Jonah Goldberg

But there's something a lot more important, even sinister, about the public treatment of Madonna. Madonna was a slut when sluttiness worked for her. Oh, and before you get on some high horse about how it is ungentlemanly to use such language, all I would say is that the word has no meaning if it doesn't apply to a woman who glamorized group sex and performed lessons on oral sex - all aimed at a teenage audience.

When conservatives - and plain old good parents - criticized or denounced Madonna for promoting slattern chic, they were uniformly jeered at as prudes, theocrats, Comstocks, etc. Those who didn't celebrate Madonna's ability to "transcend bourgeoisie morality" or some other gobbledygook "just didn't get it."

Well, now that Madonna's getting older, is a parent herself, and younger Madonna rip-offs are doing the same thing, she claims to value modesty and tradition - and the same nattering bandersnatches of the "sophisticated" media congratulate her on her maturity. She's now realizing that the soulless materialism of her material girl days was anemic, and she's searching for meaning in whacked-out New Age cults.

This is precisely what you get in a culture that detests hypocrisy more than immorality. When Madonna defended her shtick, she was celebrated as "authentic" - and authenticity is the most important thing in the world. Now, that she's lewd no more, it's OK for her to criticize lewdness.

But here's the thing: Lewdness is either right or wrong regardless of Madonna's personal behavior. It's similar to the outrage at Rush Limbaugh's alleged drug problem. Since liberals are terrified of being "judgmental," they could denounce his "hypocrisy" and not the actual underlying transgression. It's tantamount to saying that gluttons must condone gluttony for everyone, because to say otherwise would be hypocritical.

This is a very real problem in a culture that sees super-rich - and often very dumb - celebrities as role models. Madonna championed promiscuity as self-expression for millions of girls who would never grow up to become kazillionaires like Madonna, who, by the way, has bragged that she's never changed a diaper (she's got staff for that). That is not the plight of real "working moms."

Madonna could always afford her values, as when she had a baby with her personal fitness trainer. Most people cannot. What solace is it to the women who followed her advice 20 years ago that she now has realized that there was something to "bourgeoisie" values all along?

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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