The Smu Reviews

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Music / Art / Pop Culture

Love shows in the dog ears and scratches.

Love shows in the dog ears and scratches.

Madonna’s Hands

I’ve got a lot of problem’s with Madonna right now but her hands aren’t one of them. Despite that they are the subject of this no doubt nauseatingly long think-piece.

I’m not going to talk about her laissez-faire approach to her recent musical output, her terrible lead single or her dubious forays into gym franchises. I’m going to talk about her hands.

Why the hands? Why not the exposed nipple? That’s what everyone else is talking about right? Or the cheek implants? Or the bum-flash? Or the sexy tour-dancing with her 20-something boyfriend? Or whether she’s too old to dress like a majorette? Or that mash-up?

I’m going to talk about her hands because they are a microcosm of all that and more. Madonna’s hands sum up all our fucked up issues with the aging process in one fell swoop. Yuk! Granny hands! Madonna’s losing it! What an old hag! In fact that picture is so nasty that the person I’m hotlinking it from has even named it madonna-old-lady-hands.jpg LOL She’s so past it now. Why doesn’t she just give up and leave it to Gaga and RiRi and Katy??!

How about this:


I mean, it’s pretty pathetic how she is soooo blatantly trying to cover up her ugly old lady hands with those nasty leather gloves. And fingerless gloves?? On a 53 year old?? It’s so juvenile and unbecoming. She needs to get a grip and stop trying to dress like a teenager! Leave the rock-chick look to Lola!!

Do you see what we did there?

Over on the left that’s a rock. Over on the right is a hard place. That unpleasant little space in the middle? That’s Madonna’s hands.

As a woman aging in the public eye you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. 

Personally the ‘granny hands’ don’t bother me a jot and it’s worrying about completely natural things like that which end up with the desperate attempts at disguising it.

Not even Madonna can stop time and we can’t have it all ways at once. It’s not fair to bitch about her surgery and the signs of aging at the same time. It’s not fair to blame her for the gloves when we recoil in horror at the sight of what lies below.

Some people would rather she continues down the surgery route and fights her age as much as she can. They are usually the same people who enjoy the idea that her faking a vacuous nubility that she never really inhabited the first time around (baton twirling! pom poms!) is liberating for women who want to ‘stay young’. They are the glove people.

Some people feel she should act her age, be more responsible in front of her children, stop flashing her boobs in public. Age ‘gracefully’. They are the hands people, right?

You would think so, but from what I can tell no-one seems to be the hands people. The age-gracefully people still have a utopian notion that she will somehow do this without a wrinkle on her brow. Only she’ll be doing it in a twin-set. Kind of like Evita but without Jimmy Nail.

Because when we see wrinkles and veins and liver spots appear on someone like Madonna it scares the shit out of us because we are staring right into the face of our own horrid mortality.

When asked in an interview in 1998 what she thought people saw when they look at her she said simply “they see themselves”. And we do. We see an heroic, perfect, insurmountable, archetype of who we could/should/would be perhaps but she has always been and always will be a mirror to our collective social mores.

I, personally,  disagree with the people who are all-out, knowingly and enthusiastically for the surgical approach but it doesn’t bother me as much as the rest of us thinking that she/we can do both at once. You can get away with that for a while perhaps. A little bottox here, a slight alteration there. But there will always come a time where you have to pick between the age or the surgery because the more obvious the age gets so will the surgery have to too. 

We just can’t seem to get our heads around the simple, glaring truth:


That’s why those candid photos of her in her underwear that everyone uses as the full stop on any discussion of Madonna’s current sexual attractiveness will never bother me as much as the puffy cheek photos and the way her face barely moves any more. One is a fit 50 something woman (photographed off guard) in her underwear, the other is a woman fighting her age desperately and unsuccessfully. One is the hands and the other is the gloves.

And if you can’t see the connection between how we as a society react to the hands and why Madonna, of all people, has ended up in the gloves then I’m not going to draw you a map.

Congratulations world, we broke her. And enjoy it while you can because you will be wearing those gloves yourself sometime soon no doubt.

This piece isn’t really about Madonna of course (which is precisely why I don’t want to talk about the underwhelming album or the religious connotations of her show or whatever) but she is an unparalleled cultural barometer when it comes to how we view our own vanity, sexuality and self esteem.

Lets, please, learn to love Madonna’s hands?