The rant: Madonna shouldn't have to "grow old gracefully"

The rant: Madonna shouldn't have to 'grow old gracefully'Photo: Getty

Madonna has been making headlines all week thanks to her latest single and eagerly anticipated Super Bowl Half Time Show.

Madonna has also been receiving a lot of flack online for basically not being able to circumvent the laws of physics and stop the ageing process.

To put it simply, making the observation that Madonna is essentially 30 years older than she was 30 years ago does not a well-constructed criticism of Madonna's cultural or artistic worth make. Similarly the related-but-subtly-different "Why won't she grow old gracefully?" which is offensive and lazy.

The first point is pretty easy to call naysayers out on. Madonna - and every other living thing on the planet - has no choice on whether she gets older or not. She just doesn't. Neither do you.

The second one is slightly harder because it calls on all manner of deeply ingrained social attitudes towards ageing:
  • That as people (particularly women) age they diminish in value
  • That attractiveness has a shelf-life
  • That there is a right and wrong way to age
  • That someone older than yourself is automatically less relevant
  • That there is one way of being attractive (young, pert and perky)

'Growing old gracefully' references each of these assumptions without sounding heavy handed. It's a very easy way of dismissing Madonna's current output by making her seem ridiculous, graceless and elderly.

That's not to say that you shouldn't feel free to criticise Madge* - her Super Bowl performance owed a *great* debt to Kylie's Aphrodite tour and her single Give Me All Your Luvin' - although catchy as all heck - is pretty pedestrian once you look past the chorus and ignore the boost Nicki Minaj brings. You should also note that she has proven herself capable of indulging her own whims on an international 119 minute critically panned historical romance kind of scale and has a personal problem with hydrangeas.

So yes, Madonna is ageing. It doesn't automatically make her irrelevant, unattractive, or uninteresting. It also doesn't mean she has to start taking naps in the afternoon or stop wearing corsets. And it definitely doesn't mean it's okay to call her out for getting older.