, never mind. We can never know. Some people just obsess about things that are more natural than they can abide.
Like nipples. They don't have an expiration date. They're like truly fine wine, reserved for occasions where the right time and setting make them an exquisite peak of life experience.
My point? Infinitesimal. To register my opposition to furious, frequently right-wing overreaction in wrong-headed terms. Plenty of reasons to condemn Madonna. Enough said. But don't be making all the 50-plus women think their sexual parts have become mysteriously disgusting because bitter female op-ed writers are jealous of the unbounded attractiveness of women who are twice or thrice their age, or worse, exactly their age but vitally NOT ice cold about their own bodies
Have I succeeded in avoiding vulgarity thus far? I thought so. Why I have to prove my own masculinity with a final joke, stolen from the standup comedian who recounted his first experience at a full-monte strip club: "Seen one? Want to see them ALL."
Everything else is just hypocrisy. Women, bless their hearts, have to learn how to cope with that. Which, given the bald fact of monolithic male response, is their responsibility. Madonna chose poorly. Mirren maybe better.
We at InstaPunk will NEVER discriminate against nipples of any age. Think we could smuggle that into the Romney platform? Hokay. Guess not.