Plague of the Pop Tarts

In the case of Madonna, what one really objects to is the fact that she has claimed some familiarity, however peripheral, with the greatest religion the world has ever seen - and reduced it to something that cleared up her husband's verrucas.

Julie Burchill
Julie Burchill

The biggest bullshitter in town, Madonna, is well into her stride with her latest "re-invention," and don't we Brits know it! It was bad enough having to live with these periodical spasms of self-regard when she lived in the U.S., but ever since she married the equally phoney Guy Ritchie - how did Mr Madonna get that tough-guy scar? Fell off his polo pony and landed on his silver spoon? - and came to live in dear old Blighty, it isn't just the pop-culture-icon who the cultural commentators are getting their knickers in a twist sucking up to anymore, it's "our" pop-culture-icon. The amount of forelock-tugging and bum-sucking that goes on from the media, you'd swear she was heir to the throne.

They fawn over everything and anything about her - her poor new record, her mothering skills, her scary thighs. The one thing they have any amount of skepticism whatsoever about is her belief in kabbala. And, uncharacteristically, it's hard for a me to know where I stand on this mockery, me being a full-on philo-Semite and all that. Should I applaud this press cynicism, kabbala seeming as it does to have about as much to do with Judaism proper as a blonde alcoholic Muslim show-jumper? Or should I be wary of it, being well aware of the anti-Semitism virus that lies just beneath the surface of almost every apparently polite society? After all, Madonna goes in for lots of other flagrant bullshit - Michael Moore, yoga, pretending one can "have fun" with Gwyneth Paltrow - and she doesn't get ridiculed for any of them.

It doesn't help that her fellow pop tart kabbala followers - Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham - both have reputations for being a few lines short of a gram, and for not being the types who would get involved in any proper religion lest it ask something outrageous of them such as charity, humility or modesty. Britney in particular, through her dabblings in the cult, seems to view God as a cross between a shrink and a bodyguard, who has helped her "clear all the negative energy and turn my life around" while the cute little red string bracelet will keep all the nasty player-haters at arm's length.

And the signs are she's getting dumber, not smarter; since finding her faith, she memorably commented to Allure magazine that Michael Jackson might become a better human being if he grew a moustache, went to a bar and got into a fight. Baptist, kabbalist - is Britney absolutely sure she wouldn't be happier as a Satanist? And tellingly, the stunningly shallow Victoria Beckham - the girl with the size-zero soul - is reported to be "torn" between kabbala and Scientology, as she can't decide who she wants to suck up to more - Madonna or Tom Cruise.

No one is saying our pop culture icons need to be great theologians; Michelle Pfeiffer, a fine actress and lovely broad, is widely reported to have become involved with a sinister "metaphysical/vegetarian cult" in the early '80s, which she amusingly joined as she believed it would help keep her slender, and no one thinks any the less of her for it. But at least the appeal to vanity is out in the open here. In the case of Madonna, what one really objects to, even more than the pious anti-materialist rants of this most money-grubbing of entertainers, is the fact that she has claimed some familiarity, however peripheral, with the greatest religion the world has ever seen - and reduced it to something that cleared up her husband's verrucas.

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