I remember the first time I heard someone say Madonna was a bad role model. I was probably seven or eight and I overheard two of my friend's moms bad mouthing her from the driver's seats of their Dodge minivans. "She's so inappropriate. It sends a horrible message to girls." Wait. What? Inappropriate? That was a word for farting at the table or calling someone a tard. What was rude or mean about Madonna? (In retrospect, a lot of things, but I was too young to fully grasp the shit that was going down between her and Sean Penn.) In my view, Madonna was the epitome of class: gorgeous, amazing style, and dancing skills that made me hunger desperately for leg warmers. Also, what was this message they were talking about, and why did it only apply to girls?
After a few lunch recesses surveying my friends on what was wrong with Madonna, "She changes her hair too much,"
"She has pointy boobs,"
One of my friends finally nailed it, "She talks about sex too much."
Huh. This was honestly the first time it had occurred to me that anyone would view Madonna as problematically sexual. Sure, she preformed in her bra and had a song about virgins (hehe people who had never humped before), but that was just one of the many things that made Madonna Madonna. Madonna was a bizarro princess who had moved to New York as a teenager to follow her dreams and achieved wild success and didn't give a fuck what anyone thought about her and, sure, sometimes she talked about humping, but as far as I could tell she was all anyone should ever want to be.
It's probably my mom's fault that I never properly learned to hate Madonna. My mom was always a giant pain in the ass when it came to watching violent movies. There are a slough of classic shoot 'em ups and slasher flicks that I have never seen because as a kid my mom was religious about keeping them out of the house. "Those movies are bad karma," she would say, not quite grasping the concept of karma (she was new to California), but making a valid point nonetheless. Movies with strong ratings for sex she was less strict about. She articulated this distinction many times: sex was not that big of a deal, but violence was terrible for us. While I still feel culturally bereft every time someone brings up Freddy Krueger, I'm pretty glad I was raised in a home where violence was shamed and sex viewed as a fact of life, because that is the complete opposite of what virtually every news source, TV show, video game, and social media outlet has been telling me my entire life.
Miley is a disgusting slut and a videogame where you kill hookers is a fantasy. Kim Kardashian is a useless whore and Kobe Bryant probably didn't rape that girl because he is really good at basketball. Make a sex tape once, be subhuman forever. Go through a little murder-y phase, and feel free to return to your job in the NFL as soon as everything blows over. Now, as clever as it is to draw illustrations of cum and coke on celebrities' faces, I think there are a few problems with this mindset.
The first issue is this "horrible message to girls," bullshit. When we ostracize grown ass women for being sexy or sexual, the only person sending a horrible message is us. The reality of being a person is that basically everyone is super DTF. Seriously. Not liking sex is a much weirder and more problematic than liking it. Everyone knows this, but we act like the thing that thing we've been biologically programmed to do, which comes from, at the very least, a desire to have fun and be affecionate, is some dirty habit that we'd be able to quit if only we were stronger people. It's not fair that we beat ourselves up for something that we can't help doing, so to deal with this moral problem, we find someone else to blame, namely women. It makes sense that women take the fall for this universal non-problem, we ate the apple in that snake tree or whatever. The downside to this, though, is that shaming women for their sexuality or lack thereof has a way of totally devaluing them as a human being. There are few, if any, things that negate a person's humanity like implying that they are either a cum dumpster or too fat/ugly to be one.
On the other hand, we do not have the words in our vocabulary to properly shame people who commit atrocious acts of violence. Sure, we may all agree that they are sick and depraved, but we don't revel in lambasting them the way we do overtly sexual women, nor is much of what we say about them an attempt to turn them into an object. A celebrity who publicly likes it in the b is defined by that and only that, but we often attempt to give dimension to famous criminals by delving into their backstory. What were they like in high school? What kind of music did they listen to? What was their last Facebook post?
I'm not saying that finding new ways to diminish our fascination with criminals would solve anything, nor that Call of Duty is causing wars or anything like that, but maybe if we stopped feeling so ashamed about something everyone should do and started feeling more ashamed of things that no one ever should, we'd realize there are much more inappropriate things in this world than a singer dancing around in her lingerie.