Skip to main content

Home Culture Culture Film & TV

OPINION: Why all those ‘Madonna is old’ jokes are weak and tired

By Nick Bond

Among the jokes, memes and occasional expressions of genuine concern that flooded social media last night after Madonna’s nasty backwards tumble from the Brit awards stage, there was a depressingly common theme: Serves you right love. At your age? You should be watching from home under a knee rug with a nice cup of tea.

Some are even suggesting that the whole thing’s been an elaborate publicity stunt. Because obviously, having writhed around on stage in a wedding dress and pashed Britney, the logical next step would be to have a dancer yank you backwards by the neck down a flight of stairs for MAXIMUM ITUNES SALES.

This isn’t new territory for Madonna – in fact, just hours before the BRITs, Rolling Stone released a taster for their new interview with the Queen of Pop, in which she delivered an eloquent riposte to those who want her to sit down, cover up and shut up:


“No one would dare to say a degrading remark about being black or dare to say a degrading remark on Instagram about someone being gay. But my age – anybody and everybody would say something degrading to me. And I always think to myself, why is that accepted? What’s the difference between that and racism, or any discrimination? They’re judging me by my age. I don’t understand. I’m trying to get my head around it. Because women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they’re not allowed to behave a certain way. But I don’t follow the rules. I never did, and I’m not going to start.”

Even at the ripe old age of 32, she was being called upon to defend her continued existence – but the white noise about her age has reached fever pitch lately. There was her Grammys red carpet bum flash, earlier this month, again met with a rousing chorus of ‘Not at your age, love’.

But don’t we want our pop stars to be shocking, salacious, and just a little bit silly? And to paraphrase another popette currently facing the ageing process, we should be so lucky to have buttocks as taut and muscular as Madge’s when we stare down our 57th year on earth. Should I, you can all expect an invite to one of my twice-daily viewings. A squeeze costs extra.


Lest this turn into yet another fanboy rant, let us state the obvious: Madonna hasn’t exactly been the perfect pop star lately, and we’re certainly a long way from her Like A Prayer/Vogue imperial era.

Until the Grammys performance, her publicity strategy for new album Rebel Heart seemed to consist of making ill-advised social media posts, deleting them and apologising profusely. Her insistence that heroes of black culture like Martin Luther King and Bob Marley were true #RebelHearts meant for a while there, Madonna fans lived under the very real threat that we’d one morning open Instagram to find Madge declaring Rosa Parks the ‘original #unapologeticbitch’.

With that in mind, perhaps the fall – provided Madonna is actually OK (and she insists she is, as everyone must do while screaming internally after taking a big embarrassing public tumble) – could turn out to be the best thing that’s happened to her public image in years.

In the torturously long seconds that followed that nasty tumble, her fans held their collective breath. Is she ok? Is she going to get back up? When she did return to her feet, head held high, she was visibly rattled. It seemed clear she felt disappointed in herself – but she carried on. Madonna’s a showgirl, and she wants to entertain us. After all, it’s what she’s been doing for 30-odd years.

Maybe we needed Madonna to fall flat on her arse for us to realise: we’re not going to have her forever. Let’s treat her right.


Madonna’s Rebel Heart: The Attitude Review