…she might have made some music and broken down a few barriers in the last few decades as well. (Why the NYT’s focus on Madonna’s age is sexist.)
Madonna: A towering talent, a groundbreaking female artist, an eponymous single name. She is also a decades long survivor in an industry dominated by men. The New York Times put a great many journalistic man hours into a lengthy piece about her, her new tour, and new music.
What they found, shocked the world:
Madonna, as it turns out, is 60.
That is right. The fact that she is also a household name, a rule-breaking hell-raiser and a rule-making headliner for longer than almost anyone else in the industry, seems almost an afterthought.
When the New York Times covers Bruce Springsteen, he is otherwise referred to in the article as “the artist”; Madonna is referred to as “the 60-year old”.
Springsteen’s age is only mentioned in passing, if at all.
When the New York Times writes about Bruce Springsteen, it writes about the music, the newest album, its context within past projects. Springsteen is allowed to spin wistful tales about his early days on the road; he waxes poetic about his inspirations, his creative process.
Madonna is 60.
Madonna is 60.
The New York Times: Bruce Springsteen Looks West, With Strings and Sorrows; “On “Western Stars,” the songwriter revisits Laurel Canyon pop, experimenting with genre and narratives.”
The New York Times: Madonna at Sixty; “The original queen of pop on aging, inspiration and why she refuses to cede control.”
Even though Madonna has been shocking, scintillating, and scandalizing us for decades, the only salient point the New York Times seems willing to report it that Madonna has been doing so for 60-years on this planet.
Elton John’s journalistic treatment at the hands of the Grey Lady in wake of the recent hit bio-pic about his life and career was not at all focused on how very old Elton John is. It was focused on his iconoclastic contributions to music and music history.
Madonna isn’t exactly a social justice slump either, even by today’s standards. She was fighting the patriarchy before many of the top names in pop today were even born. Before their mothers were born, in some cases.
Someone looking for feminist contributions wouldn’t have to look far; Madonna has been pushing the envelope, getting in people’s faces, and has never made the slightest concession to conformity or the status quo.
She was dressing like a boy, kissing other girls, pissing off evangelicals, and being absolutely unapologetic in her sexuality, and her art before anyone else was doing it. At least on MTV anyway. Who can forget the hullabaloo over Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” video?
Madonna has been banned, covered-up, shamed, censored. Madonna did reality tv before reality tv was cool; gifting fans with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into her Blond Ambition tour. She is still the gold standard in the music industry, and if she isn’t, she should be.
In her pop-superstar league are Prince and Michael Jackson; both dead prematurely from the pressures of fame. So too, went the stunning Whitney Houston. Everyone else faded into obscurity long ago.
Madonna is perfectly correct in her criticism of the New York Times’ ageist, sexist treatment of her. The focus on her age is not something the Times would have afforded to any male artist and musical performer.
In the early 80’s, a brash and cocky young Madonna told an interviewer she wanted to “rule the world.” And she has. She knew what she wanted, and how to get it, and she was right about that.
After the Times article about her (being 60) was published recently, Madonna called the New York Times a “father of the patriarchy”.
She was right about that, too.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)